Rape culture is a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence, or some combination of these. It has been used to describe and explain behavior within social groups, including prison rape and in conflict areas where war rape is used as psychological warfare. Entire societies have been alleged to be rape cultures.
The notion of rape culture was developed by second-wave feminists, primarily in the United States, beginning in the 1970s. Critics of the concept dispute the existence or extent of rape culture, arguing that the concept is too narrow or that, although there are cultures where rape is pervasive, the idea of a rape culture can imply that the rapist is not at fault but rather the society that enables rape.
Origins and usage
The term "rape culture" was first coined in the 1970s in the United States by second-wave feminists, and was applied to contemporary American culture as a whole. During the 1970s, second-wave feminists had begun to engage in consciousness-raising efforts designed to educate the public about the prevalence of rape. Previously, according to Canadian psychology professor Alexandra Rutherford, most Americans assumed that rape, incest, and wife-beating rarely happened. The concept of rape culture posited that rape was common and normal in American culture, and that it was one extreme manifestation of pervasive societal misogyny and sexism. Rape was defined as a crime of violence rather than a crime of sex as it had been before and the focus of rape shifted from desire for sexual pleasure to one of male domination, intimidation and a sense of control over gender norms. Rape also started to be reexamined through the eyes of the victims rather than the perpetrators.
The first published use of the term appears to have been in 1974 in Rape: The First Sourcebook for Women, edited by Noreen Connell and Cassandra Wilson for the New York Radical Feminists. In the book, the group stated that "our ultimate goal is to eliminate rape and that goal cannot be achieved without a revolutionary transformation of our society". This book, along with Susan Brownmiller's 1975 Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, was among the earliest to include first-person accounts of rape. Their authors intended to demonstrate that rape was a much more common crime than previously believed. In the book, Brownmiller comments upon the idea that women never spoke about rape because women would never want to be open about a "crime against their physical integrity" which explained the general public's ignorance over how often rape was occurring and to whom. Brownmiller, a member of the New York Radical Feminists, argued that both academia and the general public ignored the incidents of rape. She helped spark psychologists to begin observing and studying what sparked this "rape supportive culture". Her book, Against Our Will, is considered a landmark work on feminism and sexual violence, and it is one of the pillars of modern rape studies.
Sociology professor Joyce E. Williams traces the origin and first usage of the term "rape culture" to the 1975 documentary film Rape Culture, produced and directed by Margaret Lazarus and Renner Wunderlich for Cambridge Documentary Films. She said that the film "takes credit for first defining the concept". The film discussed rape of both men and women in the context of a larger cultural normalization of rape. The film featured the work of the DC Rape Crisis Center in co-operation with Prisoners Against Rape, Inc. It included interviews with rapists and victims, as well as with prominent anti-rape activists such as feminist philosopher and theologian Mary Daly and author and artist Emily Culpepper. The film explored how mass media and popular culture have perpetuated attitudes towards rape.
In a 1992 Journal of Social Issues paper entitled "A Feminist Redefinition of Rape and Sexual Assault: Historical Foundations and Change", Patricia Donat and John D'Emilio suggested that the term originated as "rape-supportive culture" in Brownmiller's Against Our Will. By the mid-1970s, the phrase began to be used more widely in multiple forms of media.
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Feminists and gender activists conceptualize rape culture as a cultural environment that encourages gender violence, as well as perpetuating "rape myths", ranging from treating rape as merely "rough sex" to blaming the victim for inviting rape.
Michael Parenti believes that rape culture manifests through the acceptance of rapes as an everyday occurrence, and even a male prerogative. It can be exacerbated by police apathy in handling rape cases, as well as victim blaming, reluctance by authorities to go against patriarchial cultural norms, as well as fears of stigmatization suffered by rape victims and their families. Other sociologists[who?] posit that rape culture links non-consensual sex to the cultural fabric of a society, where patriarchial worldviews, laced with misogyny and gender inequality, are passed from generation to generation, leading to widespread social and institutional acceptance of rape.
One explanation for the commonality of these myths is that only certain "bad" or "misbehaved" women are raped. This creates a category of women separated from the general population which encourages an "otherness" and reduces the idea that anyone is vulnerable to being raped. One common rape myth is that no event is random. This promotes the idea that the women who are raped were not raped for no reason, but that they deserved it. If women believe that they were the cause of the rape, they may not go to authorities. Society also uses the stereotype of men being aggressive as an excuse for their actions. This justifies and normalizes rape. Society creates these myths, scaring women before they are even raped. Another reason for the acceptance of rape culture is the "just-world" hypothesis which claims that what happens to an individual in life is inherently tied to their actions and thus seen as justly deserved. People who believe in this theory would also be more likely to believe women who are raped deserve it in some way. Finally, rape can be attributed to ways women were treated historically, as a factor used to oppress and create control over women.
