Rape culture exists, whether you see it or not
“I don’t believe in rape culture.”
That’s what someone said to me over the weekend. These words weren’t spoken out of malice, but during a conversation where we attempted to understand one another. And I started to wonder how many people “don’t believe,” either. Rape culture is like science. You don’t have to believe in it, but it’s going to exist anyway. So yes, Virginia, there is a rape culture, and let’s go into what that means.
“Rape culture” itself is a phrase originating in the 1970s feminism movements to illustrate the ways in which society blames victims of sexual violence and normalize instances of male violence towards women. Rape culture does not necessarily mean the blatant encouragement or acceptance or promotion of sexual violence (although those communities certainly exist, thanks incels). On the books rape is illegal, even if the criminal is rarely convicted or imprisoned for it. It is a subversive epidemic, which is why you may not always even recognize it.
What are some examples of rape culture?
- When athletes are charged with sexual violence crimes and we are urged to think of their reputations and careers.
- When little girls’ uniform skirts are made longer so their male teachers can have a comfortable work environment.
- “She was drunk. She was high. Did you see her outfit?” These questions which give the implication that she brought the crime upon herself.
- When victims are told they aren’t “real” victims because they were “only” date-raped
- Rape jokes and the people who defend their usage.
- When the response to street harassment and cat-calling is to tell women to lighten up.
- Sexual violence prevention classes that instruct women on how to avoid being victims instead of telling men not to commit crimes of sexual violence.
- When celebrities are defended and celebrated because they are beloved, even in the wake of numerous allegations of sexual violence.
- “He’s never raped me. He’s not that sort of person. I believe him.” These statements invalidate victims’ experiences simply because not everyone has been victimized by the accused.
- Bringing up false accusations whenever a sexual violence survivor speaks out.
- Insisting that the sex trade is empowering for women when instead the legalization of prostitution leads to increased violence against those women.
- Being told that a woman’s place is to be submissive to her husband or that she isn’t allowed to say no to sex.
- Blaming sexual violence on involuntary or voluntary celibacy.
- Encouraging women to go out with men even if they aren’t interested in them.
- Calling for Roman Catholic priests to be married as a quick fix for pedophilia and cover-ups.
These are only a few examples. Merely a few.
I’ve been playing video games since I was about six years old. My parents gave my brothers and I a Nintendo64 and we fought over whose turn it was to play Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I’m 28 and the only thing that’s changed is that I don’t have to fight with my brothers anymore. I still love to game — and every time I log online, I accept that sexists and misogynists are logging on, too. I’ve heard male gamers talk to other male gamers and say such things as:
- “Nah, I’ve never had sex. I’ve just been raped lots of times.”
- “We raped them in that match!”
- “I just got raped up the a** that game.”
- “Just bend over and take it like a girl.”
Let me note, before someone suggests I should avoid toxic people like these, that these are not friends of mine. I have a carefully selected group of players that I have on my friend list, but sometimes I end up playing with their friends, or with random strangers, because many games are community-focused and require teams. And when I am in a group of new players, I become quiet and I listen. And when I inevitably say something about their language and their attitudes, I’m being uptight and a prude. I should learn to loosen up and not take things so seriously. After all, it’s just a joke. No one is actually talking about raping someone. Don’t be such a girl.
One player even told me that when he talked about raping other players, he meant in the sense of plundering and despoiling enemy villages.
Plundering villages, indeed.
Rape culture is when the gaming community allows behavior like that to go unchallenged. It is when men don’t speak up in defense of women because it will single them out and identify them as “other” in the digital tribe.
Rape culture in Catholic academia
At Christendom College, rape culture is the idea that women attended college to find a good Catholic husband, and the actual degree would make them good, educated mothers. Rape culture is when the school administrators remove an apology from their website and the college president still has not reached out to survivors, their families, or their advocates in eight months. It is a continuing pattern of disregard for all of these women.
At Franciscan University of Steubenville, rape culture is when, instead of taking the allegations of four female employees seriously, the school instead decide to dismiss a year of enduring a hostile work environment as nothing more than a personality conflict instead of sexual harassment.
At an unnamed-but-in-my-opinion-hypersensitive Catholic college in Florida, I’m not allowed to talk about rape culture. Otherwise, I’ll likely get another cease and desist letter.
The thing about rape culture is that it’s real, whether or not you believe in it. It is subtle. Pervasive. It is a network of weeds in the garden of our society, and we must acknowledge it and work to eradicate it.