Rape culture in The West: shaming & victim blaming
Assault, abuse, sexual assault
Rape culture in The West is something commonly misunderstood. The act of rape does not have to be widely supported for a rape culture to exist. Though this is a widespread misconception. Yes, we have rape culture in The West.
No, it is not a myth and I will gladly explain in great detail why. Let’s take a closer look at common behaviors that are normalized in a rape culture. This mini series will look at five different behaviors in depth, along with multiple examples of each.
Virgin/slut shaming & victim blaming
Slut shaming involves criticizing someone for how many sexual partners they have had. Or criticizing someone based on 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.
Examples of normalizing language
Common phrases you’ve likely heard could include, what was she wearing? and, did she say no? There are also ample incorrect biological and psychological explanations offered to justify sexual harassment, assault and rape. Such as, women can stop if they want to, and she should’ve resisted.
Another common justification used disregards the entire concept of consent by claiming, she’s had sex with other guys, why does this matter? And, you’re a guy, you should always want sex. All of these justifications are harmful to all rape victims. They only serve to protect rapists and silence rape victims.
Slut shaming language will also commonly include phrases like, don’t dress like a slut and, were you giving mixed signals? which puts the burden of responsibility for the assault on the victim, instead of the perpetrator. When we consider other, similar types of violent crimes our response is different.
For crimes such as robbery, kidnapping, physical assault and even murder, we never think to ask the questions we do of rapes. Why is that? It seems we realize the victim is not at fault in the above crimes. But we struggle to accept that the victim is also not at fault in sex based crimes either.
Further victim blaming phrases that you’ve probably heard include, she/he is probably lying for attention. Along with, you shouldn’t have been at that place/location, you shouldn’t have been there alone. And also, you should have known that was possible.
Why is there a double standard? Why would it make sense to us that someone should have the foresight to know that they will be attacked when it comes to rape, but we don’t apply the same logic to other violent crimes?
No one says to the survivors of a car crash, well, it’s sad that your mom died in the crash. But she really should’ve known what she was getting into when she got behind the wheel. I mean, it’s the most lethal form of travel.
No one says, your home was broken into because having a nice house makes you a target for that sort of thing. If you didn’t want to experience a robbery, you shouldn’t have bought such a nice house. No one says, “oh you survived a kidnapping? What were you wearing? Are you sure you didn’t provoke the kidnappers into taking you?”
We have workshops and casual conversations about how to avoid being raped. But we don’t educate on consent or how to not rape someone. Isn’t this telling of our culture? It speaks volumes to our lack of accountability towards rapists and how little we value both women and men.
We are more interested in letting rapists walk among us. We would rather permit them to continue assaulting people, than hold them accountable. I wonder why that is?
Anyway, who’s in these workshops and having these casual conversations? Almost exclusively women. Men do not participate. Yet 1 in 33 men in america are the victim of rape at least once in their lives. If we insist on not protecting people from rape, let’s at least make sure men are involved in the education on protection.
I’m bitter because the solution is blindingly obvious. It is to hold rapists accountable. Not to continue with these workshops and information exchanges because the lack of perception on this is ludicrous.
However, this does speak the issue of erasure that male rape victims experience. They are not included in most discussions about rape, nor are they welcome in most safe spaces for rape survivors. To this I would ask where the men’s rights activists are, but I already know the answer.
The lack of discussion around male rape survivors occurs due to toxic masculinity. Paired with the notion that men should have sex with as many partners as possible. And that they always want sex. Why men aren’t enraged about these assumptions is beyond me.
If someone said I was incapable of sexual self control because of my sex I would be deeply offended. If someone said I just naturally want sex all the time because of my sex, as if I don’t even have the option of ever not wanting sex, I would be equally offended.
We know that not all men are the same. In fact, I’m told that quite often when I talk about how men are the biggest threat to women. It seems that generalizations are not welcome when they’re used to make a negative assessment about men. At least that’s the only time I’m ever “not all men”ed by anyone.
Yet, making these generalizations about men, that they always want sex and that they have no sexual self control, are indeed negative characterizations. We don’t protest them because we don’t recognize them as being negative. Why? Because we have normalized toxic masculinity and then allowed it to thrive within our rape culture.
The Next Step
This is part one of a five part mini series. Click here to read on to part two.
Question of the Week
Should the internet be selectively censored?
Studies have proven that exposure to certain forms of online content leads to an increased likelihood to dehumanize a specific group of people or even commit violent acts against them. Two significant examples to point to are violent porn and hate crimes. What are your thoughts on online censorship for some types of content? Should censorship exist? If so, who controls it, and to what extent? Can we trust them to remain ethical with this control? If not, how do we justify the harm that comes to people as a result of a lack of censorship? Who would be most negatively impacted and why?
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