Rape culture is present in a society when rape and other forms of sexual violence are common and pervasive, when they are normalized and seen as inevitable, and when they are trivialized by authority figures, the media and cultural products, and by most members of society.
In a culture of rape, convergence and the widespread nature of sexual violence and rape are fueled by commonly held beliefs, values and myths that encourage and excuse sexual violence committed by men and boys against women and girls.
In this context, women and girls constantly experience intimidation and threats of sexual violence and actual sexual violence itself. Also, within a culture of rape, the culture of rape itself is largely undisputed and not seen as a problem by most.
Sociologists recognize that the culture of rape is primarily made up of four things: 1. behaviors and practices, 2. the way we think about sex and rape, 3. the way we talk about sex and rape and 4. cultural representations of sex and sexual assault.
Just as entire societies can be described as cultures of rape, so too can certain organizations and institutions and types of institutions, such as colleges and universities, prisons, and the military.
History of the term
The term, “culture, of rape” was popularized by feminist writers and activists in the United States during the 1970s. It first appeared in print in the book rape: the first reference book for women , published in 1974, which was one of the first books to talk about rape from the point of view of women’s experiences.
A film titled “Culture of Rape” was released in 1975 and caught the attention of how the media and popular culture spread main and erroneous beliefs about rape.
Women, at the time, used this term to draw attention to the fact that rape and sexual violence were common crimes across the country – not rare or exceptional crimes committed by madmen or harmed people, as many believed.
Elements of a culture of rape
Sociologists define culture as the values, beliefs, knowledge, behaviors, practices and material of goods that people share in common that help to unify as a collective. Culture includes common sense beliefs, commonly expectations and assumptions, rules, social roles, and norms. It also includes our language and How we communicate and cultural products such as music, art, film, television and music videos, among other things.
Thus, when sociologists consider what culture of rape, and when they study it, look critically at all these elements of culture and examine how it can contribute to the existence of a culture of rape. Sociologists identify the following behaviors and practices, ideas, discourses and cultural representations as part of the culture of rape. There are also others.
Rape culture: behaviors and practices
Of course, the most consistent behaviors and practices that create a culture of rape are acts of sexual assault, but there are others that also play an important role in creating this context. These include:
- Sexual harassment and bullying
Harassment and intimidation and threats towards women and girls, even those who are framed by the aggressor (s) as “playful” or a “joke”
Denying that rape is a widespread problem
- Decreasing or trivializing the trauma and violence of rape and sexual assault
- Blame the victim
- Accusing victims of lies
- Sexual objectification of women and girls
- Men and boys talking / bragging about sexual assault
- Masculinity compared to sexual domination
- Revenge porn, independent of physical assault and battery
- Ignore sexually violent celebrity crimes
- Neglect of rape kits and general non-prioritization of sexual assault among police forces
- Support for the accused and children on concern for the well-being of victims
Cultural violation: Beliefs, assumptions, myths and worldviews
- Cultural expectations that men have to force women to have sex, and that women and girls want to be forced
- Belief that men and boys have a right to the bodies of women and girls
- Socializing girls who have a duty to serve the demands of male sexuality
- Socializing girls to expect sexual assault and violence
- Belief that discussion of sexual activity and affirmative consent are not sexy
- Belief that rape and sexual violence are the inevitable manifestations of masculinity
- Belief that rape is a daily occurrence that cannot be changed
- Fear among victims and their families that they will be stigmatized and more traumatized for reporting the rape
- Belief that rape is just hard sex
- Women and girls provoke sexual assault with their dress and behavior
- It is the responsibility of women to defend themselves and prevent rape
- Only bad men are raped and only bad women are raped
- There is no such thing as partner rape
- Women feel “fucking shame” or regret after sex and screaming rape
Rape culture: language and speech
- Language that minimizes rape and having sex, non-consensual sex, inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct
- Using terms such as “name violation” or “date violation” and “actual violation” to make false distinctions about the crime of rape
- Referring to rape victims of trafficking victims as “child prostitution”
Culture of rape: Representations of rape in cultural products
- Rape jokes and memes that false rape
The use of rape as a plot point and for financial gain in film and television
Video games with rape scenarios
Songs and music videos that glamorize sexual coercion, such as “Baby, it’s cold outside” and Robin Thicke’s “fuzzy”
Notable examples of the culture of rape
One of the most notable and tragic recent examples of rape culture is the case of Brock Turner, who was convicted of three counts of sexual assault by the state of California, after assaulting an unconscious woman on the campus of the Stanford University.
Although the severity of the crimes for which he was convicted by Turner led to a possible sentence of up to 14 years in prison, prosecutors request six. The judge, however, sentenced Turner to just six months in County jail, of which he served three.
The media in the case and the popular discourse surrounding it were riddled with evidence of the culture of rape. Turner was depicted multiple times with a photo showing him a portrait, smiling while wearing a suit and tie, sitting, and was frequently described as a Stanford athlete. His father trivialized the brutal sexual assault committed son in a letter to court, referring to him as “20 minutes of action,” and many, including the judge, suggested that a penalty for the crime unfairly derailed Turner of athletic and academic promise. .
Meanwhile, the victim, never identified in court, was criticized for being intoxicated and virtually no concern for her well-being, nor a desire for justice for the crimes perpetrated against her, were expressed in the mainstream press by Turner, her team of defense, or the judge of the session that decided the case.
Other notable examples unfortunately abound, such as the case of Kesha, which has been held legally bound by a United States court to fulfill a registry contract with its accused rapist / registry producer, Dr. Luke and the higher rate issue of sexual assault on college and university campuses in the United States, as documented in the movie the hunting ground.
The election of President Donald Trump , a man repeatedly accused of sexual assault, and who has frankly spoken out about sexually assaulting women, the now-infamous “grab them by the p * ssy” tape – is an example of how entrenched rape culture and standardized United States Society.
In 2017, a string of sexual assault allegations against powerful men in the media, politics and elsewhere has led to more and more conversations, on social media and elsewhere, about the pervasiveness of the culture of rape in our society.