Rape culture is used to describe a society that tolerates sexual assault and violence against women. Rape culture is a relatively new term that expresses how our culture perpetuates rape in different parts of our lives. According to Susan J. Douglas (2015), rape culture is more than just our values. It is the way we live our everyday lives and the beliefs that run our media, institutions, religion, work, and entertainment.
There are many ways that rape culture shows in the United States. We can see that higher education is being affected by our rape culture because one in five women are sexual assault victims. Douglas (2015), also said that twenty-six thousand soldiers in the military were sexually assaulted in 2012. TV and video games perpetuate crude behavior that could lead to sexual harassment or assault. All of these examples show that our culture has a tolerance for sexual harassment and rape.
Media is one of the best ways to show our society has a rape culture. Women and even men are seen as objects for sex instead of human beings. According to Pearson (2000), movies and TV shows show that rape scenes are about lust and are seen as sexy rather than violent and about power. If our society cannot overcome the media’s portrayal of rape, sex, women, and men, then rape culture will continue.
According to Skinner (2012), evidence that supports that the United States has a rape culture is the amount of rapes reported versus the amount of arrests and convictions. Forty-four percent of victims are under age eighteen (RAINN). Sixty-eight percent of rapes go unreported and ninety-eight percent of perpetrators go free (RAINN). Most sexual assaults happen on college campuses.
Rape has been seen all throughout history as a violent act of victory in wars. Cyril J. Smith (1974), The Legend of Troy, the fall of Constantinople, and the rape of Nanking are only a few examples of history throughout the world that shows rape has been around for a long time.
The first written laws to prevent rape were written in the Code of Hammurapi which was written in the 17th century. Smith (1974), states that this law prevented men from raping virgin women who were intended to be married and the consequence of breaking this law was death.
The earliest English common law was enforced by Aethelbert of Kent, who was the first king of England in 597. According to Smith (1974), the consequence for rape during these times was giving the woman at least 60 shillings.
Eventually English common law gave a definition of rape that had not previously been considered. Smith (1974), states that the three key factors were using force, lack of consent, and penetration. If penetration did not occur, then it was not considered rape. These laws made penetration while a woman was unconscious rape as well. These laws also considered a man drugging a woman without her knowledge and then having intercourse is rape.
Anti-rape campaigns have been targeted towards women and how to prevent themselves from being assaulted rather than putting the blame on the perpetrators. This leads to victim blaming and questions about what the person was wearing or how much they had to drink. Skinner (2012) states that in the last ten years the new anti-rape campaigns have been targeted towards men and the role they play in rape culture. MyStrength and Don’t Be That Guy are two of the campaigns that are targeting men to help end rape culture. These campaigns are a step in the right direction, but they lack a feminist approach to promote affirmative consent and to demote violence. The Don’t Be That Guy campaign raises awareness by creating posters that say something like, “Just because you take her home, doesn’t mean you can help yourself.” This campaign focuses on masculine stereotypes that promote men as being “manly” if they protect women. Both campaigns focus on heterosexual couples as the focus of their posters. Both of these campaigns have tried to raise awareness and target men into helping end rape culture, but they still promote heteronormativity. According to Skinner (2012), these campaigns promote male power and privilege over women, so there is still more that needs to be done.
According to Skinner (2012), “Yes Means Yes” and “Communication Is Sexy, So When I Wasn’t Sure, I Asked For Consent” needs to replace “No means No”. Each partner has to give consent throughout the entire time intercourse is going on through words and gestures. Each of these statements allow for all genders and sexual orientations to be considered and not left out in the campaigns.
Skinner, L. (2012, Summer). RAPE CULTURE AND MASCULINITIY. Fuse Magazine, 35, 6-7. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.jproxy.lib.ecu.edu/docview/1030755104?accountid=10639
Douglas, S. J. (2014, 07). Rape culture reality check. In these Times, 38, 15. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.jproxy.lib.ecu.edu/docview/1540457736?accountid=10639
Smith, Cyril J. (1974). History of Rape and Rape Laws. 60 Women Law Journal. 188. Retrieved from http://jw3mh2cm6n.search.serialssolutions.com/?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&ctx_enc=info%3Aofi%2Fenc%3AUTF-8&rfr_id=info:sid/summon.serialssolutions.com&rft_val_fmt=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:journal&rft.genre=article&rft.atitle=History+of+Rape+Laws&rft.jtitle=Women+Lawyers%27+Journal&rft.au=Smith%2C+Cyril+J&rft.date=1974-01-01&rft.issn=0043-7468&rft.volume=60&rft.issue=4&rft.spage=188&rft.externalDBID=n%2Fa&rft.externalDocID=a32100680006¶mdict=en-US
Pearson, A. (2000, Aug). Rape culture: Media and message. Off our Backs, 30, 13. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.jproxy.lib.ecu.edu/docview/197128320?accountid=10639