Brownmiller, in Against Our Will, discusses three ideas that helped bring awareness to some clearly-defined rape myths of the early to mid 20th century. First, any woman can be a rape victim regardless of age, size, shape, ethnicity, or status. Second, any man can be a rapist, not just "evil" or "mentally ill" men as thought in previous decades. Finally, rape can occur in many different forms besides the stereotype of a violent, forceful rape done by a stranger.
The idea any women could be raped was a new proposition that called attention to the notion of victim blaming. Now that rape could affect anyone, there would not be a proper way for men and women to avoid it. Some rape myths that were widely accepted on the basis of what kind of women would be raped were ideas that the victim was always "young, careless [and] beautiful" or they are "loose" women who "invite rape" by provoking men." Although Brownmiller's idea about victim blaming was supposed to expose rape myths thus eradicating victim-blaming, blaming the victim in rape circumstances is still a common practice.
Rape culture can manifest when third parties separate the sexual violence of select individuals and cast them off as deviant perverts rather than acknowledging that anyone can be capable of rape. In the 1960s, rapists were often seen as mentally ill or deviants in society, and this view persisted among some people into the 1990s.[further explanation needed]
Rape cases in which both parties previously knew one another has been coined as "acquaintance rape", a term first coined by Robin Warshaw in 1988, and subsequently used by prominent academics such as Mary P. Koss.
Chris O'Sullivan asserts that acts of sexism are commonly employed to validate and rationalize normative misogynistic practices. For instance, sexist jokes may be told to foster disrespect for women and an accompanying disregard for their well-being, or a rape victim might be blamed for being raped because of how she dressed or acted. O'Sullivan examines rape culture and fraternities, identifying the socialization and social roles that contribute to sexual aggression, and looks at "frat life" and brotherhood ideals of competition and camaraderie. In these groups, sex is viewed by young men as a tool of gaining acceptance and bonding with fellow "brothers", as they engage in contests over sex with women. In O'Sullivan's article, sexualized violence towards women is regarded as part of a continuum in a society that regards women's bodies as sexually available by default.
To some, the root cause of rape culture is the "domination and objectification of women". However, academic theory holds that rape culture does not necessarily have a single cause, and causes may be localized based on other social aspects of culture. Rape culture is a fluid and always-changing entity that is socially produced and socially legitimated, so throughout time and place its definitions will change. Reasoning about rape and rape culture is also influenced by gender and heterosexuality norms. For example, in South Africa the overriding "war culture", which emphasized masculinity and violence, led to a culture in which rape was normalized. A University of California Davis public document alleged that major causes of rape were the enforcement of women having to follow social rules and the conditioning of gender roles. Others say in a rape culture women are conditioned to assume responsibility for male sexuality, and gender roles are socially constructed and enforced on women through fear.
Since the late 20th century, researchers and activists have repeatedly returned to the issue of rape culture on university campuses, especially in the United States, Canada, and the U.K. Often, victims are dissuaded from reporting sexual assaults because of universities' and colleges' ambivalent reactions to rape reports and desire to suppress bad news. Victims may not want to risk stigmatization and scrutiny in their lives, especially in campus society.[non sequitur] Victim-hood is a social creation, and is associated with stigma. Definitions of what counts as "rape" and who is treated as a "genuine victim" are constructed in discourse and practices that reflect the social, political, and cultural conditions of society. For instance, rape victims may not be considered as such if it appears they did not struggle or put up a fight. Their emotional responses are observed and reported during investigations to aid in deciding if the victim is lying or not.[non sequitur] In addition, college administration officials have sometimes questioned accounts of victims, further complicating documentation and policing of student assaults, despite such preventive legislation as the Clery Act, which requires colleges to report on crimes.
Rape culture is closely related to slut-shaming and victim blaming, in which rape victims are considered at fault for being raped. Scholars argue that this connection is made due to a culture that shames all female sexuality that is not for the purpose of reproduction in a hetero-normative married household. That some victims do not report rapes to the police due to fear of not being believed is often cited as a symptom of a rape culture. 6% of women who did not report rape said it was because of fear of not being believed by police.
