FAQ: Rape Culture 101

This post was written by Melissa McEwan and originally published at Shakesville on October 09, 2009
Editor’s note: this post does not follow the usual FF101 FAQ conventions, but it’s being included in the FAQ list anyway.

[Trigger warning.]

Frequently, I receive requests to provide a definition of the term “rape culture.” I’ve referred people to the Wikipedia entry on rape culture, which is pretty good, and I like the definition provided in Transforming a Rape Culture:

A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.

In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death or taxes. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.

But my correspondents—whether they are dewy noobs just coming to feminism, advanced feminists looking for a source, or disbelievers in the existence of the rape culture—always seem to be looking for something more comprehensive and less abstract: What is the rape culture? What are its borders? What does it look like and sound like and feel like?

It is not a definition for which they’re looking; not really. It’s a description. It’s something substantive enough to reach out and touch, in all its ugly, heaving, menacing grotesquery.

Rape culture is encouraging male sexual aggression. Rape culture is regarding violence as sexy and sexuality as violent. Rape culture is treating rape as a compliment, as the unbridled passion stirred in a healthy man by a beautiful woman, making irresistible the urge to rip open her bodice or slam her against a wall, or a wrought-iron fence, or a car hood, or pull her by her hair, or shove her onto a bed, or any one of a million other images of fight-fucking in movies and television shows and on the covers of romance novels that convey violent urges are inextricably linked with (straight) sexuality.

Rape culture is treating straight sexuality as the norm. Rape culture is lumping queer sexuality into nonconsensual sexual practices like pedophilia and bestiality. Rape culture is privileging heterosexuality because ubiquitous imagery of two adults of the same-sex engaging in egalitarian partnerships without gender-based dominance and submission undermines (erroneous) biological rationales for the rape culture’s existence.

Rape culture is rape being used as a weapon, a tool of war and genocide and oppression. Rape culture is rape being used as a corrective to “cure” queer women. Rape culture is a militarized culture and “the natural product of all wars, everywhere, at all times, in all forms.”

Rape culture is 1 in 33 men being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is encouraging men to use the language of rape to establish dominance over one another (“I’ll make you my bitch”). Rape culture is making rape a ubiquitous part of male-exclusive bonding. Rape culture is ignoring the cavernous need for men’s prison reform in part because the threat of being raped in prison is considered an acceptable deterrent to committing crime, and the threat only works if actual men are actually being raped.

Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.

Rape culture is victim-blaming. Rape culture is a judge blaming a child for her own rape. Rape culture is a minister blaming his child victims. Rape culture is accusing a child of enjoying being held hostage, raped, and tortured. Rape culture is spending enormous amounts of time finding any reason at all that a victim can be blamed for hir own rape.

Rape culture is judges banning the use of the word rape in the courtroom. Rape culture is the media using euphemisms for sexual assault. Rape culture is stories about rape being featured in the Odd News.

Rape culture is tasking victims with the burden of rape prevention. Rape culture is encouraging women to take self-defense as though that is the only solution required to preventing rape. Rape culture is admonishing women to “learn common sense” or “be more responsible” or “be aware of barroom risks” or “avoid these places” or “don’t dress this way,” and failing to admonish men to not rape.

Rape culture is “nothing” being the most frequent answer to a question about what people have been formally taught about rape.

Rape culture is boys under 10 years old knowing how to rape.

Rape culture is the idea that only certain people rape—and only certain people get raped. Rape culture is ignoring that the thing about rapists is that they rape people. They rape people who are strong and people who are weak, people who are smart and people who are dumb, people who fight back and people who submit just to get it over with, people who are sluts and people who are prudes, people who rich and people who are poor, people who are tall and people who are short, people who are fat and people who are thin, people who are blind and people who are sighted, people who are deaf and people who can hear, people of every race and shape and size and ability and circumstance.

Rape culture is the narrative that sex workers can’t be raped. Rape culture is the assertion that wives can’t be raped. Rape culture is the contention that only nice girls can be raped.

Rape culture is refusing to acknowledge that the only thing that the victim of every rapist shares in common is bad fucking luck. Rape culture is refusing to acknowledge that the only thing a person can do to avoid being raped is never be in the same room as a rapist. Rape culture is avoiding talking about what an absurdly unreasonable expectation that is, since rapists don’t announce themselves or wear signs or glow purple.

Rape culture is people meant to protect you raping you instead—like parents, teachers, doctors, ministers, cops, soldiers, self-defense instructors.

Rape culture is a serial rapist being appointed to a federal panel that makes decisions regarding women’s health.

Rape culture is a ruling that says women cannot withdraw consent once sex commences.

Rape culture is a collective understanding about classifications of rapists: The “normal” rapist (whose crime is most likely to be dismissed with a “boys will be boys” sort of jocular apologia) is the man who forces himself on attractive women, women his age in fine health and form, whose crime is disturbingly understandable to his male defenders. The “real sickos” are the men who go after children, old ladies, the disabled, accident victims languishing in comas—the sort of people who can’t fight back, whose rape is difficult to imagine as titillating, unlike the rape of “pretty girls,” so easily cast in a fight-fuck fantasy of squealing and squirming and eventual relenting to the “flattery” of being raped.

Rape culture is the insistence on trying to distinguish between different kinds of rape via the use of terms like “gray rape” or “date rape.”

Rape culture is pervasive narratives about rape that exist despite evidence to the contrary. Rape culture is pervasive imagery of stranger rape, even though women are three times more likely to be raped by someone they know than a stranger, and nine times more likely to be raped in their home, the home of someone they know, or anywhere else than being raped on the street, making what is commonly referred to as “date rape” by far the most prevalent type of rape. Rape culture is pervasive insistence that false reports are common, although they are less common (1.6%) than false reports of auto theft (2.6%). Rape culture is pervasive claims that women make rape accusations willy-nilly, when 61% of rapes remain unreported.

Rape culture is the pervasive narrative that there is a “typical” way to behave after being raped, instead of the acknowledgment that responses to rape are as varied as its victims, that, immediately following a rape, some women go into shock; some are lucid; some are angry; some are ashamed; some are stoic; some are erratic; some want to report it; some don’t; some will act out; some will crawl inside themselves; some will have healthy sex lives; some never will again.

Rape culture is the pervasive narrative that a rape victim who reports hir rape is readily believed and well-supported, instead of acknowledging that reporting a rape is a huge personal investment, a difficult process that can be embarrassing, shameful, hurtful, frustrating, and too often unfulfilling. Rape culture is ignoring that there is very little incentive to report a rape; it’s a terrible experience with a small likelihood of seeing justice served.

Rape culture is hospitals that won’t do rape kits, disbelieving law enforcement, unmotivated prosecutors, hostile judges, victim-blaming juries, and paltry sentencing.

Rape culture is the fact that higher incidents of rape tend to correlate with lower conviction rates.

Rape culture is silence around rape in the national discourse, and in rape victims’ homes. Rape culture is treating surviving rape as something of which to be ashamed. Rape culture is families torn apart because of rape allegations that are disbelieved or ignored or sunk to the bottom of a deep, dark sea in an iron vault of secrecy and silence.

Rape culture is the objectification of women, which is part of a dehumanizing process that renders consent irrelevant. Rape culture is treating women’s bodies like public property. Rape culture is street harassment and groping on public transportation and equating raped women’s bodies to a man walking around with valuables hanging out of his pockets. Rape culture is most men being so far removed from the threat of rape that invoking property theft is evidently the closest thing many of them can imagine to being forcibly subjected to a sexual assault.

Rape culture is treating 13-year-old girls like trophies for men regarded as great artists.

Rape culture is ignoring the way in which professional environments that treat sexual access to female subordinates as entitlements of successful men can be coercive and compromise enthusiastic consent.

Rape culture is a convicted rapist getting a standing ovation at Cannes, a cameo in a hit movie, and a career resurgence in which he can joke about how he hates seeing people get hurt.

Rape culture is when running dogfights is said to elicit more outrage than raping a woman would.

Rape culture is blurred lines between persistence and coercion. Rape culture is treating diminished capacity to consent as the natural path to sexual activity.

Rape culture is pretending that non-physical sexual assaults, like peeping tomming, is totally unrelated to brutal and physical sexual assaults, rather than viewing them on a continuum of sexual assault.

Rape culture is diminishing the gravity of any sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, or culture of actual or potential coercion in any way.

Rape culture is using the word “rape” to describe something that has been done to you other than a forced or coerced sex act. Rape culture is saying things like “That ATM raped me with a huge fee” or “The IRS raped me on my taxes.”

Rape culture is rape being used as entertainment, in movies and television shows and books and in video games.

Rape culture is television shows and movies leaving rape out of situations where it would be a present and significant threat in real life.

Rape culture is Amazon offering to locate “rape” products for you.

Rape culture is rape jokes. Rape culture is rape jokes on t-shirts, rape jokes in college newspapers, rape jokes in soldiers’ home videos, rape jokes on the radio, rape jokes on news broadcasts, rape jokes in magazines, rape jokes in viral videos, rape jokes in promotions for children’s movies, rape jokes on Page Six (and again!), rape jokes on the funny pages, rape jokes on TV shows, rape jokes on the campaign trail, rape jokes on Halloween, rape jokes in online content by famous people, rape jokes in online content by non-famous people, rape jokes in headlines, rape jokes onstage at clubs, rape jokes in politics, rape jokes in one-woman shows, rape jokes in print campaigns, rape jokes in movies, rape jokes in cartoons, rape jokes in nightclubs, rape jokes on MTV, rape jokes on late-night chat shows, rape jokes in tattoos, rape jokes in stand-up comedy, rape jokes on websites, rape jokes at awards shows, rape jokes in online contests, rape jokes in movie trailers, rape jokes on the sides of buses, rape jokes on cultural institutions

Rape culture is people objecting to the detritus of the rape culture being called oversensitive, rather than people who perpetuate the rape culture being regarded as not sensitive enough.

Rape culture is the myriad ways in which rape is tacitly and overtly abetted and encouraged having saturated every corner of our culture so thoroughly that people can’t easily wrap their heads around what the rape culture actually is.

That’s hardly everything. It’s merely the tip of an unfathomable iceberg.


78 comments on “FAQ: Rape Culture 101

  1. wow… thank you for this comprehensive post. I was especially interested to follow all the links, as they really drive the point home.

    • There are three recent post on Shapely Prose which are highly relevant to any analysis of rape culture, especially the (mammoth!) ensuing discussion threads. The posts are mostly in response to two recent events: the arrest of Roman Polanski for skipping bail during his trial in the 70s, and an xkcd cartoon where the closed body language of a woman on public transport was presented as “really” being her attempt to entice a man into talking to her – both the details of the Polanski assault and the meta-message of the cartoon reinforce a generic lack of respect for women’s boundaries and the idea that a woman’s discomfort and sense of safety are not regarded as valid reasons for her not to give an insistently intrusive man the attention he wants to receive. The level of Not. Getting. It. displayed by many men in internet forums was alarming, and these posts do a good job in breaking it down.

      For anyone reading who is still at a 101 level with feminism – these three posts are very much not 101. You may find them very confronting. Sometimes being confronted is a very good thing for people.

      Polanski, Polanski, Polanski
      Would it kill you to be civil?
      Guest Blogger Starling: Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

      With respect particularly to the Schrödinger’s Rapist post (1200+ comments, thread now closed) I want to pre-empt some common outraged reactions about the reality of wariness and vigilant threat assessment/risk analysis as part of everyday social situations – “but I’m a good person! It’s insulting to react to me as if I could be a rapist!”. OK then – please show us a foolproof method of distinguishing a benign person from a dangerous person just by the way they look/behave (in case you haven’t noticed, predatory people are sneaky). Wariness is a rational response to known risks. Being wary about possible negative outcomes is not “living in fear”, either. It’s a background thing, not a constant monologue.

      Also, are you telling your sister/mother/daughter/partner one thing – “be careful – you just never know” – and then being affronted when other women are “careful” in response to you? Do you find it “acceptable” that women should limit their risks by staying home and just not doing things but find it “unacceptable” that women out in public just don’t want to respond to you/acknowledge your remarks?

      Analogies: all adults are Schrödinger’s Child Abductor when we are strangers interacting with the children of others (and unwary parents are viewed as Irresponsibly Careless), as a Person of Paleness I am Schrödinger’s Racist when I am a stranger interacting with Persons of Colour (more POPs should get over being affronted by this, too), and as a work colleague I am Schrödinger’s Back-Stabber when I am a stranger joining a team. On the internet, we are all Schrödinger’s Troll when we start commenting in a new discussion forum.

      As strangers every one of us is multiple iterations of Schrödinger’s [Risky Person] as far as other people are concerned, until a history of interaction accumulates where behaviour patterns provide consistent counterexamples to that possibility, and thus a level of trust results. Respect for other people’s boundaries is a major factor in the trust equation – refusal to accept others’ boundaries, arguing with them that they are wrong to feel uncomfortable/wary/unsafe, insisting that one’s own particular socially-intrusive needs are so much more important than the self-protective needs of others – these are all major red flags that a stranger is at the very least an irritating time-stealer and that in some situations they could very well be unsafe to be around.

  2. […] I have to take solace in this page explaining exactly what rape culture is and to what degree that culture is institutionalized. (Please, everyone should read this.)  I am going to  read Hannah Arendt and watch Agnes Varda […]

  3. I just posted on the use of rape language in business. I suspect the word is being misappropriated there because managers feel impotent sitting at a desk all day.

  4. Thankyou. Simply that.

    Especially for this bit:

    “be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact.”

