Assault, abuse, sexual assault

This is the condensed version of the article, for the entire piece, click here.

Virgin/slut shaming & victim blaming

Slut shaming involves criticizing someone for how many sexual partners they have had, or a perception about their sexual experience and sexuality. Virgin shaming is the opposite and humiliates people for how few people, if any, they have had sex with.

The former commonly subjects girls and women to this scrutiny and judgement and the latter, to boys and men. Victim blaming is an effect of slut shaming and virgin shaming.

We perpetuate the false narrative that people should comply with rigid and toxic sexual norms, whether they are comfortable doing so or not and even if it means they are complying to sexual norms that violate their sexuality.

At the same time, we see them as responsible for all of their sexual experience, we hold them accountable to the one’s they do not consent to as well.

Sexual objectification

This is the act of treating someone as an object. More specifically, as a sex object. This amounts to viewing them as an object that exists merely for sexual pleasure. There are many examples to point to within the realm of sexual objectification and I challenge you to keep thinking about it after you finish this article and see if you can’t find more examples.

If you’re a girl or women, you have likely experienced at least a few occassions where you have prioritized your physical appeal to men over your physical comfort.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look nice, the concern lies in sacrificing your comfort for the sake of looking good.

Who hasn’t worn a dress that was itchy, but looked hot? Who hasn’t worn heels that hurt, but made us look incredible? I’m simply pointing these behaviours out, not placing blame.

Minimizing or normalizing sexual harassment

There is a different between sexual harassment and sexual assault. The legal definition may vary depending on where you live, for me, I’m working with the following Canadian legal definition.

“Sexual harassment can take many forms. It can be physical conduct such as grabbing, kissing or other unwelcome touching that has a sexual connotation. It can be verbal conduct such as making derogatory comments about a person’s appearance, telling crude jokes, or making sexual propositions, including by email or online. It can be something in the environment such as displaying offensive pictures at work.”

Trivializing sexual assault & rape and refusal to hold rapists accountable

There is a distinct difference between normalizing something and trivializing something. With normalization, we treat a behaviour as if it is common, a shared belief, value or practice. It’s as though it is something we should all be accustomed to.

When it comes to trivialization, that involves us dismissing something as unimportant, as though it is not cause for concern. Not necessarily because we think it is normal behaviour, but because we don’t see it as problematic behaviour.

Groping would be an example of a widespread issue that is trivialized but not normalized. People generally view groping as bad behaviour, but they minimize the damage it does to the victim because “there are worse things that could happen.”

This language serves to reduce the problem in it’s significance, while expressions like “it wasn’t that bad” achieve the same effect.

Refusal to acknowledge the harm caused by widespread rape and/or denial of widespread rape

Another common sign of rape culture is denial of its existence. And if there isn’t denial of its existence, there’s significant denial about the degree of harm it does in society. We do this by relentlessly supporting convicted rapists.

We also do this by excusing the crime a rapist has committed by shifting responsibility or inventing reasons why they should not be held accountable for their actions.

We are in denial of rape culture and just how widespread it is when we insist on perpetuating any of the previously mentioned examples of symptoms of a rape culture.

When we refuse to accept statistics and research and dismiss reality because we don’t personally know someone who has been raped, we are actively contributing to rape culture and making it that much harder to create a safer environment for everyone.

Final thoughts

In a 2018 survey in Canada, 30% of women and 8% of men said that they had been sexually assaulted at least once, outside of their intimate relationship, since the age of 15.

Is one third of women and almost one tenth of men a significant enough volume of people for sexual assault, harassment and rape to be considered a widespread issue?

If you don’t think nearly 40% of a population is high enough to warrant the label of “widespread,” consider what figure would be high enough for you. 50%? 60%? 80%? Exactly how many people need to live a sexually violating experience for you to agree there is a pervasive societal issue at hand?