Victim blaming is part of a phenomenon known as 'Rape Myth Acceptance,' a term coined by researcher Martha Burt in the 1980s. It is defined as prejudicial, stereotyped or false beliefs about rape, rape victims, and rapists which can range from trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, labeling an accuser as a liar, stating that most rape accusations are false, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence, or accepting that the victim "deserved it" because she was defined as a slut. Another cause of victim blaming has been the vague understanding of what constitutes rape in the scenario of a victim wanting to have sex with the perpetrator. If a victim wants to have sex but refuses to consent to sex and the perpetrator continues, the situation would be considered rape; however, it becomes easier for others to blame the victim for the situation because he or she did "want to have sex".
Feminists frequently link rape culture to the widespread distribution of pornography, which is seen as an expression of a culture that objectifies women, reducing the female body to a commodity. Accounts of rapists often feature fusion of several pornographic motifs.
Prison rape is a topic about which jokes are abundant. Linda McFarlane, director of Just Detention International, states "Humor is part of the cultural attitude that (prison) is the one place where rape is okay."
Sexualization and sexual objectification are practices that contribute to the normalization of hyper-sexualized perceptions of women, which is a theme in rape culture. Hyper-sexualized or pornographic media is often attributed with perpetuating aggressive behaviors and attitudes supporting violence against women. Media depictions of violent sexual activity are also noted to increase behavioral aggression. Sexualizing imagery surfaces and reinforces misogynistic beliefs in some instances. This media can come in forms of movies, music, advertising, video games and more.
Consumption of pornography has shown to possibly encourage aggressive action as well. Positive associations between aggressive perceptions of women and consumption of pornography, especially violent pornography, have been found on multiple occasions. Individuals who more frequently consume pornography are more likely to engage in sexually aggressive acts or harbor sexually aggressive attitudes than others who consume less pornography or do not consume pornography at all.
Victim blaming and slut shaming
Victim blaming is the phenomenon in which a victim of a crime is partially or entirely attributed as responsible for the transgressions committed against them. For instance, a victim of a crime (in this case rape or sexual assault), is asked questions by the police, in an emergency room, or in a court room, that suggest that the victim was doing something, acting a certain way, or wearing clothes that may have provoked the perpetrator, therefore making the transgressions against the victim their own fault.
Victim blaming may also occur among a victim's peers, and college students have reported being ostracized if they report a rape against them, particularly if the alleged perpetrator is a popular figure or noted athlete. Also, while there is generally not much general discussion of rape facilitated in the home, schools, or government agencies,[where?] such conversations may perpetuate rape culture by focusing on techniques of "how not to be raped" (as if it were provoked), vs "how not to rape." This is problematic due to the stigma created and transgressed against the already victimized individuals rather than stigmatizing the aggressive actions of rape and the rapists. It is also commonly viewed that prisoners in prison deserve to be raped and is a reasonable form of punishment for the crimes they committed. Another factor of victim blaming involves racism and racial stereotypes.
Slut shaming is a variant on victim blaming, to do with the shaming of sexual behavior. It describes the way people are made to feel guilty or inferior for certain sexual behaviors or desires that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations. A study of college women from sociologists at the University of Michigan and the University of California found that slut-shaming had more to do with a woman's social class than it did with their activity. Slut shaming can create a double standard between men and women and discrimination. The SlutWalk movement aims to challenge victim blaming, slut shaming and rape culture.
Rape culture has been described as detrimental to both women and men. Some writers and speakers, such as Jackson Katz, Michael Kimmel, and Don McPherson, have said that it is intrinsically linked to gender roles that limit male self-expression and cause psychological harm to men. According to political scientist Iris Marion Young, victims in rape cultures live in fear of random acts of oppressive sexual violence that are intended to damage or humiliate the victim. Others link rape culture to modernisation and industrialisation, arguing that pre-industrial societies tend to be "rape free" cultures, since the lower status of women in these societies give them some immunity from sexual violence. In industrial rape cultures, women emerge from their homebound roles and become visible in the workplace and other areas traditionally dominated by men, increasing male insecurities that result in their using rape to suppress women.
Others also link rape culture to environmental insecurities, where men objectify women as part of their struggle to control their immediate environment. It is also linked to gender segregation, and the belief that rape proves masculinity. Other manifestations of rape culture include denial of widespread rape, institutional apathy toward the problem of rape, minimization of rape cases by government officials, and excusing rapists as social anomalies.
