Rape Culture 101: What is Rape Culture?

Rape culture normalizes sexual violence.

These days, many feminists are thinking critically about what they can do to make the world a better, safer place for women and men. One way to make this happen is by recognizing and challenging rape culture.

What Is Rape Culture?

Although defined broadly, rape culture is basically “an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture” (Southern Connecticut State University).

Examples Of Rape Culture

There are numerous social realities demonstrate rape culture. Some of them include:

  • Trivializing sexual harassment (“Boys will be boys!”)
  • Telling jokes that make light of sexual violence
  • Defining “manhood” as sexually aggressive and dominant
  • Defining “womanhood” as sexually passive and submissive
  • Categorizing women who resist male sexual advances as undesirably “frigid” or “cold”
  • Assuming only promiscuous women are raped

Women protest rape culture's "victim blaming" mentality.Another damaging element of rape culture is the “blame the victim” mentality. This mentality calls into doubt the validity of a victims’ experience of sexual assault with questions like:

  • Why were you out alone?
  • How much did you drink?
  • You should’ve dressed more modestly.
  • These types of things happen when you stay out past midnight.

In these situations, the victim does not receive sympathy and understanding. Instead, she faces accusations that her poor behavioral choices led to the sexual assault. When this happens, blame is placed on the victim, instead of on the perpetrator who is actually responsible.

The Negative Impact Of Rape Culture

Rape cultures create an environment in which sexual violence is normalized and prevalent, which makes people more vulnerable to rape. This is especially the case for women and girls. Individuals who are victimized by rape often suffer lasting negative consequences beyond their assault. For example, RAINN reports that 94% of women who are raped experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms during the two weeks following the sexual assault. Also note that people who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to use drugs. Many victims will also experience emotional distress that can cause problems at work or school and tensions with family members or friends.

This Calvin Klein ad received criticism for promoting rape culture.

Advertisements like this one promote rape culture by normalizing sexual violence.

What Can Be Done To Stop Rape Culture

One of the most effective ways to stop rape culture is by being more conscious of the information and entertainment you receive through the media. Unfortunately, the songs, television shows, and movies that shape pop culture tend to promote the ongoing objectification of women. These misrepresentations of women contribute to the view that a woman is a thing, not a person. You can make a conscious choice to avoid this kind of media.

You should also take care not to feed rape culture with silence or approval when people around you make offensive statements. When you hear victims being belittled or blamed with statements like “She was asking for it,” be sure to explain that a survivor is never responsible for what happened. If someone tells you that they have been victimized, take the individual seriously and offer support. Do not brush what the victim tells you aside or assume that they are making it up.

Another great way to stop rape culture is to be aware of your own mental attitudes and behaviors with sex partners. Always communicate openly with partners and do not assume consent. Also be sure that you are defining your own sense of personhood. Don’t let cultural stereotypes regarding what it means to be a man or woman dictate how you will interact with your partners. Make sure that authenticity, shared humanity, and genuine respect are integral to the way that you relate to others.

Actively working against rape culture through volunteer service designed to heighten awareness of the problem can be one of the most powerful things that you ever do.

If you’re ready to get started, join LiveYourDream.org so that we can create a better, brighter world where people are free to make their own sexual choices!

Love, Not Fear

While rape culture is a dangerous aspect of the contemporary world, it doesn’t have to be. By actively working against it, you can contribute to the creation of a community that is predicated upon mutual respect and love, not objectification and fear!

Join our movement! >>


jocelyncrawley-picJocelyn Crawley is a 32-year-old freelance writer who resides in Atlanta, Georgia. Feminism is her deepest passion and she is excited about partnering with other women’s rights advocates in the years to come. When she is not reading and writing on feminist topics, Jocelyn enjoys sipping coffee and improving her yoga practice.

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