What is Rape Culture?
There are a number of statistics out there which all differ greatly. If one were to define rape culture, it would likely be any given environment in which rape is minimized or disbelieved as a victim’s experience. For example, if a woman was raped, a number of people would be tempted to blame the victim, prompting questions like, “What were you wearing or drinking during the time rape occurred?”. They would also consider other variables. For instance, rape may start with kissing or consensual sex and end in an assault.
Examples of Rape Culture
- Last year, a relative of mine opened up to me about her early childhood experiences with sexual abuse. She told me that she had been molested by her older brother for years and that her mother, at the time, could not believe what all had happened to her. Her mother asked for her to write down every time molestation had happened. Even worse, during this time of crisis, my friend’s father did little to comfort his wife.
- Earlier, in 2016, pop singer Kesha Sebert (aka Ke$ha) went into court concerning record producer Dr. Luke over sexual assault charges and other allegations. To me, I was astonished and felt upset at the media for not having taken a closer look at the normalized attitudes we share towards rape culture, and the prevailing overall narrative exhibited in this case.
After reading up on this recent headline and listening to my brave friend’s story, I decided to go to the library and check out some books regarding the subject of pervasive rape culture in the United States. The book “Asking for it: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture–and what we can do about it” by Kate Harding, in my opinion, appears to be the best book out there right now.
She talks on many points, particularly on how family members, friends, the law, and politics deal with rape victims in different scenarios. For instance, College or city might not charge a person of rape based on the notion that it might condemn their institution. Prosecutors may not want the case because they ask themselves “Can I prove it?”. Law enforcement cases vary case-by-case, and they especially consider whether the person being convicted is a police officer or judge.
Harding also addresses the startling prevalence of untested rape kits in the US. When I searched for measurable data of untested rape kits online, I was shocked to find this news story reporting a backlog of 1,852 rape kits that were left untested at the Department of Health in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Out of all the books, I found at the Central Library here in Indianapolis; books on the press and law, books on how to psychologically overcome rape, etc., It surprised me that there were fewer titles like Harding’s that adequately examined pop cultural views on rape culture. Music, movies, television shows, and the internet all play a part in helping us understand our own identities in society. Media critic Anita Sakeesian and her YouTube channel “Feminist Frequency” serve to point out that many video games reinforce a cultural narrative that women are sex objects. One might remember her from the 2014 Gamergate controversy in which she was threatened because of her commentary on various games.
At the end of her book, Harding refers to her own experience with rape stating that “many elements of it were positively textbook”, but does list a great deal of positive reasons to be hopeful for change. She discusses the modern challenges faced by society, and as well, the progress we’ve made from the seventies up until now. Harding has done an excellent review of rape culture, from myths to law to mainstream media. In one chapter, she especially debunks taboos over falsified rape (research shows that false rape reports are estimated to be 2 to 8%). I would recommend this book to everybody.
Featured image credit: http://thefriends.org/