Or, The Top Three Ways our Culture Promotes Rape
Please note: This post is not for the faint of heart or easily offended. I’m not going to be gentle in my terminology or my treatment of the subject. Please also note that I am well aware that men are raped too, but in this post I focus primarily on women victims.
I’ve been pondering writing a post about rape culture for a long time, but I hadn’t, because I know it’s going to cause a stir. People are going to get really mad at some of the things I have to say. People are going to disagree, and it’s going to be a hugely divisive issue.
I finally decided to go ahead and write it, because I think it’s something our culture needs to hear.
We hear all the time about “rape culture” and how it’s a problem in our society. Women are being date-raped with alarming frequency. Rapes on college campuses are on the rise. Worse, rapists often go without even being accused, let alone prosecuted for their crimes.
1. Here’s the first problem: Rape starts long before the rape happens.
Rape starts with the idea that women’s bodies exist for men’s pleasure.
It starts with men catcalling. It starts with men objectifying women’s bodies. It starts with men making comments about a woman’s body to their friends. It starts with men making comments to women about their bodies. It starts with men noticing a woman’s body parts instead of anything else about her.
A friend of mine works in sales. Her livelihood depends on how much she sells. One customer came in repeatedly, making frequent comments about her body, and asking intrusive questions about her personal life. When she took the matter to her boss who then talked to the customer, he had no idea that anything he had said or done was offensive.
What’s even more appalling is that her male coworkers said things like she was making too big of a deal out of it and she should do whatever it took to make the sale, and so on. Rather than punching the customer in the nose, they essentially told her she shouldn’t be offended by being harassed and she should put up with abuse in order to make a sale.
Social experiments like this one have been done revolving around the number of times women get catcalled or followed or endure harassment from men.
Victims are left feeling dirty and at fault for having been attacked, and they’re too ashamed to call out their rapists. If they do, many times they endure more shame. Furthermore, rape is increasingly hard to prove. It comes down to a lot of he said/she said, which makes proving that it was rape rather than consensual sex difficult or impossible.
THIS is where rape starts. It starts with men thinking it’s okay to get a woman to lower her inhibitions with alcohol. It starts with this idea that women’s bodies exist to please men and that men have a right to use women for their pleasure.
2. Here’s the second problem: We as a culture created rape culture when we created the sexual revolution.
One or two hundred years ago, a man never would have been able to get off rape charges by claiming “she wanted it.” It was generally assumed that she didn’t want it. That’s if the rapist even made it to trial without getting lynched by the woman’s family.
When chastity was valued, rape was assumed until proven otherwise, rather than the other way around. Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind was the focus of gossip and scandal and branded a reprobate when he refused to marry a girl he kept out after dark.
We as a culture have confused this issue by devaluing the sacredness of sex and of chastity.
“Well, women like it just as much as men.”
Yes. As they should. Sex should be beautiful and intimate and physically satisfying, and a husband should absolutely fulfill his wife’s needs.
“Well, it’s a double standard to say that women should be virginal and men don’t have to. Men are encouraged to have sex and it’s a point of pride every time they get laid, but when a woman does it, she’s considered a slut.”
Yes, it is a double standard. A completely unfair one. But instead of raising men’s standards, we’ve lowered women’s. We’ve reduced sex to a purely physical urge, thereby classifying all humans as little more than animals acting on instinct.
So by insisting that women and men are sexual beasts and there’s no reason they should be taught to control themselves, we have created a mindset that is inherently conducive to rape culture.
A rapist justifies his actions by saying a woman wants it because women keep insisting they do, that they’re as sexually ravenous as men. A rapist justifies his actions by saying a woman is asking for it because of her choice of clothing, because we have created a culture in which women are conditioned to draw ever more attention to their bodies by the way they dress. A rapist justifies slipping a drug into a woman’s drink because she’s already lowering her inhibitions by drinking.
Rapists get away with rape because we have taught men that women and their bodies are playthings.
3. Here’s the third problem: Books and movies like Fifty Shades of Grey perpetuate this degradation of sex and create a terrifyingly dangerous image of what romance “should” be.
Fifty Shades is not a romance; it’s a guide to abuse. It’s a completely typical cycle of a predator singling out a weaker woman, isolating her from friends and family who would be voices of reason in her life, and manipulating her into believing that what he’s doing to her is pleasurable.
In this story, the man manipulates the woman into signing a contract so he can then use her as he pleases. She essentially sells herself into slavery, and since she signed this contract, he gets to do whatever he wants to her.
He convinces her that when she says “no,” she doesn’t really mean it. He rapes her, over and over, until she develops a twisted sort of Stockholm syndrome, even believing that what he does is romantic and manly, and that she does want it.
Consent under duress is not consent. If a woman says “yes” because she’s been lied to, drugged, or fears for her safety, it is no less rape than if she was raped by force.
There are plenty of people who have written about this better than I could. There’s this article, by a supporter of BDSM who explains why Fifty Shades is abuse, not consensual BDSM, and this one that talks about how it promotes domestic abuse. Then there’s this one that shows that women who read Fifty Shades are more likely to be in abusive relationships. There’s this article of a real-life situation like the one portrayed in Fifty Shades. This one is fantastic, as it details fifty instances of abuse throughout the book. And this one and this one and this one and this one and this one call out Fifty Shades for the abusive pornography that it is.
Edit: This article and this one give perspective on what consensual BDSM is really like.
These all prove my point here: When we as women gush over something like Fifty Shades, we confuse men and add fuel to the fire of rape culture. When we idolize characters like Christian Grey, we send a message of tacit approval to those who would act as he does.
Manipulation, rape, and abuse is exactly what happens in Fifty Shades, yet the women of our culture are lapping it up. They’re swooning over this manly man and his strong, take-charge attitude. They’re fantasizing about a man who will tie them up and force them to do things they’ve never dreamed of. By supporting Fifty Shades, we as women are essentially telling men that doing these things is not only okay, it’s desirable.
Is it any wonder, then, that men are confused? That they don’t really know when no means no? That they think of women as playthings, existing only for their sexual pleasure?
Please, women. Stop and consider the double standard.
Don’t go see Fifty Shades of Grey. By doing so, you’re promoting a cultural devolution that essentially says it’s okay for a man to abuse and rape and dominate a woman. In direct opposition to the women’s rights movement that sought equality for women, this twisted offspring of the sexual revolution puts women again in a position of inferiority, treated as property, with no more value than her sexual usefulness. Rape culture begins here, with this idea that the height of romance is sexual gratification and a woman only exists for a man’s pleasure.
Edit: Between a discussion on Facebook and the input from a good friend, I’ve come to see that my post seems very one-sided. This is just one facet of a very multi-faceted issue. Above all, I don’t think men are to blame for this phenomenon. Women are just as much at fault for choosing to believe the lies perpetuated and to accept and even ask for them. I think the sexual revolution was extremely detrimental. Women pouring their money into this book/movie and believing the lie that sexual gratification=romance is AT LEAST as much of a problem as men abusing women, and I’m not just referring to sexual gratification for men. We (women) are contributing equally to the confusion by our double standards. We want to be respected, but we idolize an abuser. We want to be loved, but we confuse love with stalking. We want to belong, but we don’t want to wait until we find someone who wants to marry us. We want to be equal, but we glorify a relationship in which there is no equality, no balance.