One concern is that the rape culture in the United States can influence juror decision-making in sexual assault trials. The result is that men who have committed sexual assault crimes may receive little to no punishment, which serves to strengthen the rape culture in the American judicial system and American society as a whole. In addition to the law as written not being put into effect in practice, legal definitions of rape have been criticized for placing a high burden of proof on victims to demonstrate non-consent. Individuals likely use legal definitions and jury convictions in their conceptualization of “real rape.” Laws, which are passed by (mostly male) lawmakers, tend to represent dominant groups' interests. Larcombe et al. posit "a legal definition of rape as non-consensual penetration achieved through unlawful force, coercion, fraud or exploitation – that is, containing a fault element that describes the tactic the perpetrator used to effect the assault – may conform more closely to social and social science definitions of rape." In contrast, in some jurisdictions (e.g. Kentucky, Connecticut, Arkansas, Alaska, Alabama) words alone are still not sufficient to legally prove non-consent, which neglects the scientific evidence that most victims experience tonic immobility during an assault.
The legal process can be so traumatizing for victims that even professionals in the area would warn someone they care about against participating.
Effects on women
According to Ann Burnett, the concept of rape culture explains how society perceives and behaves towards rape victims and rape perpetrators. For example, a number of rape myths that are held are "no means yes", women can resist rape if they really wanted to, women who are raped are promiscuous therefore "asking to be raped" and many women falsely report rape to protect their own reputations or because they are angry at the "perpetrator" and want to create a type of backlash. A theory for why rape myths are so common in society is because they are perpetuated by norms already present in society. Researchers claim that communication and language is created by the dominant patriarchy. In positions of power, men control how women are portrayed in the media, women's censorship of body and voice, etc. which forces women to submit to the gender stereotypes formed by the dominant culture. The dominance of the male language in society creates the concept of a "slutty woman" and forces women to begin to monitor their behavior in fear of how they will be perceived within the rape culture.
One effect rape culture has on women is their lack of understanding or a feeling of ambiguity surrounding the idea of consent and rape. Burnett's study followed college women's experiences of rape revealing that many students could not define what the term rape really meant, did not believe consent had to be verbal and felt sexual consent was always vague and hard to pinpoint. Along with this were people believing women who had "allegedly been raped" were "asking for it" because of how they were dressed or their flirtatious behavior. Women in the study also assumed that men expected sex in exchange for drinks or dinner bought earlier for the woman. Because of their lack of awareness of what rape was and because of how they were acting/what they were wearing, women believed they had in some way provoked the rape to happen. Some women also did not report the rape if it did not fit the stereotypical version of rape, physical injury and force committed by a stranger. When raped by someone the individual knew, women felt less inclined to label the assault as rape. They could not, therefore, report the incident or rape because they were either confused about what had happened or believed it to be their own fault.
After a rape has already occurred or after the victim acknowledged that she has been raped, women still did not report the incident because they felt it would ultimately hurt or punish them. Some reasons that women did not report their rape is because they did not want to bring attention to themselves, psychologically, they did not want to have to remember what had happened to them, and they did not want people to find out and gain a negative reputation. Because of the existing rape myths mentioned above, women knew that reporting rape could potentially make them out to be a "slut" or "easy" and garnish a reputation that would affect how others perceived them. Many women noted that they felt that they could not even admit the rape to friends and family they trusted most because they were so afraid of the repercussions. Women felt that they would not be supported, would have their validity questioned or be blamed for the incidents that happened. As a result, rape can lessen women's trust in others and make them feel isolated.
Another effect rape culture has on young women is a victim's self-reflection. After a rape, women reported feeling dirty, thought of themselves as slutty, and believed that they had "used or damaged goods." Women felt ashamed of themselves for what had happened and felt that they no longer fit the ideal "pure and virginal" stereotype that men want. Women's belief that they were somehow rotten and their feelings that no one would want to be with them after the rape created feelings of depression and anxiety amongst victims.
If women do choose to discuss their rape with others, many still remain under scrutiny unless it is proven that they are telling the truth. Men belonging to the college study reported that they felt the rape was validated if the woman had taken the accusation to court and then won. Only then was the rape taken seriously by men. Men were also more likely to victim blame than women for the rape, especially if the case was not reported. Women who chose not to tell or chose to tell only people who were close to her were often deemed liars or exaggerators when others found out about the rape. Because no legal action was attempted, onlookers often believed that the rape was "not a big deal" or "must not have happened." Without some kind of validation from a person in authority, rape, according to college students in the study, was believed to not be as prominent or affect as many women as was the reality.