    My mum told me I was encouraging men to perve on me at the gym the other night because I happened to make eye contact at one point and politely smile

    Apparently that meant I was encouraging them.. my mother is a feminist.

    I felt nasty and wrong and somehow like it was my fault and it had been doing my head in until now. Its not my fault all I did was smile politely.

    So thank you!

    • Lexi,

      Keep smiling – and learn to distinguish between friends and enemies. Remember it’s not you at fault – it’s the others.

  5. And for us men who don’t accept rape as being an acceptable course of action in any circumstances?

      • Men are not programmed to rape. Those who do rape choose to do so. It is of no value to feminists to assume that rape is acceptable to the male of the species or that their appreciation of females is motivated solely by sex.

      • Wow…if a man made a token this condescending and insulting, it would porbably make you list as contributing to “rape culture” but feminists and football coaches are a lot alike…they think that men just have to deal with the verbal and psychological abuse without complaint

      • 1. The OP was a patronising kneejerk – condescension is not a valid response? Mere non-aggression is not enough to make an ally, that merely makes one neutral. Allies actively support and engage the common antagonist.

        2. Yep, if a man (OR a woman) made cookies that had rape-trivialising mottoes such as “she shouldn’t have got drunk” or “what did she expect wearing that?” then such cookies would indeed be reinforcing existing rape culture. You’re so close to getting it. So, keep on thinking: what’s the difference when the cookies have mottoes that challenge the assumptions of rape culture?

        3. Sarcasm in an online discussion forum is scarcely “verbal and psychological abuse”. Psychological abuse can only occur in relationships that are much closer than merely pixels on a screen (like a football coach able to bench one at will), and also only happens in relationships where the victimised person cannot withdraw at will. Verbal abuse requires much stronger language than some condescending sarcasm.

        Using such terms to describe online rhetoric is minimising the traumatic effect of real verbal and psychological abuse, and is either obtusely insensitive or cynically re-framing the terms of the discussion.

      • I almost want to say that we need to add “Your refusal to praise and congratulate me for not being a rapist is abusive!” to the feminist bingo board.

      • lala

        You appear willing to provide Seksualist with proof that his “closed circle of thinking” is correct. It doesn’t help your argument.

      • imsloan

        I’m not offended so there’s no need for you to be either.

  6. You could’ve just put

    Rape culture is whatever the hell we want it to be, we made it up.

    I don’t have the time nor energy to explain how a lot of those things don’t contribute to a rape culture as described in the first paragraph but…

    Rape games. Letting someone do something in a video game is not encouraging people to do it in real life. I can guarantee there are more games that let you murder innocent people then ones that let you rape innocent people.

    GTA, infamous, prototype, assassin’s creed, hitman, mercenaries, hell any open world game where you have weapons.

    And rape jokes

    People will joke about anything, I can’t count the number of times I’ve ventured into contests of ‘make humor out of the most grim/dark thing you can possibly think of’. There’s a whole category of jokes involving the mutilation of babies even. There’s no real reason why rape should be on a big unjokable pedestal.

    • Rape games contribute to a culture where rape is trivialised/minimised. When violence, whether sexual or othewise, is minimised, it leads to people failing to take victims seriously.

      There’s no real reason why rape should be on a big unjokable pedestal.

      Except for those pesky sexual assault survivors (1 in 4 women, 1 in 8 men) being highly likely to hear you joking about their pain, something which is far less likely with mutilated babies etc. Why would you want to be the person reminding someone of that as part of what is supposed to be conversation, or entertainment? If your joke worth so much to you that you don’t care about ruining other people’s night?

      • “Rape games contribute to a culture where rape is trivialised/minimised”

        Bullshit. People aren’t stupid, they know when they’re playing a video game that takes liberties with the way the world works.

        There’s been murder in entertainment for a long time (brothers grimm, shakespeare, etc.) and yet is it trivialized? No. You can still get the death penalty for murder.

        Oh and there’s a general consensus that telling dark humor to someone without fair warning is considered rude. I only do it when it’s been communicated that we’re now entering anything goes.

    • The only rape joke I ever heard was told to me by a woman. She was surprised I found it offensive and even more surprised when I said I could never repeat it. Culture only exists by the contributions of people. I do not accept that violence by males towards females is acceptable, inevitable or certain. Violence is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. It is simply unacceptable. It does exist but that does not mean it should be tolerated.

  7. If that’s how you truly think about this, Phil, why are you over here concern trolling?

    • delagar,

      someone has to educate Americans that they are not the entire world or its culture. Besides, which of the thirty two definitions of trolling are you using?

  8. Uh oh… another Dworkin-style rant…

    Rape is trivialised by this unanalytic and dogmatic neverending list, which makes the whole “rape” concept an unintelligible mess.

    The worst part is the end, where the writer suggests that criticism of this kind of thinking is perpetuating rape culture. It is a very cheap rhetoric trick which definitely drops credibility of the writer to zero.

    • Your point about another writer’s rhetoric might just be more effective if you weren’t conflating the physical act of rape with the sociological phenomenon of rape culture.

      • Well, the problem is that the word “rape” is used in the concept “rape culture” instead of “culture of sexual aggression” or similar.

        “Rape culture” is not a sociological concept, it is an ideological concept that is designed to impact or shock. It could also be described as propaganda. This kind of expression is far from scientific.

        Blatant exaggeration and dogmatism are always enemies to understanding complex social problems. And lack of understanding is detrimental to the good cause – fighting rape.

      • How exactly would you differentiate between a “culture of sexual aggression” and “rape culture”?

        Where is the dividing line between sociology and ideology?

        Even if it were just an ideological rhetorical term designed for impact or shock, don’t some discussions need to impact or shock, and how does that negate the reality of the cultural tropes and traditions it describes?

      • Sociological concepts should reflect empirical evidence in predictable and falsifiable manner. Ideological concepts, instead, are often absolute or universal in unconditional way.

        Rape jokes is a good example. There are certainly some instances and conditions, when rape jokes do contribute to culture, that blurs participants’ ethical stances towards sexual aggression (i.e. harassment, even rape). But there are also instances and conditions, when rape jokes do not contibute to accepting aggressive behavior.

        Sociological research can work towards understanding the distinction between different cases and patterns of rape joking and thus it can reveal conditions, when rape jokes do influence behavior in unacceptable ways.

        Ideological claims tell us instead that “rape culture IS rape jokes” without conditions, analysis or attempt to understand the matter comprehensively. And it gets even worse, when possible criticism and problematising of these dogmatic claims is ALSO labeled as “rape culture”.

        Here we have a closed circle of thinking that cannot accept any critical opinions, ambiquous or unclear cases, or different interpretations of presented phenomenons.

