What is Rape Culture? An Examination on How Our Society Works

Trigger warning: mention of rape and other sexual violence.

As we look at what’s going on today, there’s no question that our society is a society of rape culture. With the victim-blaming of women that stand up for themselves after they’ve been sexually assaulted, we know that our society does not treat men and women equally. Of course, we say that, but what does rape culture actually mean, and how does it make its way into our own lives?

Rape culture is a term created by feminists in the 1970s to show the ways in which society blames women for sexual assault and normalizes male sexual violence. According to Emilie Buchwald, author of Transforming a Rape Culture, rape culture is defined as “a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm… In a rape culture, both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable… However, much of what we accept as inevitable is, in fact, the expression of values and attitudes that can change.”

So, now that we have an understanding of what rape culture is, let’s focus on the next question: how does rape culture affect us?

Rape culture begins with a normalization of sexist attitudes. There are the comments of “boys will be boys”, victim blaming, rape jokes, “locker room talk”, and unequal pay. Then, the aggression goes up, moving to degradation with stalking, unsolicited nude photos, catcalling, revenge porn, and non-consensual photos. Then, there’s the removal of autonomy by threatening, dosing, sexual coercion, groping, safe word violations, and condom removal during sex. Explicit violence is the next phase, which includes gang rape, murder, molestation, rape, and violence.

So how can we get rid of rape culture? Well, it’s not going to be easy. We have to create an environment that treats victims of sexual assault with respect and dignity, but how do we do that?

We have to become educated on women’s issues. We have to educate other people on women’s issues. We have to talk to each other, even if it’s uncomfortable. As a society, it is our responsibility to become aware of what’s happening with the people who are being attacked daily. We have to care about what happens with women. If we don’t, then rape culture will survive, it will thrive, and women will continue to not be believed and face even more sexual violence at the hands of men.


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