Although there is a wide range of research on the consequences of sexual violence on victims, there is little information on the economic effect, especially for economically vulnerable victims such as Black and Latina women. These consequences of sexual violence disproportionately harm these specific demographics, because they make up a large portion of the group afflicted by income-poverty and asset poverty. Simply being from one of these poverty backgrounds increases the risk of sexual violence and discourages victims from reporting a rape crime as there is less confidence in the police services and there is a higher crime rate in areas of poverty.
Effects on men
"Toxic masculinity"—a concept posited by some feminist scholars—is a number of negative traits and expectations burdening men in society.
Most male rape victims would not come forward to the police or in a survey, out of feelings of shame. The male gender stereotype suggests that men should be tough enough to avoid rape, if raped by a man, or sexually driven enough to enjoy it, if raped by a woman. Men were less likely to report rape because they felt reporting it would undermine their masculinity. This was related to characteristics of submissiveness and weakness attributed to rape victims, opposite of gender stereotypes pertaining to men which focus on dominance and aggressiveness. Like female victims, male victims also fear the stigmatization associated with rape. When they do report, they are often met with disbelief, dismissiveness, or blame from police and other services. In response to this, men are less likely than women to reveal the nature of the assault having been sexual or fail to mention any genital contact. They are also more likely to deny and hide how the attack affected them emotionally. Male rape victims, in comparison to female victims, are more likely to blame themselves for the incident because they are thought to be more capable of fighting back or getting away from their attacker.
Homosexual men, similar to heterosexual women, were made to feel like they had "asked for it" based on their behavior.
Men are more likely to believe myths about rape, dismiss the situation, or become assailants themselves because of the emphasis of what it means to be masculine in society. Dianne Herman found that date rape was most likely to occur when a man had requested or initiated the date, the man paid for the date, the man drove, when drinking took place and when the couple found themselves alone. Because of the effort put into the date, men often felt entitled to some payment in the form of sexual gratification. When this did not happen, men felt it was more acceptable to rape. Herman claims that the American dating system emphasizes men as possessors of females, who can be seen as sexual objects ready to be "paid for."
Marilyn Frye has stated that to dismantle rape culture would require the undoing of more than just the normalization and tolerance of sexual assault and rape - it would require addressing gender stereotypes in a patriarchal society and relieving both genders from their pressures. In a patriarchal society, men are expected to be dominant: strong, violent, sexual, and controlling. Women are expected to be submissive: weak, passive, decorative, and controllable. Men are socialized to believe they need to prove their masculinity by taking this control and dominating women. This is not only enforced by expectations of men to be dominant but also society's discouragement of men showing any emotions, vulnerability, or sensitivity. This expectation is often traced back to cultural values of masculinity.
Countries that have been described as having "rape cultures" include Australia Canada, Pakistan, South Korea, Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
While research about rape culture has been mostly conducted in Westernized countries, particularly the United States, there are a number of other countries that have been described as "rape supportive" societies. These places have similarities to Western countries in terms of beliefs and gender stereotyping, but there are some significant differences that explain the high rate of rape and sexual assault in these less developed parts of the world.
Violence against women is typical and the norm, especially marital abuse, as it is seen as a private matter not believed to be "appropriate for intervention or policy changes". Due to cultural beliefs, spousal abuse and especially rape is rarely considered a crime. This is due to Pakistan's patriarchal society and gender roles that expect men to be violent and dominant and women to be fragile and weak. Religious norms familiar to Pakistan also embrace violence and discrimination toward women, emphasizing that women would not be able to live without men. Normalization of violence and rape against women continues to be reflected in high rates of rape in Pakistan.
Two main types of rape that are prevalent are political rapes and honor (izzat) rapes. Beyond the typical type of assault for dominance and control, comes rape with the intention of revenge. Because women are not seen as individuals but rather as objects or possessions, rape is sometimes a political move to seek revenge against an enemy. Fights and feuds are settled by raping the rival's mother, wife, daughter or sister. Honor rapes are used as a tactic to take away sometime of value belonging to the woman. Because women are seen as objects for men to possess, taking away her honor through rape diminishes her worth. The societal attitude of linking a woman’s celibacy with family honor compels her to safeguard the family’s honor in Pakistan. However, in the case of rape, instead of endeavoring to transform male-dominated, socially constructed, biased attitudes, people expect women to change by demanding that they dress modestly or restrict their activities.
