This Is Rape Culture

In the last couple of years, I've been interacting with folks who take a more active hand in gender and social issues, and it's changed the way I see the word “rape.” It didn't entirely make sense to me how so many people could be self-identified victims of rape culture while so few people are, even in a euphemistic way, identifiable as rapists, so I dug a bit at my assumptions.

Growing up immersed in what I now recognize as the early stages of modern “news” culture, rape was always reported as a violent act. Something so black and white that if you committed rape, you would know yourself to be a rapist. Media descriptions of rape and of rapists focussed on acts of overt violence: “she was in the wrong neighbourhood and got raped at knifepoint,” “held down and raped,” and so on.

Reading more recent postings on the idea of “rape culture,” however, paints a very different picture of the same word. “Raped at a party,” “too drunk to consent,” and other depictions of rape as an act of exploitation (or, appallingly, convenience or indifference) rather than violence.

Let me be perfectly clear here: without active consent, any sexual contact is rape or is on the road to it. In that sense, violence, exploitation, intoxication and other forms of coercion are interchangeable and equally vile.

However, when the public idea of rape is limited to rapes with overt violence, it's really easy to excuse non-violent coerced sex as “not really rape.” After all, you didn't hit her, did you? She never said no and meant it, right?

I don't know what I'm going to do with this insight, yet, but I think it's an important piece towards educating the next generation to be more awesome and less dangerous to each other and un-learning any bad habits and beliefs I already have.

Relevant reading: