What is rape culture? You’ve likely seen the term pop up many times over the years. The truth is rape culture exists because many people do not believe that it does. Let us explain.
When we raise our children in a society that constantly objectifies and degrades women, teaches our young men to be hyper-sexual, and perpetuates misogyny in school, the workplace, and everywhere else, it is no surprise that rape is the standard result. Men grow up feeling that women are there for them, that when a woman says “no,” she really means yes, and that even if they do something, they’ll be forgiven because, well, “boys will be boys.”
This is what makes rape culture. This is why we keep seeing increases in movements to call out rape culture— like #MeToo, #GenerationEquality, #TimesUp, and #NiUnaMenos. Unfortunately, even with these movements and an increase in activism, rape culture is still incredibly prevalent in our society. But there are ways to challenge it and help change our society for the better.
How to Stand Up Against Rape Culture
Just like any other cultural normality, standing up to rape culture can be incredibly difficult. This is not because there are not millions of people who want to make and see a change in the culture. Rather, it is because rape culture is so ingrained in our society and many people go along with it without even realizing it.
There are a number of things that go into rape culture, and without understanding them, it can be impossible to stop this mindset and social culture from affecting our future generations. Here, we are going to dive into some of the things that go into rape culture and how you can challenge them.
Address the Root Causes
As we mentioned above, rape culture has been ingrained in our society for a long time. Simply wanting it to end is not going to be enough to remove all of its negative effects on our society. Just like when you are removing a weed from your garden, you need to ensure that you get to the roots.
There are two primary root causes of rape culture. These are victim-blaming and toxic masculinity. Both of these ideas perpetuate that the woman is the one to blame when she gets raped. Whether it is song lyrics like, “I know you want it,” from the song Blurred Lines (and many more songs just like it) or saying, “she was drunk,” or “she was dressed like she wanted it,” victim-blaming is all around us. Without making an effort to address these root causes, rape culture will never end.
Practice Zero Tolerance
If you hear a rape joke or you see a coworker touch another in a way that makes the second one uncomfortable, speak up. The unfortunate reality is that not enough of us speak up in these situations. We may feel that it is not our business or that the person already knows that what they did was wrong. More often than not, when people get away with these jokes or acts of harassment, they think that it is okay to continue doing them.
We cannot let these things slide; it only perpetuates rape culture and validates (even if you do not mean to) individuals who sexually harass, assault, and rape others.
We mentioned the idea of “toxic masculinity” and what that looks like above, but what does good masculinity look like? For most of our society, there is no “masculinity” outside of the narrow view of toxic masculinity. This is because they grow up in our society that tells them that they need to be strong, not cry, make money for their families, and even be aggressive in their sexual lives and possessive of the women in their lives.
But this is not good masculinity. This is putting all the societal pressure on men and telling them that women are there for them to interact with as they please. This is ingraining a sense of superiority in men at a young age that dramatically impacts their view of the world (and women) even without them noticing. It needs to end.
Now, even if you grew up with these values being constantly shoved in your face, you can still make a change. Think critically about what masculinity means to you. Find out what the important characteristics of masculinity are to you and highlight those — rather than what our society has told you makes a “man.”
Many of us grew up hearing that a woman is playing “hard to get” or that sometimes women say “no” when they actually mean “yes.” These concepts are incredibly dangerous and harmful to women all over the world because when they tell a man no, he often assumes that he just hasn’t charmed her quite enough yet. Of course, this does not only apply to women, and it is not only men who ignore the word “no.” However, from a societal standpoint and in the lens of rape culture, it is far more common for men to ignore the “no” and continue pursuing a woman who does not want to be pursued.
This is where we need to make the shift. Rather than teaching our young boys that “no” can mean “yes,” we need to teach them to look for enthusiastic consent. Teach them to only move forward if their partner is enthusiastic about what is happening. Rape culture depends on victim-blaming, and focusing on enthusiastic consent is an effective way to make pointing fingers at the victim’s “unclear message” incredibly difficult.
Listen to Survivors
When someone comes out and tells you of their experience, you need to listen. One, it was probably incredibly challenging for them to bring it up and tell you about the traumatic experience they had to go through — especially if they are someone close to you. Two, they went through a traumatic experience that most members of society are likely to blame them for. They need your support, and you need to realize just how common sexual assault is in our society.
Educate the Next Generation
The newest generation (Generation Alpha) is currently being taught many of the same ideas that we were taught as children — both in school and through societal norms. If we want to change our trajectory and really get rid of rape culture, we need to start with how we raise our children. Help educate them about what is wrong with rape culture and how they can stand up against it.
Respect their choices in their lives and teach them about enthusiastic consent from a young age. Remember, consent can be for any type of situation. For example, maybe your child does not like being hugged (or maybe they do, just only by certain people or not all of the time). You can use this as a way to help them learn about consent and that their body is their own. Ask before you hug them or hold their hand. Encourage your other family members to do the same. This teaches your child that they are in control of their body and no one is entitled to touching it if they don’t want them to.
If You Need Extra Support
If you are passionate about standing up against rape culture but you have experienced sexual assault yourself, or you are uncomfortable calling others out due to social anxieties or other reasons, speaking to a therapist may be an excellent option for you.
A therapist can help you heal from your trauma or better navigate your feelings so that you can stand up for the things that are important to you when it comes to challenging rape culture. If you would like to talk to a therapist to address sexual trauma, manage social anxiety, or dive deeper into rape culture and how you personally can make a change, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow!