One in Five: The Perpetuation of Rape Culture

One in every five women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime (Klement 2016). Approximately one half of the population is female and twenty percent of them will experience sexual assault. That is an outstanding number of people who suffer will from something with long-lasting effects. Rape culture perpetuates ideas that lead and attempt to justify to sexual assault. The four major factors promoting rape culture are rape myth acceptance, victim blaming, normalization of sexual violence, and hostile sexism. Rape myth acceptance occurs when beliefs that support rape are perpetuated. Victim blaming is closely related to rape myth acceptance. Saying things like, “Did you see what she was wearing? She was asking for it,” or “She was dancing on him all night. She totally wanted it,” are examples of victim blaming. Victim blaming happens when sexual assault takes place and the blame is placed on the victim rather than the perpetrator. Normalization of sexual violence occurs when sexual violence is expected, accepted, and inevitable. Hostile sexism stems from beliefs that women are inferior to men (Klement 2016).

The double-standard surrounding men and women and sex helps perpetuate rape culture. The significance of women and their virginity, or purity, is quite different than men and their virginity. Women’s virginity is often linked to their value, while men are free to explore and even sometimes seen as unable to control their urges (Klement 2016). One area in particular forces importance upon abstinence: Christianity. In Christian dating books aimed at young women, there is an emphasis on restricting women’s sexuality by promoting virginity. These books promote: traditional gender roles, such as men being the head of household and women being their subordinate; sexual conservatism, such as discouraging non-monogamy and masturbation; benevolent sexism, the idea that women are weaker and in need of protection; and female purity, the importance of abstinence until marriage forced upon women in particular. A common myth surrounding rape is that men have a high sex drive that forces them to act out sexually, and they have zero control over it. In one Christian dating book, this myth is supported by a passage saying that men are “visual creatures and can be sexually aroused by even fully clothed women,” (Klement 2016). Another idea perpetuated throughout these dating books is that, “a natural consequence of girls’ flirting is that men will objectify and sexualize them,” (Klement 2016). Again, this reinforces the acceptance of rape myths. The effects this can have on young, persuadable women are lower beliefs about self-worth, feelings of shame about sexuality, and an idea that unwanted sexual attempts and actions are results of their own actions.

Christian dating books are not the only place where rape culture is promoted; fraternities on college campuses are cesspools. Research shows that at least one third of rapes on college campuses take place in fraternity houses (Jozkowski 2017). This is due, in part, to the party scene surrounding Greek life. Men in fraternities hosting parties have control of everything from the theme to who attends and what they drink. Several factors contribute to the culture created by fraternity men: sexist themes, such as “Office Hoes and Tennis Pros” or “Mythical Creatures and Sex with Teachers;” control over who may enter the party, such as only allowing scantily clad women in or turning away non-freshman women; and using women as bait to recruit new brothers. All of this leads to a culture that degrades women and reduces them to their sex. Angry responses from women about sexual abuse they experience is not directed at the men who abuse them, but rather at themselves.  Women are burdened with feelings of guilt and sadness after a rape takes place but not at the rapist. This stems from traditional gender roles putting a constraint on women and not allowing them to express anger and frustration. Society expects nice girls who do not get angry, instead they feel guilt and sadness. One example of a rape-supportive culture is at Yale University in 2010, when a pledge class chanted, “No means yes, yes means anal,” (Jozkowski 2017). Fraternities are male-dominated spaces that promote sexual assault, and because of this, more than thirty-three percent of college campus rapes occur in fraternity houses.

Sexual assault is a public health issue that affects millions of women, and men, each year. The solution is not to burn all Christian dating books, though they would probably make a great fire starter, nor is it to shut down all Greek life. One possible start to finding the solution is the Me Too movement. In 2006, Tarana Burke started this movement to help survivors of sexual violence find a community of support (news). In 2017, a tweet from Alyssa Milano included the hashtag “#MeToo” and set a new fire under a movement started over ten years ago (News). All over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat people were posting “#MeToo” and those who have suffered from sexual abuse could see that they are not alone. Not only that, this showed the alarming number of people who have been affected by sexual abuse. While a hashtag is not enough to stop a rapist, a pedophile, or anyone else who intends to sexually harm another person, it does provide awareness about the issue and starts conversations. Whether a person knows what Me Too is referring to or not, it catches their attention so they will either ask what it is all about, research it, support the victim, or simply recognize that the problem of sexual assault is an epidemic. Sexual assault has to be talked about and it has to be stopped. Movements like Me Too educate and advocate for change.


 

References

Klement, K. R., & Sagarin, B. J. (2016). Nobody Wants to Date a Whore: Rape-Supportive

Messages in Women-Directed Christian Dating Books. Sexuality & Culture, 21(1),

205-223. doi:10.1007/s12119-016-9390-x

Jozkowski, K. N., & Wiersma-Mosley, J. D. (2017). The Greek System: How Gender Inequality

and Class Privilege Perpetuate Rape Culture. Family Relations, 66(1), 89-103.

doi:10.1111/fare.12229

Garcia, S. (2017, October 20). Woman Who Created #MeToo Long Before Hashtags. The New

York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/20/us/me-too-movement-tarana-burke.html