Rape Culture is the environment which we live in that constantly normalizes sexual violence, excuses sexual assault and denies acts of rape, most commonly by blaming the victim. The culture itself is not anything new, nor surprising, but it seems that the more it’s spoken about and the more awareness is spread, the less real it is considered. Rape Culture promotes a society that disregards women’s safety and basic human rights.
How many times do we hear the word “rape”? Some would say very often, and others would say not often enough. When we hear this word being thrown out there, it instantly has a specific thickness to it. Heads turn right away, the air feels heavy, and the room usually gets quiet. Most women know the kind of effect talking about a topic so sensitive has on people, and we all know it’s a taboo we are trying to break.
We have come really far in bringing attention to women’s matters and their safety, but many people in today’s world feel threatened by the courage women are gaining every day, giving them strength to go out there and say: this is real. This happened to me. It was traumatic and it broke me. I am entitled to these feelings, and you need to be held accountable.
Men, however, often don’t feel like they are being treated fairly, or being understood. Because it was just a compliment, and we all know women can’t take compliments anymore these days, am I right? Because she seemed like she was cool at first, so we ignore it when she changes her mind, correct? Because women dress revealing to call for men’s attention then complain when they receive it, don’t they? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This is where it all starts, from the idea that anything women do is for the sole purpose of pleasing a man in any way.
Rape Culture supports this unspoken rule women learn the first moment they step foot on Earth, which is that men hold a power over them. It’s perpetuated everywhere, from your mother teaching you at a young age that you need to have certain skills to be able to marry and be a good wife, to the television shows that portray submissive women and women that give up dreams to get their perfect men, to schools who tell you they value more a man’s education when they send you home for being a distraction to them, when really you are simply showing parts of your body that everybody else has.
Most women these days don’t even realize they are being victims of Rape Culture, because ever since we are kids we are taught to protect ourselves or act a certain way or dress in determined clothes because “boys will be boys,” yet we don’t teach our boys the boundaries of consent all we do is give them excuses. “He is so young; his life would be ruined.” “He is an old man, leave him alone.” “Why do we have to punish him when she was asking for it?” More indirectly, our first instinct is to blame the victim, when the first questions we ask her are, “What were you wearing?”, “Why were you alone?”, and “What did you say to him?”
We don’t teach boys not to rape, it’s as simple as that. We tell our daughters not to go out at night alone, to bring pepper spray, to know some self-defense or to never leave their drink unattended, and we still don’t teach our sons not to rape. We normalize a culture where a young Stanford University student like the swimmer Broke Turner gets convicted to only six months in jail for raping a girl behind a dumpster, serves only half of his time, and is pitied by his own father who used the words, “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life,” to let us know he has no concern for the state of mind of that victim, whose life changed forever, but rather seem outraged his son is the one paying the price for such an everyday act.
Rape Culture does not only consist in the mere act of rape, though, which is what most men can’t really wrap their heads around. Then what is Rape Culture and how far spread out is it? It’s when women feel uncomfortable walking on the same sidewalk as a man, so they cross the street. It’s when women have to pretend they’re on their phones when they pass a group of men, to ignore the ongoing comments until they’re out of sight. It’s when a man, who might not even have bad intentions, is walking their same direction and they take a different turn for the fear of being followed. It’s when your aunt tells you not to do that, or not to say that, because your boyfriend won’t like it. It’s when a man only leaves you alone after you’ve lied and told him you are taken, because he respects more the idea of another man he doesn’t know rather than you just saying no.
Many people deny Rape Culture with a typical saying like “the media lies to you,” in order not to take responsibility for the society we have created. Many Americans are also naïve enough to believe our country is not affected by this phenomenon, as if we didn’t elect a president who fully admitted his success only made it easier for him to sexually assault women, or nominated and confirmed a man like Brett Kavanaugh, who has faced sexual misconduct allegations and has been proven to lie under oath multiple times, as the highest judicial authority in the United States a position with life tenure . This is why, instead of using external sources to show how scary it is to be a woman nowadays, I ran a poll on my social media page, asking all women to answer the question: “Have you ever felt uncomfortable around men, been physically or verbally assaulted, been touched inappropriately or without consent, being taught not to act a certain way because you are a woman?” 240 women answered the poll; 227 women responded yes, which means 94.58% of women I know have experienced Rape Culture firsthand at least once in their lifetime.
These numbers are a further demonstration of how chronic Rape Culture really is, and how far we are in making a real change. Men have this impression that every woman is now talking, but the truth is: we have been talking. We simply went unheard for far too long. Men claim it is a scary time for men, but couldn’t comprehend the fear women feel every day. They ask, “why now?” but think about this: “What would’ve happened if Rosa Parks had decided to just abide by the rules of the whites?” All it takes is one person, and the next brave woman will follow.
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