      • Rape jokes is a good example. There are certainly some instances and conditions, when rape jokes do contribute to culture, that blurs participants’ ethical stances towards sexual aggression (i.e. harassment, even rape). But there are also instances and conditions, when rape jokes do not contibute to accepting aggressive behavior.

        In the interest of moving the discussion forward, would you care to give some examples (i.e. descriptions of situations) of each, as well as why you think they contribute or don’t contribute to a culture of sexual aggression?

      • @ Seksualisti,

        You appear to be arguing pure semantics. Upthread you indicated that you would find the term “culture of sexual aggression” acceptable. “Rape culture” is a synonym for “culture of sexual aggression”, so where exactly does the difficulty lie other than you don’t like the rhetorical choice to use one term rather than the other?

      • Seksualsti

        Whilst understanding your general objection to ideological statements, as opposed to sociological or legal definitions, rape is not a suitable subject for “jokes” in any circumstances. It trivialises the subject, adds to the pain of any rape victim and anaesthetises society to the simple proposition that rape i.e. forcing someone to have sex against their will, is morally unacceptable.

        The original ideological statement to which you refer sought to find implicit rape and false justification as cultural norms. They are not, nor should rape ever be considered as anything other than an affront to human dignity.

      • Phil, it is overstating to say that “rape is not a suitable subject for jokes in ANY circumstances”. There is a whole branch of dark humor that specialises in extreme topics like violence, catastrophes, psychopathy and awful happenstances. Why rape should be an exception?

        I agree, that it is very rude to joke harshly about rape unexpectedly, but if some comic artists or comedians specialize in extreme stuff (like Hugleikur Dagsson’s work: http://www.dagsson.com), there is no reason to condemn them. Their reputation should be enough to keep sensitive people away from their work.

        Someone’s vulnerabilities cannot be the defining line about what others may or may not do. One should try to pay regard to such vulnerabilities and to respect other persons’ sensitivities, but there is no ground for overall moral condemnation of rape jokes among other extreme humor.

        Besides, jokes that happen to hurt someone’s feelings are RUDE, not IMMORAL. This is very important distiction. If jokes are deliberately used as tools of hurting or oppressing someone, then these act are immoral. This applies to all jokes, not only to rape jokes.

      • @Seksualisti

        There is a whole branch of dark humor that specialises in extreme topics like violence, catastrophes, psychopathy and awful happenstances. Why rape should be an exception?

        Because rape is the only one of those topics where there is likely to be a significant proportion of the audience (1 in 4 women, 1 in 8 men) who have experienced it directly, at least an attempted if not a completed assault.

        Unlike public catastrophes or violent attacks, people tend to keep sexual assaults and domestic violence more private, and are expected to do so. So joking about private assaults is likely to trigger PTSD in a significant proportion of the people listening, whereas jokes about murder are not (the victim is dead) and large public events like terrorism, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, floods probably won’t either if one is joking about them from a place where they are not actually happening.

        It IS immoral to demand the right to trigger PTSD in people without being criticised for it, IMO.

      • @Seksualisti, I just wanted to add that I do agree with this part:

        If jokes are deliberately used as tools of hurting or oppressing someone, then these act are immoral. This applies to all jokes, not only to rape jokes.

        This is why I call bullshit on the whole “it was just a joke” defence against people offended by “taboo” humour. That’s not to say that taboo humour never has a place, especially when it is used by survivors/minorities to highlight shortcomings in broader society. But when it’s just used for shock value by someone with social privilege it’s hardly challenging those taboos, it’s only reinforcing them. This is particularly true when it’s an oppressor group making jokes where the punchline is someone else’s victimisation.

        I’ve heard some funny rape jokes – they do exist. They’ve either been told by someone who was raped and using dark humour effectively in response, or by someone highlighting the deficiencies of rapists (e.g. packs of footballers) instead of making the lazy joke about how damned funny it is that some people get raped and they probably asked for it or are lying about it. Jokes about prison rape of male convicts are the laziest and nastiest ones I can think of in terms of casting the victims as deserving what they get, by the way.

      • Tigtog, that is exactly the reason, why it is overstatement to say that “rape jokes IS rape culture”. There are many kinds rape jokes and many reasons for telling them. There are also many different circumstances and sub-cultures where rape jokes might be told. Thus one explicit and singleminded statement can never include whole phenomenon sufficiently.

        And I’m afraid there is more to say about dark humor and the risk of triggering post-traumatic stress disorder. No-one demands the right of triggering PTSD, but every one has the right of expression and freedom of speech. This includes expressing rude or inconvenient things.

        Moreover, no-one has the subjective right of avoiding situations that MIGHT trigger PTSD or other negative effects in them. It would be good, if they were warned about situations that might trigger such effects, but it is sometimes practically impossible to consider ALL possible triggers and vulnerabilities.

        It is also problematic to compare the RIGHT of expression and POSSIBILITY of triggering. There is no theory of rights, that would accept this kind of violation of someone’s rights, because this kind of structure would be disastrous to the whole concept of rights, if it was applied widely.

        I sympathise with the pain of rape victims, but the problems above cannot be skipped in discussion of societal, legal or philosophical matters concerning rape and alleged “rape culture”.

      • @Seksualisti

        but every one has the right of expression and freedom of speech. This includes expressing rude or inconvenient things.

        Having the right to do something does not make doing that thing a moral act. Having the right to do something does not mean that others do not have a right to respond to that action negatively and make a judgement on the character of those who do that action. Freedom of speech does not and has never ever meant freedom from criticism.

        People who make lazy/nasty rape jokes just for shock value are self-entitled insensitive jerks, it is right and proper to call them out for being self-entitled insensitive jerks, it does not infringe upon their right of expression or freedom of speech to call them self-entitled insensitive jerks. People being self-entitled insensitive jerks about rape IS rape culture.

        Nobody is trying to take away their right to be self-entitled insensitive jerks, they’re just telling them that self-entitled insensitive jerks is what they are.

        Oddly enough, many many many people do not like and do not want to be around self-entitled insensitive jerks. It’s a bit rich for the self-entitled insensitive jerks to then moan about being criticised and/or avoided because of their free choice to engage in free expression of speech that others find creepy and/or triggering.

      • Tigtog, you forgot the context of my latest reply. I was not referreing to “insensitive jerks” but to some comedians, cartoonists and artists who have specialised in dark humor. It is far-fetched to call them jerks or accuse them about promoting rape culture.

        I am pushing this claim, because I am taken aback about the rhetoric of overstating that Melissa McEwan uses all the time. She even claims that some people are rapists, because something they have said can be interpreted (with malevolent intent) as hints about their “true intentions” that is “raping women”. Consider these examples:



        All I am claiming here is that there are other more likely interpretations about these cases, and also other cases that involve slips of tongue, misunderstandings, dark humor, different sub-cultures etc. It is not justifiable or fair to shout “rape” or “rape culture”, when it feels like it. There must be good grounds for such serious accusations.

