Rape Culture in America

Rape culture is a problem that America has faced for many years and unforunately is still facing today. It is an issue that should have come to an end years ago and simply should have never began. Although rape culture affects both women and men, most of the victims are women who experience rape culture in their everyday lifestyles. Unfortunately, society is greatly at fault for this horrible problem.

Rape and culture are two completely different terms with separate definitions that came together in the 1970s, when the technical term was created by feminists. Rape is the ““penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim” (U.S. Department of Justice). Culture is “The way of life of a particular people, esp. as shown in their ordinary behavior and habits, their attitudes toward each other, and their moral and religious beliefs” (Cambridge Dictionary). Together they form “rape culture” which is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused. It is an environment in which rape is socially accepted as a part of life that women and men must adapt themselves to. Rape culture is almost seen as human nature, as if it were a natural instinct that we can’t avoid.

Society contributes to this problem in a numerous amount of ways, one for example being the objectification of women. Women are often dehumanized and seen as objects with the sole purpose of satisfying a man’s sexual desire. Their bodies are seen more as an advertisement for sex, as opposed to what they really are; simply body parts. In America today, we are mostly exposed to sexual objectification through the media. The media portrays the female body sexually through pictures on magazines, posts on social media platforms, as well as on television. In 2015, the #WOMENNOOTOBJECTS Campaign put together a video where they googled the “objectification of women” and the results were horrific. One advertisement displayed a woman taking part in oral sex with a sandwich, while another displayed a woman with her name written on her forehead after having slept with a man. These businesses include Burger King and Post It which are part of our everyday life. With these advertisements both businesses insinuated that women are objects and are to be used sexually. Even after they blatantly violated and disrespected the image of women, society continued to support them.

Rape culture is also prevalent in the music industry, where artists purposely objectify women in their lyrics, aiming to appeal to the public and ultimately normalizing rape culture. For instance, a great example of the objectification of women by the music industry is Rick Ross’ verse in rap song U.O.E.N.O. written by Rocko, A$AP Rocky, Rick Ross, and Future. Rick Ross says ““Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.” Here he is explicitly explaining that he drugs a woman, takes her home, and rapes her as she is not fully conscious and has no idea of what is going on. The visuals of the music video portray this verse as a cartoon, adding playfulness and humor to the situation. They objectify the woman drawing her with a thin waist, a large bust and of course, money in her bra. This song has 714,542 views on youtube and 39,494,498 plays on spotify. These are rappers that millions of people look up to and aspire to be like. Imagine listening to these lyrics coming from your idol? Listening to Rick Ross say he drugs a woman, takes her home, and “enjoys that” makes millions of fans think rape is okay when it is not.

Another way that society contributes to the normalizing of rape culture is through hyper masculinity. Hyper masculinity is considered to be “a plague to the modern man”, as described by the Huffington Post. Society stresses that men should possess specific characteristics which include dominance and sexuality. Constantly, phrases such as “Man-up” and “Boys will be boys” are reinforced, creating an insecurity of power that most men will carry with them throughout their lives. At a young age, boys are taught to be aggressive in their mannerism and love sex, so much that the effect is that most rapes are caused by men who feel the need to exert power. Hypermasculinity is dangerous and as our oblivious society continues to impose it on our men, society will continue to contribute to rape culture.

One of the worst ways that society encourages rape culture is through victim blaming. In order to justify a perpetrator’s actions, people often blame the victim for initially provoking them. People often ask common questions such as: “What was she wearing?”, “What time was it?”, “Was he/she sober?”. Instead of holding the perpetrator accountable for their actions, they look for a reason behind the sexual assault. Victim blaming isn’t always blaming the victim directly, but “simply thinking that they should have been more careful” (David B. Feldman, Ph. D) . The effect is that unfortunately this devalues experiences of the survivors and makes other victims not want to come forward.

Rape Culture is prevalent everywhere. Often abusing their power, many employers enforce rape culture by what they make their female employees wear and by the tasks that they ask of them. Jobs, such as waitressing and bartending, require “sexy” attire in order for the women to attract more customers and make the business a higher profit. It is also seen on the street all around our neighborhood and community. Street harassment is seen as normal and is extremely common worldwide. Women are being whistled at, “catcalled”, and followed by men regularly. “In a 2014, nationally representative survey of street harassment in the USA, half of harassed persons were harassed by age 17“ (Stop Street Harassment Organization). This survey proved the organization’s assumption that street harassment begins at the stage of puberty. Although it may be unintentional, schools also contribute to the normalizing of rape culture. Dress code regulations are usually aimed at the girls more than the boys and imposing such rules on innocent girls manipulates their mindset. At a young age girls start thinking that they shouldn’t wear certain clothes that will distract boys. School is supposed to be a safe and innocent environment, no one should be sexualizing a tank top or a skirt.

In the song “A Scary Time”, Linzy Lab describes how she lives in fear of living a regular lifestyle because rape is the expectation. She says “I can’t go to the bar without a chaperone, can’t take public transportation after 7pm, and can’t go to the club just to dance with my friends.” If she does any of this she is afraid that the outcome will be rape. This just shows how we must change our way of life in order to adapt ourselves to rape culture being the normal.

What society needs enforce is the importance of consent. Consent is the mutual agreement to participating in sexual activity. Society must understand that no means no. Consent is a verbal yes that is consistent, even if a woman agrees to have sex she may revoke her decision. Consent is a choice of the individual when they are fully conscious of their actions. If a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, their consent is not valid, convincing them to have sex with you while they are impaired is rape. It is also solely the decision of the individual without the manipulation of their partner and it is knowing that your partner was not using protection beforehand. Consent is not a short skirt, a relationship, being drunk, or silence.

Although it will be difficult to get rid of rape culture completely, we must try the hardest that we possibly can for our women and for the better of our society. The possible solutions are countless. If someone makes a rape joke we must educate them on why there is absolutely nothing funny about rape. We need to stop degrading women by calling them “sluts” or “whores” and begin practicing respect. It is important to avoid phrases encouraging hyper-masculinity, such as “boys will be boys” and “man up”. At the same time, both women and men must break gender norms. Three of the most important things to do are to support victims to reassure that their voice matters, report all sexual assaults, and tell your own story to encourage others to tell their own.

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