Rape is rarely reported in Pakistan due to the inequality between the two genders. Women do not speak out about rape because they want to uphold their family's honor. Similar to the honor rapes where value is taken from someone's wife, rapes can dishonor entire families. Women whose rapes are found out fear being ostracized or abandoned and disowned by their families. Victims of rape that are discovered might lose their families, their husbands and their homes. They think of themselves as bayghairate, a person without honor or someone who has lost self-respect, because of what has happened and do not want to be stigmatized or humiliated by their society. Women are highly discouraged from talking or reporting about their rape because of these reasons.
One ambiguity that perpetuates the negative stereotype and reaction toward women rape victims is the blurred understanding between rape and adultery. When a married woman is raped by another man, if she reports it, the women herself has the high possibility of being charged with the crime of adultery and sent to jail. Because women are thought to be submissive and obedient to their husbands, the Pakistani culture emphasizes the need and expectation for a wife to be faithful to her husband in all circumstances. Fear of being charged and punished for their own rape makes women keep quiet about their assaults. Women who do decide to report also face the possibility that they were raped by a government official or other law enforcement officer, thus diminishing the chance of the punishment for the perpetrator and increasing the chance of punishment for the victim.
India has a rape culture rooted in both its traditional Indian culture as well as its British colonial legacy, which blames victims of rape, is sympathetic to perpetrators, and which treats women who have been raped as "damaged goods" who then suffer further afterwards. While there are laws on the books to protect victims of rape, these laws are often not enforced, especially when the perpetrator is from a more powerful caste or is wealthier than the person who was raped, there is often a failure to properly gather evidence from rape victims and to care for them afterwards, and there is little legal assistance for them. In some rural areas which operate outside the legal system the punishment for rape and murder can be something as trivial as 100 sit ups or push ups.
Historically in India, journalistic coverage of rape and sexual abuse has been limited and typically prejudiced against the victim. Women victims who reported rape were seen as people who do not believe in preserving the honor of their family. The victim often fights a lonely battle against her tormentor where justice is not delivered timely. The increase in media coverage of the 2012 Delhi gang rape case helped to draw attention to the prevalence of sexual brutality towards women in India.
In South Africa
In a study conducted by Rachel Jewkes, Yandina Sikweyiya, Robert Morrell and Kristin Dunkle, men from the three districts in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces of South Africa were surveyed about rape. The prevalence among the men was high; about 1 in 4 men had raped another person, mostly young women.
Men said they had committed rape for a number of different reasons. Many raped women and young girls for "fun" or out of boredom. Gang rapes were also quite common amongst the men, about 1 in 5 men had participated in one, which reflected the society's belief that it was common and "what boys do". Drinking and peer pressure were also common reasons for raping. A majority claimed they had raped because they were punishing the women, either acquaintances or girlfriends, for having made them angry. Sub-areas and communities saw rape as a legitimate punishment for women and reasonable under certain circumstances. Some men also had sex with very young women or virgins in order to "cleanse themselves of diseases". Young women were often targeted because they were virgins and because the men believed they were easy to overpower and would not report it. Men were not afraid of repercussions.
Researchers have attempted to explain the high rate of rape in South Africa and have connected it to the traditional and cultural norms embedded within the society. Certain norms like the belief of rape myths, the inequality between men and women, and the need to express their dominance made the rape appear justified to the assailants. Many began raping when they were young teenagers for entertainment, reflecting the notion that rape is a pastime for young men and boys.
Rape and sexual violence are also prevalent in South Africa because of confusion about what is to be regarded as rape. Certain acts of sexual coercion may not be legally distinguishable. While the criminal offense of rape is condemned by the society, many rapes or sexual assaults might not be recognized as such and thus are not thought to be unacceptable behavior.
Activist Pumla Dineo Gqola says that events like the rape trial of then Vice President and now President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma are not surprising and are a reflection of ideas of masculinity and femininity in contemporary South Africa. The high rate of rape in South Africa, combined with the inability of the criminal justice system and the healthcare system to contain the crisis, have been compared to a 'gender civil war'.[by whom?] The majority of women in South Africa are raped by people they know. It is argued[by whom?] that rape in democratic South Africa has become socially acceptable and maintains patriarchal order.
Corrective rape is a hate crime committed for the purpose of converting a gay person to heterosexuality. The term was first used in the early 2000s when an influx of these attacks were noted by charity workers in South Africa. This homophobic phenomenon and other ignorances perpetuate rape culture and put lesbian women at greater risk of rape. Intersectionality as a tool of analysis identifies that black lesbians face homophobia, sexism, racism and classism.