        I am also shocked about your reactions, tigtog. You act like I am some kind of defender of rapists. I am not. I just want to broaden the narrow ideological frame of interpretation that is used by the rape culture text above. It would be everyone’s benefit, if discussion about such serious matters was as clear and justifiable as possible.

      • @Seksualisti, I didn’t forget the context of your latest reply (essentially “what about the comedianz?”) I just found it irrelevant the first time you brought it up and increasingly tedious each time since.

        I have been in and around the comedy industry for over 10 years, I am a comedy enthusiast, and yet I can think of only one famous comedian (Eddie Izzard) who never marginalises an outsider group [edit] Australian comedian Adam Hills, too – not as famous though[/edit]. All those other comedians who marginalise people as part of their “dark humour” are contributing to a culture of marginalisation stigmatisation and Othering, and those who make rape jokes that marginalise rape victims are contributing to rape culture. One of my otherwise favourite comedians regularly refers to certain famous women as “that bloke [masculinised pun of their name]”, thus managing to marginalise all women who don’t fit into the narrow young/white/thin mold of the beauty-myth culture, and to marginalise trans people as well. I always cringe at that part of his routine, [edit] and at that point of his routine he is being an insensitive jerk [/edit]. That these comedians have other social goals in mind with their “dark humour” does not absolve them of contributing to the marginalisation of people who are already victimised/stigmatised, and I don’t think that comedians should get a free pass for their reinforcement of toxic cultural tropes just because they make it “funny”.

        By the way, only one of the two posts you linked to was written by Melissa McEwan.

        I am not acting as if you are a defender of rapists. I do think that you are defending some aspects of rape culture*, which is a culture that marginalises the reality of rape and the experiences of rape victims. Rape culture is not just a culture of promoting/excusing sexual violence, it’s the culture that averts its eyes from the victims of sexual violence.

        * [ETA] by denying that some behaviours that you like to participate in/watch others perform, such as comedy, could be part of rape culture. The comedians who include lazy/nasty rape jokes, as part of their routines, even if most of their routine is genuinely challenging/subversive in other areas, are still being insensitive jerks about rape, even if they most probably are not insensitive jerks about everything. Being insensitive jerks about rape on stage reinforces the toxic trope that it’s OK to be an insensitive jerk about rape, particularly in the context of taking consent seriously. Jokes about lack of consent reinforce the particularly toxic trope that it’s OK to disregard sexual unwillingness and keep on pushing until s/he acquiesces (no matter how unenthusiastic or unconscious or exhausted or fearful s/he may be), and *blam* there’s your reinforcement of rape culture, because it’s saying that what s/he wants doesn’t matter.

      • I’m going to quote in full a comment from SKM on Deeky’s Hell’s Kitchen thread that I think clarifies some things:

        I think some of the objections to the term ‘rape culture’ are akin to the objections to ‘misogyny’–basically, many people would like to define these terms out of existence. When we say someone is misanthropic, we accept that to mean s/he dislikes and/or avoids people; we don’t demand proof that s/he has a violent hatred of everybody on Earth. But with the word misogyny, even fairly well-meaning people tend to pipe up that the word is used “too loosely” or is “overused”. So, misogyny is being held to a stricter standard than misanthropy, I think with the aim of claiming that misogyny is a deviant rarity, while misanthropy is just a personality trait.

        Similarly, I think ‘rape culture’ refers to a broad range of attitudes and behaviors that generally contribute to an environment where rape is more likely to occur and less likely to be punished. But if we use the term, people step forward demanding “proof” of actual rape or the intent of an individual to commit rape before we “indict” (as though the discussion were a legal matter, and about an individual). This is redefining the term to narrow its application.

        It’s all a form of denialism. I guess the attitude goes, misogyny and rape are monstrous and must therefore be very rare, and none of the nice normal guys one knows would feel or do such monstrous things. If only that were so.

      • [Reposting in the appropriate place in the thread, my previous comment deleted] – Gotta love it when a morphing troll with no patience appears in moderation – dewd, if you post close together with different names and email addresses from the same IP number, it’s just a little bit obvious.

        It’s also classic that you dragged out the old chestnut “misogyny = hatred” and thus is an exaggeration immediately after I quoted SKM’s comment on just that claim – do have you the same complaint against the word “misanthropy” or do you just have a double standard operating here?

      • Unfortunately SKM’s comment is strong on opinion and weak on fact and I cannot see that there has been any rational appreciation of the issues involved. If in doubt just say people are in denial – it covers everything and avoids debate. At some stage you have to say where you stand rather than just shout slogans. I disagree fundamentally with Seksualisti’s notion that rape can be a subject for comedy but I also disagree with those who are not prepared to open the concept of “rape culture” to analysis. There is quite clearly a need to change some males’ attitudes (superbly illustrated on one of the blog sites which showed a braless female and the message along the lines, “This is not an invitation to rape” ). However, attitudes are not changed by ideology or noise but by education.

      • @Phil, you might be interested in reading this news article about the attitudes towards rape ingrained in the culture of an elite residential dormitory colleges at one of Australia’s finest universities – they created a Facebook group that was pro-rape and proudly displayed their membership of it in their personal profiles.

        Having attended the same university nearly 30 years ago, I can report that nothing much has changed – the college women are viewed as meat for the college men, and young men encouraging binge drinking and then isolating young women on campus so that they can force them into sex acts was then and is still now presented as the woman not being careful enough to avoid a bad apple (because obviously she should be able to tell) rather than the toxic culture of the residential colleges creating an atmosphere where young men realise that they can get away with just about anything, so why not a bit of recreational rape? As the college cheer says, Yes means Yes and No means Yes, so it’s all just what they are entitled to, no?

        A persistent pattern of sexual assault in the same institutions over decades, where the assaults are explained away each and every time as “bad apples” and “boys will be boys” sounds like a cultural norm to me. I agree that they should be taken as an affront to human dignity, but I really do not see that as being the reality.

      • tigtog

        I read the article and noticed the condemnation by the College authorities of the Facebook group, which was not established by the College itself. I understand the offending item has been removed. I notice too that the police made it clear that they would not tolerate such attitudes and gather they are investigating those people named on the Facebook. If, as you say, this culture prevails then it must be removed by redefining the culture, including the establishment of a commonly agreed set of rules about the behaviour of each sex towards the other.

        It is for those of us who do not accept pro rape attitudes to ensure we change the culture so it becomes unacceptable in any form. “Boys will be boys” should be excluded as a cultural norm but it will only be so if we exclude it by taking action to ensure that rape is unacceptable in any form.

        At the same time may I point you towards a well balanced article by India Knight in the Times of London? You may not agree with her but she makes some valid points about distinguishing between the utopia we would like to live in and the real world we do live in. We have to make the latter more like the former. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/india_knight/article641493.ece

        You may also wish to look at this article on a contemporary feminst site which commented on Knight’s article. http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2008/10/incitement_to_rape

        Neither fully solve inherent problems but that will only come about by changes in attitude. The question which remains is how soon this can this be achieved because it must be achieved if we are to have more equal sexual treatment of men and women in society as a whole.

