I’m Sick of Being Sick of Rape Culture

by | December 14, 2011
filed under Feminism

This article, by Jessica Critcher, was originally posted at the WAM! blog. Cross-posted with permission.

I must sound like a broken record. I know people must get sick of hearing it, because I get sick of saying it, but we live in a rape culture. To preface what I’m about to say, I would like to give a brief description of what that means, as defined in Transforming a Rape Culture and quoted in a very powerful piece on Shakesville:

A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.

In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death or taxes. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.

Emphasis mine.

This latest wave of frustration was set in motion by a post on CampusBasement.com entitled “10 Ways to Fool a Sorority Girl Into Bed.” The post has since been taken down, but lives on forever in screenshots (and our nightmares).

The list includes advice such as:

2. Keep refilling her cup. Soon she will be unable to walk and need a place to “rest.”

4. Once she is sufficiently intoxicated (and only then!) say something that would earn the hashtag #failedpickuplines. She’ll stare at you in admiration.

7. Make the lighting in the room very dim. Once she says, “I’m sleepy,” you know you got that bitch on hold.

10. When the moment is right… move in for the kill. Like a tiger.

Not surprisingly, this “article” was met with some criticism. Shortly before it was taken down, Campus Basement added the following disclaimer:

This article has generated a tremendous amount of interest from readers. Campus Basement would like to clarify that the author meant absolutely no harm when she posted it, and our staff firmly understands that no means no. For more information on how you can help end sexual assault and abuse, visit www.takebackthenight.org.

Also we posted our community guidelines yesterday, please take a look: http://www.campusbasement.com/pages/community-guidelines. This article is from a sole individual and doesn’t reflect the views of Campus Basement.

There’s a lot to unpack here. Firstly, “interest” is a weird way of spelling “rage.” Secondly, there is a difference between not meaning harm and not doing harm. While this could have been intended as some sort of satire, it is unfortunately too close to reality to be taken as a joke. One in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape. Approximately 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, and 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.

While the author might have been kidding, the prevalence of these crimes shows that the attitude of rapists is exactly as cavalier as the hypothetical rapist making this list. Call me a humorless feminist if you want—I fail to find anything remotely funny about rampant sexual assault.

What’s more, if the author actually intended for this to be a dark and revealing satire, there are ways to go about it that don’t involve victim-blaming. Take Leigh Hofheimer’s article about Rape Prevention, which includes such items as:

1.       Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks.

2.       When you see a woman walking by herself, leave her alone.

3.       If you pull over to help a woman whose car has broken down, remember not to rape her.

4.       If you are in an elevator and a woman gets in, don’t rape her.

If the Campus Basement post was meant to highlight the prevalence of sexual assaults on campus and serve as an actual warning to fellow students, it did so through the very means we should be trying to prevent. Framing the woman involved as stupid or shallow sends out the message that it is their fault, and only other people are raped.

This line of thinking tells us that if we follow certain rules, dress or act a certain way, we will not be raped. We are told rape victims are not someone we know; rape victims are not us. Furthermore, the idea that rape can or should only be prevented by the victims themselves takes blame and attention away from the real culprits: the actual rapists.

Of course Campus Basement is not unique in perpetuating these ideas. The Pennsylvania liquor board recently launched an ad-campaign against teenage drinking, saying teens that drink too much will end up raped. A recent study found that several popular men’s magazines were indistinguishable from the language used by rapists. I am not calling out Campus Basement because they are the only example; I am calling out Campus Basement because they are one of far too many examples of what I and countless others have been repeating for years: We live in a rape culture, and I am sick of it.

If you feel like I do, that blame for a rape should never be placed on the victim and there is nothing remotely funny about sexual assault, then you should speak up. Until it is made clear that even one rape is too many, that no sexual violence is acceptable, people are going to continue to normalize it, and I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.













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