On 17 April 2016, a list of the names of 11 men and titled 'Reference List' was posted anonymously on Facebook. The post gave no descriptions or made any allegations. However, within a matter of time, students were able to connect what these students had in common which were rape allegations. The students demanded a suspension and investigation of the individuals on the list. The police were called to intervene in order to neutralize the protests at Rhodes University. This put rape in universities in the spotlight.
On 14 February 2012 the One Billion Rising campaign was launched globally. Its aims were to raise awareness of violence against women, to inspire action for justice and to promote gender equality. The ‘billion’ in the campaign’s title refers to the UN statistic that one in three women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime: approximately one billion women and girls. Many African countries were involved in the campaign, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Often cited as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman, South Africa’s statistics for rape and gender-based violence galvanized thousands of South Africans to rise in support of the campaign at a range of events and through various media since the campaign’s inception.
On 6 August 2016, four women staged a silent protest at the IEC results announcement ceremony. The protesters said that they could not be silent given the rape and gender-based violence in South Africa. Even though President Jacob Zuma was acquitted of the charges, the young protesters says that an acquittal does not mean the president is innocent due to the failure of the legal system.
Cultural values stemming from traditional practices still influence South African rape culture. Ukuthwala, also known as "wife abduction", is a traditional marriage practice in which a man kidnaps a young woman with the intent of convincing the girl and her family to agree to the marriage. There are examples of this happening in Hindu societies of India as well. Another belief, kusasa fumbi or sexual cleansing, is the idea that having sex cleans the body, specifically from illnesses. A more specific type cleaning would be virgin cleansing, which is the belief that having sex with a virgin will eliminate deadly diseases such HIV/AIDS. Kusasa fumbi is a reflection of the indigenous medical views of the country.
Societies without a rape culture
There are societies in which rape is not culturally acceptable, in which there is no rape culture and in which rape is almost non-existent, such as the Minangkabau of Indonesia. According to anthropologist Peggy Sanday, rape is less likely to occur within cultures that are peaceful (have low rates of interpersonal violence), promote mutual respect between the sexes, and lack an ideology of male toughness (machismo). The society of Minangkabau has an Islamic religious background of complementarianism and places a greater number of men than women in positions of religious and political power. The culture is also matrilineal, so inheritance and proprietorship pass from mother to daughter. The society of Minangkabau exhibits the ability of societies to lack rape culture without social equity of genders.
Some writers, academics and groups have disputed the existence or prevalence of rape culture or described the concept as harmful. Others believe that rape culture exists, but disagree with certain interpretations or analyses of it.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), an anti-sexual violence organizations, in a report detailing recommendations to the White House on combating rape on college campuses, identified problems with an overemphasis on the concept of rape culture as a means of preventing rape and as a cause for rape, saying, "In the last few years, there has been an unfortunate trend towards blaming 'rape culture' for the extensive problem of sexual violence on campuses. While it is helpful to point out the systemic barriers to addressing the problem, it is important to not lose sight of a simple fact: Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime." In the report, RAINN cites a study by David Lisak, which estimated that 3% of college men were responsible for 90% of campus rapes, though it is stipulated that RAINN does not have reliable numbers for female perpetrators. RAINN argues that rape is the product of individuals who have decided to disregard the overwhelming cultural message that rape is wrong. The report argues that the trend towards focusing on cultural factors that supposedly condone rape "has the paradoxical effect of making it harder to stop sexual violence, since it removes the focus from the individual at fault, and seemingly mitigates personal responsibility for his or her own actions".
Professor Camille Paglia has described concerns about rape culture as "ridiculous" and "neurotic", an artifact of bourgeois liberal ideologies that people are essentially good and that all social problems can be remedied with education. This rape culture concept is much to the detriment of young college-educated women she says. Paglia argues that said individuals are ill-prepared to anticipate or cope with the small minority of deeply evil people in the world, who simply don't care about following laws or obeying social convention. Moreover, Paglia says, feminist proponents of rape culture tend to completely ignore male victims of sexual assault.
Caroline Kitchens, in a 2014 article in Time Magazine titled "It's Time to End 'Rape Culture' Hysteria" suggested that "Though rape is certainly a serious problem, there's no evidence that it's considered a cultural norm. ...On college campuses, obsession with eliminating 'rape culture' has led to censorship and hysteria." Heather MacDonald suggested that "In a delicious historical irony, the baby boomers who dismantled the university's intellectual architecture in favor of unbridled sex and protest have now bureaucratized both." According to Joyce E. Williams, "the major criticism of rape culture and the feminist theory from which it emanates is the monolithic implication that ultimately all women are victimized by all men".