      • Tigtog,

        What do you want, discussion and agreement or argument and posturing?

  9. this is a wonderfully written introduction to the idea of rape culture. thank you so much. so so much.

  10. I’m not sure if the nesting is working since it seems to have gone a bit wonky, so I’ll use some quoting to make it clear what I’m replying to.

    There’s been murder in entertainment for a long time (brothers grimm, shakespeare, etc.) and yet is it trivialized? No. You can still get the death penalty for murder.

    The component you are missing is the structure of power, privilege and oppression. It is not appropriate to tell rape jokes because rape is an everyday reality for women. One in six of whom will experience it in their life. All of whom must constantly rearrange their lives and where they go and what they do in order to avoid it. All of whom can at least tell of several incidents in their life when they feared for it. Because it is used as a tool to control women, keep them in their place, and punish them when they step out of line. Because this treatment of women is forgiven and considered okay and glamourized and pornogrified in all sorts of ways that are outlined all over this blog.

    In the same vein, it might be okay to use murder in entertainment, but it’s definitely not okay to walk into a ghetto and start telling jokes about cops shooting Black people left and right. If you see an old lady with a number tattooed onto her arm, it is not okay to tell jokes about murdering Jews.

    If murder is not used as a tool of oppression to keep you under control, then joking about it feels like harmless fun, doesn’t it? Try being a Black guy in the ghetto for a while, or a homosexual in Nebraska and see how funny it seems then. You claim that murder isn’t trivialized, but I think you will find many feminists and anti-racists talking about how murder of members of oppressed groups is not taken as seriously as those of privileged groups.

    Try unpacking your privilege and you will see the difference between entertainment involving generalized violence against individuals, and entertainment involving violence that is an everyday reality in the lives of an oppressed group. There is a completely different context.

    • lala

      This is where the misunderstand takes place. You see privilege, power and oppression where most males do not. Indeed, most males would deny its existence primarily because they do not share the ideology of patriarchy. By seeing through your ideological (and practical) stance you fail to appreciate that you encompass all males, whereas most males hold the view that rape is wrong.

      You refer to the (mis)treatment of women as if its a cultural norm. It is not the cultural norm. Pornography and pornographic depictions are not the norm. Like Hollywood films they are fantasy. In reality the image rarely matches the reality. Sometimes it does – finding the reasons for those matches is more than just shouting “rape culture”.

      You appear to be arguing that the reality is the image without exception. In those cases where minority groups of perpetrators consider it to be the cultural norm they should be disabused of the idea. The counter argument is that Bruce Willis was a hero on film but was too cowardly to travel to Europe after 9/11.

      The point being made is this. The idea of a rape culture has been posited as reality. That is disputed. Unless rape culture is determined as fact, rather than ideology, surely the most appropriate action is to develop a common vocabulary between all human beings in opposition to those who do rape. Dworkin’s idea that all men are potential rapists is completely wrong. Most men hate rape and rapists, your apparent assumption that they don’t (or that in not raping they are going against their nature) is self defeating and of no help in eliminating the scourge of rape from society.

    • “In the same vein, it might be okay to use murder in entertainment, but it’s definitely not okay to walk into a ghetto and start telling jokes about cops shooting Black people left and right.”

      Why because people may get offended? I suddenly can’t make fun of cops shooting black people if the person I’m telling the joke to may actually be effected by the phenomenon? What kind of stupid rule is that?

      “If you see an old lady with a number tattooed onto her arm, it is not okay to tell jokes about murdering Jews.”


      “If murder is not used as a tool of oppression to keep you under control, then joking about it feels like harmless fun, doesn’t it? Try being a Black guy in the ghetto for a while, or a homosexual in Nebraska and see how funny it seems then.”

      Try looking up gallows humor, try realizing that dark humor can be used to cope with things.

      “You claim that murder isn’t trivialized, but I think you will find many feminists and anti-racists talking about how murder of members of oppressed groups is not taken as seriously as those of privileged groups.”

      And yet it’s still taken seriously, despite murder being nearly everywhere in entertainment.

      “Try unpacking your privilege and you will see [things my way]”

      Only if you stop acting so damn condescending.

      • This is one of many comments that have been sitting in mod for weeks while I have been ill, so apologies for the delayed reply.

        That said, wow are you missing the point. The point about gallows humour is that it is not the jokes that the hangman tells. It’s the jokes that are told/laughed at by people who are imagining themselves in the position of the person about to be hanged.

        If your joke about cops shooting black people is one that the cops laugh at but the black community doesn’t, then you are being a jerk.

        If your joke about the concentration camp tattoo is one that the guards laugh at but the prisoners don’t, then you are being a jerk.

        If your joke about rape is one that rapists laugh at but that rape survivors don’t, then you are being a jerk.

        HTH, HAND.

  11. Brilliant and comprehensive! Thank you for writing this. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this on my blog, with credits to you of course!

  12. Tigtog, pure semantics? Did you happen to read my latest two posts?

    Sexual aggression is much broader concept, and it is also more neutral, which means more options in determining the scope of the concept. It is also important to discuss the borders of the concept: is it universal, culture-dependent or appliable only to certain sub-cultures or groups. This is very important, if there are any ambitions to actually prove the existence of such culture.

    I would prefer the third option and limit the use of the concept to certain sub-cultures or groups that have easily recognisable elements of sexually aggressive behavior.

    This is also answer to Kandela’s question. Rape jokes and similar stuff can strenghten sexually aggressive attitudes in a group that already has misogynist, immoral or lawless basic atmosphere. This kind of group might generate attitudes and models of behavior (ie. joking) that makes harassing and even raping easier. Joking might also work as a form of self-deception for perpetrators own mental protection.

    Totally opposite situation for telling rape jokes could be for example a comedian or a group of people, who are accustomed and known to use extreme humor. Even the most extreme jokes are understood in this context as breaking limits of conventional humor and thinking. There is no “rape culture” in this kind of situation.

    These two examples are at the opposite ends of a line and one can imagine more examples along it. Somewhere there is the middle ground that is very problematic and dependent on individual circumstances. The diversity and ambiquity of individual cases make narrow ideological statements non-justifiable.

  13. Seksualisti

    No it is not over-stating the case. The whole purpose of humour is to relieve tension, rape jokes can only relive it. There is no humour in rape. There are some acts which are per se contrary to civilised values. Rape is one of them. It’s not just other people’s sensitivities in question, it’s our own sense of values. It’s a failure to hold the value that each human being has a right not to be raped, or to fear being raped, which gives rise to the suggestion that we live in a rape culture. Defending the indefensible, as you do, does nothing to disabuse females of the notion that we live in a rape culture.

