Reflections on Rape Culture

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the Dismantling Rape Culture Conference at the University of Vermont. I was only able to attend for the afternoon, but that included the Featured Speaker, Candace Taylor, and two super informative workshops. I was really excited for this opportunity because it’s the first time I have been able to engage with my community about feminist issues and it was the first time I was able to take my feminist awakening in to an educational setting. All of my learning has been done so far through individual reading and one on one or small group conversations about feminist topics. It was amazing to sit in conference rooms with other academically minded people and get some new information about rape culture and the ways we as social justice advocates can fight.

I learned so much at the conference that I’m going to try something new with the blog and do a series of posts with my reflections on rape culture. So the next few days, probably the remainder of my 30 day blogging challenge, will be reflections on different topics that came up during the conference.

Today, as the start of the series I want to do a brief intro to the concept of rape culture. What is rape culture? Buzzfeed has a great primer on this, so I’m not going to attempt to explain it all as eloquently and wittily as they did. In short, rape culture is the result of the normalization of sexual violence. In the United States rape and other sexual violence is so commonplace that it is considered the norm. Women live in fear of being raped. The idea exists that any man could be a rapist. One in six women are raped. The definition of rape is so misconstrued and misunderstood that women go years without even realizing they were raped by a close friend or partner.

Rape culture is also the culture of victim blaming that surrounds sexual violence in the United States. The fact that women are rarely believed when they report a rape is rape culture. The narrative that women make up rape because they “changed their minds” or to be manipulative is rape culture. Questions like “was she drunk?” or “what was she wearing?” or “did she fool around with him first?” are questions that come out of rape culture. Rape culture is why Kesha can’t get out of her contract with Sony. Rape culture is what keeps thousands of women around the country from getting justice. Rape culture is what keeps women from getting the help they need when they are assaulted.

Rape culture is perpetuated by the media through a lax attitude toward rape. Female characters getting raped is now a popular theme in television shows and movies. Primetime TV shows have become more brazen about depicting rape. Visual representations of rape on TV and in the movies are becoming more graphic and sensationalizing rape. Seeing rape is becoming normal. Few TV shows or movies follow up these scenes with an accurate representation of the devastation that exists in the aftermath of a rape. The crime is normalized and the aftermath is dismissed.

Action must be taken to dismantle rape culture, as the title of the conference stated. Rape culture seems to pervasive that it’s overwhelming to think about what each of us can do. It all starts with education. Read articles about rape culture. Listen to survivor’s stories. Examine the statistics. Once you’ve got some information, start examining your own behavior. In what ways do you experience rape culture? In what ways do you contribute to rape culture? We all want to think that of course we don’t contribute to rape culture, but I guarantee you there are subtle things you do that contribute. Notice those things and change them.

Over the next few days I’ll share some of my reflections on what I have learned and what I’ll be doing to change the way I think about and contribute to rape culture. I hope, at the very least, it makes you think and sparks some conversations.

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