Rape Culture: What About the Guys?

We can talk about victim-blaming until Camila Paglia rots in her grave, but that conversation’s been done millions of times. We have Slut Walks, we have the Vagina Monologues, we have Take Back the Night. Each empowering, all vaguely problematic. But they don’t really address one of the hardest dialogues when we talk about rape culture.  There exist men like those in the University of Vermont’s Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter, who recently were pressured to answer in a survey written by and for their frat, “If could rape someone, who would it be?”

If that doesn’t make your heart jump in your throat, there’s probably something wrong with you.

This is the most casual reference to rape I have ever heard. What does that mean? Why was this accepted by the young men in the frat? Is the dialogue about rape between young men so desensitized that rape has become integrated into a subversive yet accepted act that it is not stigmatized?

There exist young men who claim to have “raped that physics exam,” there exist men who assure their brethren that “no means yes, and yes means anal.” There exist the 16 to 20 percent of men who answered a UCLA survey admitting that they would commit rape if they were assured that they wouldn’t get caught. One in six college-aged men admitted that they would rape somebody.  And that number only grew when the wording was changed from “rape” to “force.” 15 percent of men surveyed confessed past instances during which they used force in order to engage in intercourse and one in four women have been raped, one in five while in college. A mere 2 – 3 percent of all men who rape outside of marriage go to prison for their crimes.

Casual references to rape, like the one included in SigEp’s survey allow rape to seem common, accepted, and even naturalize sexual assault.  This idea that it is natural for men to rape isn’t just incorrect; it’s damaging. After all, most men don’t commit sexual assault.  As Kimmel puts it, rape culture is a product of “misinformation (beliefs about other guy’s sexual activity) meets disinformation (date rape myths).”

Date rape myths are alarmingly common. These are the notions that drunk women are “fair game,” that somebody’s short skirt gives their consent despite what they verbally express. These are the myths that say that women will say no when they mean yes – and that gives the dominating half in the sexual relationship license to “take what they deserve.” These date rape myths blame women and do nothing to move the conversation forward.

There is also misinformation. Most college-aged men believes that their peers are getting much more ass than they really are.  This fiction creates a pressure on the average guy – he thinks that his worth as a man is directly correlated with how much sex he has. And if he, like most male students, thinks he’s getting less than his peers, than most men think that they have some catching up to do, lest remain inadequate.

The frat boy is a curious being, a creature exploring the first time in human history what it means to be a fully-grown adult without any actual responsibilities. They band up, at once enforcing homosociality and homophobia (I was once unlucky enough to spend more than five minutes at my college’s Delta Tau Delta’s chapter house, and the amount of times that I heard the word “faggot” seems impossible).  These young men seem just as lost as the college-aged women who are painted as “victims” of this rape culture. The young, heterosexual men want to sleep with women, but do not value the women who give enthusiastic consent.  A “good girl,” the kind you take home to meet your parents, is one who squirms away from sex. She says no when she means, “try again.” Does this girl actually exist? I’m sure, but she is a direct product of rape culture, and I hope that one day soon she will be encouraged to make decisions for her self and enjoy sex, if she decides to have it.  Feminism calls for equality in sexual autonomy. Let’s rewrite the anti-rape movement’s dialogue, not “no means no” but “yes means yes.” Consent shouldn’t be implied; it should be excitedly shared between all parties in a sexual relationship.

This narrative of the rape-apologist purports sex as something to be stolen from women – the good ones will push the man away until they in. They do not value a woman’s decision to make autonomous, positive sexual choices.  This is a direct reaction to feminism, rape culture, our sexually repressive puritanical history, and the newfound “young adulthood.”

And it’s in my own backyard. This past spring, my Big State University in central Florida (Go Knights!) investigated allegations of our Delta Upsilon chapter secretly plied members of a sorority with date-rape drugs as a part of a game. Apparently, two of the brothers gave Rohypnol to random members of a sorority so that they brothers could “guess” who was drugged at the end of the night. These allegations have never been proven, but I was unable to find any information on the follow-up investigation. UCF’s Delta Upsilon fraternity is under a “general suspension” from nationals, and is “not allowed to participate in socials where alcohol may be present.”

And I’m not blaming frats – I have plenty of friends in Greek life that understand consent and experience only positive growth within their brotherhood. This is just two members of a much larger frat, and it isn’t fair to allow a few young men to define a generation.

It is only until everybody fights back that we can achieve this. Why didn’t my school’s affected sorority make a fuss? We must demand a revision of the college-aged male. We must promote a healthy sexuality, the idea of enthusiastic consent, and to honestly respect our fellow students. I don’t want to have live on a campus that I do not feel safe on.  But first we must dismantle rape culture.

Works Cited:

Midura, Kyle. “Offensive Survey May Spell End of Fraternity.” WCAX. 13 Dec. 2011. Web. <http://www.wcax.com/story/16319176/offensive-survey-may-spell-end-of-fraternity&gt;.

Kustura, Katie. “DU Frat Accused of Roofie Attempts.” Central Florida Future. University of Central Florida, Apr. 2011. Web. <http://www.centralfloridafuture.com/mobile/du-frat-accused-of-roofie-attempts-1.2523087&gt;.

Kimmel, Michael S. Guyland: the Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. New York: Harper, 2008. Print.

Beneke, Tim. “Men on Rape.” Men’s Lives. 8th ed. Allyn & Bacon. Print.

~ by Hayley Cavataro on December 20, 2011.

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