  14. Seksualisti:

    [quote]”No-one demands the right of triggering PTSD, but every one has the right of expression and freedom of speech. This includes expressing rude or inconvenient things.”[/quote]

    That’s not the point, Seksualisti. This isn’t a “free speech” issue; it’s about the morality of saying certain things that could have an adverse effect on someone else. And anyone with a modicum of understanding and sensitivity would – or should – exercise care and good judgment when it comes to saying things about rape. And I think tigtog was quite clear under what circumstances a rape joke can be considered funny and they’re quite specific and limited, and a reasonable person should have no problem making the distinction.

    [quote]”no-one has the subjective right of avoiding situations that MIGHT trigger PTSD or other negative effects in them. It would be good, if they were warned about situations that might trigger such effects,”[/quote]

    And this FAQ is a case in point. You’ll notice some of the very first words at the top here are “Trigger warning”. This a discussion about rape for educational purposes, so it’s a legitimate one. But even so, it still has potential to be a PTSD trigger for someone and any one who thinks it could has the option of not reading further should they not wish too.

  15. Dear Admin, my comment (November 10th, 2009 at 9:13 pm) has been now two days in moderation queue. Could you please do something about it. Meanwhile addition to the original comment was posted without any delay. There is something wrong with the commenting system of this blog…

    This comment may be deleted after it is read.

  16. […] Melissa McEwan’s excellent blog on Rape Culture she states Rape culture is tasking victims with the burden of rape prevention. Rape culture is […]

  17. Phil, a few posts I’ve been reading lately have got me thinking about the core of rape culture, and I’m not entirely certain that it has only one single rotten core, but if it does I’m pretty sure it can be summed up along these lines:

    “Sure, rape is the worst crime second only to murder when it happens to my daughter/wife/sister/mother (or me), but what happened to you wasn’t really rape because you should have known better, you slut.”

    The above is often seen in combination with:
    “Besides, he’s my mate so he couldn’t possibly be a rapist. You’re lying and want to ruin his life.”

    Perpetration studies show that if men are asked whether they have ever “had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual advances,” (i.e. the questions avoid using the word ‘rape’) then 6-13% of men say yes (further questions elicit that a smaller fraction of these men (4-8%) are repeat offenders who deliberately set up women to be intoxicated/isolated with them).

    And in a finding from McWhorter (2009) that indicates “common knowledge” about rape is totally upside-down:

    Of the men who used only force against their victims, none reported raping a stranger; all the men knew their victims… [T]he stereotypical rape incident characterized by a man violently attacking a stranger was not reported by any of the respondents. Instead, respondents who used only force against their victims reported raping only women they knew, men who targeted strangers exclusively reported they used substances only in the rape incident.”

  18. P.S. I’ve turned off comment nesting – WordPress seems to have changed something so that it’s not working properly any more.

  19. Tigtog

    In broad terms I think you may well be right but it’s the extent to which such values are held which is a bone of contention. As a man I don’t come across such attitudes directly although my conversations with females, including my daughter who works for a women’s organisation, is that it is more prevalent than I would wish it to be.

    I agree with the comment made on the study to which you referred which stated, ” we need to adopt the stance that sexual interaction ought to always be had in a state of affirmative consent by all participants; that anything else is aberrant.” This requires a cultural change and I don’t think the original comments on this thread are especially helpful in bringing that change about by tarring all males with the same brush. Men are essential to the process of changing attitudes towards women – treating all men as potential rapists undermines that process.

    This is borne out by the report which states that, “If we could eliminate the men who rape again and again and again, a quarter of the violence against women and children would disappear”. It’s a minority who perpetrate violence against women and children. We need to reduce that minority to zero through public policy initiatives

  20. “This requires a cultural change”

    What exactly about our culture is dependent on the attitude that non consensual sex is OK?

  21. […] Don’t assume that I hate men because I want to make the same salary as my male coworker, who has the exact same experience and education as me and is currently making 10% more than I do. Don’t assume that I’m a lesbian because I don’t find advertisements that reinforce gender stereotypes appealing. Don’t assume that I think women are better than men because I don’t think your sexist joke is funny. Don’t assume that I want women to get “special treatment” because I abhor and want to get rid of our rape culture. […]

  22. FT – see article above for details.

  23. This is the reason society doesn’t work, and Rape Culture will never go away: http://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html

  24. I really never realized a lot of this until I read this article. When I was about 22 I went to a movie by myself. It was one of those focus group showings where they get everyone’s opinions before the movie goes into wide release. The theater was packed–every seat was full. A man I’d never met before about 15 years older than me sat next to me and said a few friendly words to me. I smiled back at him and exchanged a few pleasantries of my own. Then the movie started and I forgot about him until about an hour later when I felt something scrabbling along my thigh in the direction of my crotch. My first thought was that it was a rat that had gotten in from outside, and then I looked down and realized it was the motherfucker’s hand. I shoved his hand away but then I sat there in shock for a few moments, not really sure what to do. He laughed at something in the movie in this revoltingly congenial way and I realized he was going to do it again, or something worse, if I stayed.

    So I split. The theater got one of the ushers to walk me back to my car. The usher proceeded to lecture me about going to the movies alone, and what could I expect in general if I went out by myself. Mind you, this wasn’t a dark alley in the middle of the night where I’d gone alone, but A PACKED MOVIE THEATER AT A 5 PM SHOW.

    It gets worse. When I got home, called my mom & told her about it, her very first reaction, in a voice so cold I can remember it to this day, was: “I’m disgusted that you didn’t get up and leave the second he did that.”

    Thank you so very much for writing this article and making me realize how wrong both of those comments were. I remember not liking them much at the time, but I internalized them both, especially the one from my mother.

    • Jill, that must have been terribly distressing. I can fully understand you simply being in shock that somebody could do that, and freezing. That’s totally natural when something so unexpected happens.

      The usher and your mother had certainly internalised the victim-blaming aspects of rape culture, hadn’t they?

  25. […] the very least, not a big deal. This process is part of the enormous and far-reaching tentacles of rape culture, the cultural meme that encourages and condones sexual violence against […]

  26. Tigtog and Seksualisti : Thank you for having this discussion! You might think of turning your entire conversation into an article, because rape jokes have been something I’ve been very morally confused about for a long time. One of the reasons I came to this page was to try and understand it better, and I think this helped so thank you both!

    (If you are interested in how I feel about it here it is, but I don’t want to discuss it, these are just my opinions )
    I think there are some comedians who don’t give a shit who they offend. In this regard I agree with Seksualisti that I can’t ask them to not make rape jokes because they simply don’t care and want to offend me. As a young girl I was sexually assaulted, so rape jokes are particularly unsavory to me. However, I am also deeply offended by Holocaust jokes even though I have no attachment to the Holocaust. People who have been murdered may not be able to be offended by murder jokes, but their loved ones are. Take Sarah Silverman, she makes horribly offensive jokes on purpose, she makes jokes about her own loved ones who have died, she is trying to be offensive on purpose and therefore the discussion is moot in the case of her humor. She’s trying to offend rape victims, Holocaust survivors, her own family and everyone else, and if she hasn’t, she’s failed, because she’s trying to point out how offended everyone should be by those things and how awful they sound coming out of the ignorant character she plays.

