This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 7 March 2013.
What is rape culture?
If you ask people who are scared of feminism and radical concepts like “equality”, it’s all a big lie, it’s a conspiracy theory, it’s a meaningless jargon term which we women throw around to justify our seething hatred of all men.
If you ask me, I’ll steal a handy definition from Tumblr and say it’s
a term that describes a culture in which rape and other sexual violence (usually against women) are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence.
But what does that mean in real life?
It’s Seth MacFarlane making jokes about seeing famous actress’ breasts on screen – while referencing tragic, violent movies featuring brutal rape scenes.
It’s the constant use of passive language when the media reports rapes, or downright describing rape as “sex”, even “consensual sex” – often disclaiming, “oh, but legally, the suspect hasn’t been convicted of rape” – when no one has a problem reporting that a murder victim has been murdered.
It’s women living lives, if not of fear, then of wariness, because it could happen to you – and it’s almost certainly happened to your friends and loved ones – and even when it hasn’t happened, you know you’ve been close.
It’s not being able to assume that any man you meet or talk to or invite into your home isn’t Schrodinger’s Rapist.
It’s talking about our lived experiences and being told we’re being silly, or self-centred (because sexual harassment and sexual assault are compliments) or lying.
You want cold hard facts? Like Coley said,
1 in 4 women in New Zealand will experience unwanted and distressing sexual contact in her lifetime. Yet our Government has consistently failed to fund services which help survivors and their communities. Last year, this went so far as Wellington Rape Crisis needing to accept funding from famously feminist Hell’s Pizza to stay afloat.
That’s what rape culture is. And once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it.
The first step in fighting rape culture is acknowledging it exists. The second is pointing it out so others are forced to see it. The third … I’ll figure out once we get people even to step one.
I know this post won’t end rape. But maybe it’ll pull another thread out of the rape culture tapestry. Maybe it’ll mean one rape joke at the water cooler gets called out. Maybe it’ll stop one “friend” making light of an assault. Maybe it’ll make one guy think twice about how hilarious it is the way his buddy always hits on the really drunk girls.
If I didn’t believe that, I’d have to lock myself in a small room for the rest of my life.