Recently the newspaper the Badger Herald of the University of Wisconsin published an op-ed article titled ‘Rape Culture’ Does Not Exist.
This article has gained a lot of attention not only on the Madison campus, but also on the Internet as a whole. There is no point in keeping it a secret, so I’ll just let it out now, the guy’s name is David Hookstead – Google him and you will find several articles about him and his misogynistic tweets (featured on Jezebel) and other such nonsense he has been involved with. A lot of great organizations like PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment) and brave individuals have made amazing responses to his article. Those can be found on the Badger Herald website and on PAVE-UW.tumblr.com.
While Mr. Hookstead has caused quite the stir, he brings up a good point. That point is that some people are ignorant and that Rape Culture is not fully understood. Rape culture is the teaching of girls not to dress a certain way, not to walk alone, and to fear the possibility of a sexual assault. We are taught to avoid situations that may put us in danger and to always be on guard. But what are boys taught? Seeing as how I am not a man, I don’t really know, but from my observations I can see that most boys are taught that only bad people rape, that only the worst of the worst commit sexual assault, and so long as you think you are a good person, you won’t do those things. Many men don’t even realize that what they think is normal – a drunk hookup one Friday night, a simple make-out session during a party in the basement of a Fraternity house – can actually be considered sexual assault. Consent is defined as a clear and defined yes, not the absence of a no and must be given in a clear state of mind (meaning when somebody has not consumed alcohol or drugs). Our hookup culture has blurred these lines of consent and excused men and women’s behavior. It isn’t uncommon to hear of men and women that get people drunker in order to increase their chances of hooking up. And this is where our society gets it wrong – nobody ever told them that isn’t ok.
We’re told rape is illegal and that bad people commit rape, but that isn’t enough to stop us. Our society breeds the idea that sexual assault is ok. Maybe not that it is “ok,” but that it is at least excusable. 1 out 4 women will be sexually assaulted before they graduate college, and only 3 out of 100 accused rapists will ever see jail time (out of the 40 out of 100 rape accounts that will ever even be reported to police). Those statistics are scary, but they are true. Rape Culture causes victims to believe that it was their fault, that they dressed too provocatively, that the way they were acting was asking for sex, that they drank too much, that they weren’t being careful. That is what rape culture is. It is the fact that victims become afraid to admit that they have been assaulted because they are afraid of the ridicule, the blame, and the social stigma that will come if they admit it. Hookstead brings up the idea of falsifying claims of assault; that girls will lie in order to cover their mistakes. While I’m sure some of that does occur, it is this very idea that prevents victims from coming forward. They are afraid people won’t believe them.
Rape Culture basically blames the victim, male or female, for what happens, when instead we should be better educating the public to realize what rape and sexual assault are and why they shouldn’t do it. This is only furthered by sexism and the misogynistic jokes and actions that society has fostered. We are trained by the media and society to see a woman dressed in a certain way as an invitation to sex, or a man who seems overly flirtatious as a sign of sexual attraction. These “hints” are taken as a justification for our actions and thus turn the blame on the victim once again. We need to train society to realize that just because a girl is wearing a short skirt and a low-cut top that she isn’t asking for sex, and that just because you had sex with that hot soccer player once before, that doesn’t mean he is going to want to do it again and again.
Denying that rape culture exists is like denying that the earth revolves around the sun. It does exist. It exists within songs, movies, TV shows, hookup culture, college campuses, and big cities. While we’re not going to get rid of rape culture in a day, we can raise awareness and help educate people to begin the process. I have not been the victim of serious sexual assault, but I know those who have and even my own experiences at bars and on the street can attest to the existence of rape culture. So please, become aware and realize that sometimes our actions and our words can help perpetuate rape culture. Only then can we begin to change it.
If you or someone you know has been a victim to sexual assault of any kind, please be understanding and realize it is not the victim’s fault. Do no hesitate to report sexual assault or to find help. You are strong and you are never alone.