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“Rape Culture” is a term that has been used since the 70’s to describe a normalization of sexual violence in a society. It’s systemic, but it starts off small. It can start with conversations that are considered to be “locker room talk”, and then advance into crimes that violate human beings, or at least justify those actions.
The “jokes” that are told, and the inappropriate conversations people have concerning sexual assault are toxic and sickening. When Donald Trump was found on tape bragging about his dominance over women’s private parts, that was definitely a promotion of rape culture. His supporters didn’t seem phased by this at all, and even encouraged his behavior, while calling others “ too sensitive” for condemning him. Rape culture in America has gotten so far in this society, that the thought of something who is running for president sexually assaulting many people, is not a troubling thing to his supporters. Why is forcibly taking something from someone who doesn’t wish to give it to you a good enough punchline?
Rape culture is not rape itself, as some have confused it as. It is merely normalized actions that can lead up to rape, or justify rape/sexual assault. There’s levels to this “culture”. It’s much more than making memes about raping someone, although that is definitely part of it. It’s also victim blaming. When there is a story about a little girl who was raped on social media, and the comments are full of people blaming the victim and basically saying “oh well” to the situation, that is rape culture. You are protecting the actions of the attacker and shaming the victim. This, and the notion that they’re all somehow lying, often results in women not reporting their assault. This goes for male rape victims as well who, with the help of hypermasculinity, don’t have their sexual assault stories believed enough. There’s a silent rule that says that they’re supposed to appreciate the assault, because men are the dominant sexual predators. The assault that they go through is overlooked yet normalized as “natural” for them.
Catcalling is also a part of rape culture. Catcalling is when a stranger will shout to a woman in the street, usually to inappropriately comment on her body and overall appearance. This is not a compliment. The objective of catcalling is for the attention of other men and the degradation of those women. Those who do this only try to humiliate people, and establish their dominance over that person. The woman is not expected to have a voice. There’s no respect for them. Again, it is NOT a compliment. There is a huge difference between:
“Hi, I just think you’re really pretty. Have a good day.” and “AYE MA!! YOU SO FINE! LEMME SEE THAT SMILE!!”
When I mentioned rape culture on my Instagram page, there were men who disagreed and said that rape culture didn’t exist, and that women were just complaining (even though rape culture impacts men as well). They denied the reality of rape culture, mainly because they are guilty of participating in it. They might have catcalled before. They have made vulgar jokes. They didn’t have much true respect for women but will use their sisters and mothers as good enough examples of their fake solidarity with women. Women are human beings just like anyone else. When you contribute to sexual violence against them, that contradicts the said “respect” for women you claimed to have.
Catcalling and pathetics jokes are not new ways to rape someone, however, it does create the layers of a system in society, so much to the point where rapists can go free. Perfect example of this is Brock Turner, who only served 3 months in jail for sexual assault. The justice system cares little for sexual assault survivors. Me being raised in the Nation of Islam, I was taught that the proper punishment for rape is death.
To lessen this social norm, it first has to be acknowledged that it exists. Check your conversations with friends and call our what they’re saying. Don’t blame people for their sexual assault. Support survivors and hear their stories. Rape culture shouldn’t be a global way of life.
(Nzinga Muhammad is based in Rochester, NY. Follow her on Twitter @QueenNzinga13)