Christina Hoff Sommers has disputed the existence of rape culture, arguing that the common "one in four women will be raped in her lifetime" claim is based on a flawed study, but frequently cited because it leads to campus anti-rape groups receiving public funding. Sommers has also examined and criticized many other rape studies for their methodology, and states, "There are many researchers who study rape victimization, but their relatively low figures generate no headlines."
Sommers and others have specifically questioned Mary Koss's oft-cited 1984 study that claimed 1 in 4 college women have been victims of rape, charging it overstated rape of women and downplayed the incidence of men being the victims of unwanted sex. According to Sommers, as many as 73% of the subjects of Koss's study disagreed with her characterization that they had been raped, while others have pointed out that Koss's study focused on the victimization of women, downplaying the significance of sexual victimization of men, even though its own data indicated one in seven college men had been victims of unwanted sex. Sommers points out that Koss had deliberately narrowed the definition of unwanted sexual encounters for men to instances where men were penetrated.
Other writers, such as bell hooks, have criticized the rape culture paradigm on the grounds that it is too narrowly focused; in 1984, she wrote that it ignores rape's place in an overarching "culture of violence". In 1993 she contributed a chapter to a book on rape culture, focusing on rape culture in the context of patriarchy in black culture.
Barbara Kay, a Canadian journalist, has been critical of feminist Mary Koss's discussion of rape culture, describing the notion that "rape represents an extreme behavior but one that is on a continuum with normal male behavior within the culture" as "remarkably misandric".
Jadaliyya, an academic initiative by the Arab Studies Institute, published another critique of the concept of rape culture, stating that orientalists had appropriated the term to promote racist stereotypes of Arab and Muslim men, as well as stereotypes of South Asians in western media and academia. The critique draws connections between media reports demonizing Middle Eastern and South Asian men as "racially prone to rape" and similar tactics employed by the British as part of a racist Indophobic propaganda campaign during the 1857 rebellion casting resistance fighters as rapists.
The UN conducted its 'Multi-country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific' in 2008 in six countries across Asia. Its conclusions, published in 2013, seemed to indicate a substantial number of men in Asian countries admit to committing some form of rape. The study's general conclusion about high levels of rape have been recognized as reliable; however, questions about its accuracy perpetuate the debate about how societies perceive rape and social norms. A closer look at the study's methodology reveals questions about cultural definitions of rape, the study's sample size, survey design, and linguistic accuracy, all of which highlights ongoing challenges in trying to quantify the prevalence of rape.
SlutWalk is a feminist organization that formed in response to a public statement made by Toronto police officer Michael Sanguinetti on 24 January 2011. While addressing the issue of campus rape at a York University safety forum, Sanguinetti said that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized".
The SlutWalk movement are credited with popularizing the term via mass media reports about the protesters in the English-speaking Western media. The rallies aim to raise awareness of rape culture—which they define as a culture in which "sexual violence is both made to be invisible and inevitable"—and to end slut-shaming and victim blaming. One primary goal of this organization is to deconstruct the stigma that often comes with being a victim of rape or sexual assault. Ringrose and Renold said that "the stigma relates to the way women dress and behave, but in fact male sexual aggression is the problem". A SlutWalk that took place in London promoted several different kinds of attire including lingerie, nipple, tassels, and T-shirts with slogans to demonstrate what women wear is not a form of consent for sex. The SlutWalk of Philadelphia was rebranded as The March to End Rape Culture. The idea behind the name change is so the walk can be more inclusive and promotes more diversity in its participants, volunteers, and sponsors. The original SlutWalk took place in the city of Toronto, Ontario. Amber Rose is also a figure in the United States where she holds her annual Amber Rose SlutWalk in Los Angeles, California while also raising awareness for empowerment and the Amber Rose Foundation.
SlutWalks have taken place in some conservative Catholic countries such as Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala. According to "Sex and the Barrio" writers Edgerton and Sotirova, SlutWalk protests began in South America taking on the name "Marcha de las Putas". They are protesting the idea that women dressed in revealing clothing are asking to get raped. They held the walk in the South American capitol of Buenos Aires on 28 September 1990, a day that was named the Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America. Due to the overwhelming Catholic influence, some SlutWalks have taken on an anti-Catholic tone in response to sermons, such as the one in Costa Rica, where a leading clergyman preached that "Women should dress modestly to avoid being 'objectified'", adding that the purpose of sex is "fertilization". The march even reached the Cathedral of San Jose just as mass was concluding.
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