    However there are tons of comedians who are NOT trying to offend people in this way. Most comedians are just trying to tell jokes that everyone can RELATE to, about sex, kids, women, men, life. On this matter I wholly agree with Tigtog that they should think more carefully about how many people in their audience actually have been raped or sexually assaulted. People assume that because murder is somewhat infrequent it’s ok and relate-able to joke about it, everyone thinks it’s wrong, not that many people know someone who has been murdered. I don’t think enough people understand how often women are abused, raped, or assaulted and therefore HALF of the comedian’s audience could be made suddenly horribly uncomfortable, something most comedians don’t want to do! I can’t imagine if half of an audience had a family member who had been murdered. Even if a woman hasn’t been assaulted or raped pretty much every woman has been cat-called or had sexual comments made to them without her consent, and most women fear rape. That’s a lot of people to be offending with some so called relate-able humor.
    Anyway that is how I feel now!
    For better or worse, thank you for helping me think about it!

  27. hlf xpctd ths rtcl t sy “Rp cltr csd 9/11”

  28. Reading through the comments on the Shakesville articles linked here, I notice that one kind of confusion that often arises in discussions about rape culture–or possibly culture in general–is confusion between cause and effect; for instance, does violent pornography cause a person to view violence as sexy, or would one only bother to seek out such pornography if one already finds violence sexy?

    One can believe both without suffering this kind of confusion. But it’s very easy to hear a person talk about a cause when they mean to talk about an effect, or vice versa. For instance, there are at least a couple of commenters on Shakesville who are willing to say that anyone who consumes violent pornography will become more violent toward women, but I suspect they’re a minority, even within Shakesville. Yet, when anybody criticizes violent pornography for… well, being violent pornography, it’s very easy to hear them as the same voice. It doesn’t help that, being regular posters on the same blog, they tend to use the same words.

    Rape culture is rape being used as entertainment, in movies and television shows and books and in video games.

    IMO, the problem here isn’t so much that rape fantasies are entertaining to a lot of people–that’s a pretty common thing in BDSM. Nor is it that people have access to entertainment catering to that fetish. The actual problem is that people who aren’t looking for that stuff, and don’t understand the potential problems with it, get it anyway, and come to accept it as normal. When I search for “rape” on Amazon, I don’t want pornography, I want information on the real thing, like manuals for helping abuse victims; if I wanted the porn I’d have searched for “rape porn”. And probably not on Amazon.

  29. […] Feminism 101, Rape Culture 101.  This post is a description of some of the practices and beliefs of a culture (hint: ours) that fosters rape – by minimizing actual assaults, by considering sex and/or men inherently predatory, and on and on.  It includes statistics and links to specific examples, so it offers a pretty comprehensive picture.  The author is the blogmistress of Shakesville, which is another great resource for anti-rape writing.  For example, this post takes apart a very similar victim-blaming article to the one by Dan Rottenberg (I told you it was nothing you hadn’t heard before….). […]

  30. […] Elevator Use from Hoyden About Town – just in case “have some basic awareness of the rape-excusing culture you live in and the fact that the women around you have to live in constant awareness of […]

  31. There are roughly 10.000 cases of theft (property crimes) per 100.000 persons each year in US compared to only 28 cases of rape per 1000.000 persons. This means you are 357 times more likely to be robed than to be raped and yet nobody talks about any ‘theft culture’. There is no ‘rape culture’ the same way there is no ‘theft culture’. Our (western) culture condemns rape and the fact that some of us are inclined to put some blame on the victims is only a psychological defence against the theoretical possibility that our loved ones (wife, girlfriend, sister, daughter) might be also victims. We want to believe that because they (our loved ones) are not ‘like that’ they have a significantly lower chance to be raped. Stop deluding yourself with ‘rape cultures’.

    Also how is this ‘rape culture’ that clearly assumes that the offenders are always a men and the victims are always women explain the fact that the vast majority or rapes occur in prisons between either two men or two women (and go unreported)? I am quite sure that the prison rapists do not make any kind of assumptions about the fault of their victims like ‘he picked up the soap what was I supposed to do?’.

  32. I remember when I was about 10 or 11 years old I got this outfit from my parents. It was a black knee-long skirt with a green top. I loved it and liked to wear it. Sometimes I would hitch up the skirt a bit above my knees because I thought it looked better that way.
    One summer day I was wearing the outift out on the street and I passed this guy, probably in his late twenties or so, he was busy fixing his bike or something, but when I walked by he looked up, eyed me up and down and paid special attention to my thighs and then gave me this crooked smile, I can’t describe it as anything else but pervy, it was a totally inappropriate smile, and I felt genuinely scared and repulsed. I quickly looked away and hurried off. When I got I had this weird shame inside me, like I felt dirty. I’d never felt that way before. And when I told my mom what had happened she said I shouldn’t wear the skirt so short, I was getting too big to get away with that now.
    I don’t think I ever wore that outfit again. I hated that outfit from that moment on.

    I did run into the man a couple of more times, and he recognized me and gave me that disgusting smile again. Once he followed me from afar on his bike. I went into the wrong apartment building because I didn’t want him to see where I lived, and when I peeped out I saw him cruising around on his bike staring at the building. He was there for like 3 minutes before he finally took off so I could go home.

  33. As an artist and a male struggling with having been raped myself, this post raises one issue within my person that I feel aught to be squarely and forthrightly addressed. Specifically, I am much afraid that by using my own experience to try to empathize as much as I can with all victims of sexual assault, I am in a way denying the fact that rape for a man is fundamentally different than for a woman – after all, I am more likely to encounter sympathy and not blame than any woman in similar circumstances. However, the impulse is difficult to avoid.

    I suppose my ultimate question is this: is attempting to empathize cheapening the cultural differences between being a male or female victim of assault? Because this is a 101 post, and I do not want to carry an attitude that in any way might further the culture of rape.

  34. Being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, teenage drug rape and forcible rape as an adult, I’ve experienced the ramifications of living within a rape culture first hand. Rape is never something you choose. It is inflicted as a form of control over you. Having graduated with a BA (hons) Graphic Design, my eyes were rather disturbingly opened to the often dark semiotical tactics of capitalist advertisers. From my experience, rape culture is born of the ego, power and in the case of our own westernised rape culture, control by the capitalist fat cat; the ones who exploit us women and knowingly risk without any due care invoking and encouraging the sociopaths and narcissists of this world to take it all and rape! Greed + Pride = Rape Culture

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