The Patriarchy, Sexual Violence and the Normalization of “Rape Culture”

“Rape culture is a culture in which survivors of a violent crime are expected to laugh about it because others think it’s funny”–the author of Go Forth and Agitate on tumblr

 

We hear the words all the time.  “Rape culture”.  It’s a term devised to describe the social norms that seemingly permit and perpetuate the prominence of rape and sexual assault today.  When I tell people that 1 in 5 women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime in the US, I get looks of shock.  “That can’t be,”, will be the response, or “I’m sure it’s not that high”.

Ladies and gentlemen and other genders not specified here…it is that high.

1 in 5 during her life.

1 in 4 during college.

Why is this happening in the United States?  And what does the Patriarchy have to do with it?

I swear, it’s not just that I like to blame the Patriarchy for things.  But in a system that emphasizes male dominance, there is no arena in which this is more evident than the sexual arena, unfortunately.  And in a society that equates masculinity with male sexuality all too frequently, there arises a severe problem that comes from the assumption that exercising one’s sexuality makes one a man.  The assumption, therefore, that a man is “owed” sex or “should” be having sex because he is a man serves to contribute to the problem of sexual violence in society today.

“But Rape’s Not About Sex, It’s About Dominance”

This is completely true, it IS about dominance.  It’s about control.  But unfortunately, sex becomes an arena in which control is a major factor at play.  On top of that, control and dominance are ALSO traits equated with sex.  When these lines get crossed and control and sexual prowess become the defining factors (or some of the defining factors) of masculinity, we create an environment that fosters the rise of sexual violence.

“But What About Female Perpetrators?”

Female perpetrators exist.  Male victims exist.  I’m not denying that.  This post is not denying that.  So before anyone jumps down my throat, YES, I know they exist.  But 1) They’re far less common, and a minority can’t define a culture, and 2) even female perpetrators are still acting on this desire for control and domination-~-which are the traits that have been emphasized as desirable by the patriarchal system in which we live.  There are women complacent in the Patriarchy.  When these are the traits deemed desirable-~-when this is what defines a winner, this is what we have elevated-~-it impacts the behaviors of men and women alike.

“It’s About Power, Not This ‘Entitlement’ Crap”

Isn’t it?

I want you to pause for a minute and recall what kind of rape is most common.  It’s not violent aggravated rape.  It’s not gang rape.  It’s acquaintance rape.  It’s date rape.  And it comes from a belief that sex is owed, that there is an entitlement to it, and that it can therefore be taken, regardless of how the victim feels about it.  Stop thinking of rape just as isolated instances of violence between strangers.  It’s not.  It happens within the context of relationships.  It happens between friends.  It happens between people who trusted each other.

And it’s all the more tragic because of this.

“And Victim Blaming?”

Victim blaming is SO CLEARLY a product of this absurd patriarchal mentality in which the blame is somehow shifted FROM the perpetrator TO the victim.  This is because women are painted as having tempted men into sex, or leading them on, placing themselves in dangerous situations.  This mentality IGNORES the fact that rape is about control and disregards the fact that if men did not feel entitled to sexual gratification, it wouldn’t be a big deal if a woman changed her mind or wasn’t interested.  Instead, society has ingrained in men the idea that this is in fact a part of being a man, and it has led to the patterns of behavior that we see in society today.

You and I live in a society where fraternities ask brothers who they’d want to rape in surveys, where university health centers tell victims that they “don’t believe them” because their rape statistics would look worse, where a community can point to an 11 year old girl and say she didn’t do enough to stop the people who gang raped her.  You and I live in a society that has normalized the idea that sex is something that SHOULD be given, to the point that it is no longer respected when people choose not to give it.  (Not that it is respected when they choose to give it, either).  You and I live in a society where 1 in 5 women will be the victim of a sexual assault crime at some point in her life.

You and I live in a society that needs to change.

~ by Randi Saunders on April 24, 2012.

One Response to “The Patriarchy, Sexual Violence and the Normalization of “Rape Culture””

  1. Reblogged this on Thabomophiring's Blog.

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