“Rape Culture” by Deborah Rios

The definition of rape is unlawful sexual activity and sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against a person’s will.  And, sexual activity with a person who is beneath a certain age, e.g., statutory rape.  There is also sexual activity with a person incapable of valid consent due to mental illness or mental deficiency, e.g., a person who suffers from mental retardation. Rape is also defined as sexual activity with an individual who is incapable of valid consent due to intoxication or unconsciousness.  The final definition of rape is rape by deception, e.g., “let’s go into this shed, I’ve got something cool to show you.  Next to murder, rape is the most heinous crime one human being can visit upon another human being.

During the Medieval era, when a woman was raped, the chips were stacked against her.  Women had no legal rights when raped, this is because women were treated as chattel or the property of men, e.g. the husband, the father or guardian of the woman.  If the crime of rape occurred, the laws of the time would protect the owner of the property by treating the rape as a damages case.  Any monies paid would go to the husband or guardian of the victim, this was because protecting the reputation of the husband and protecting the family name was more important than the trauma of the victim.  Additionally, the victim would be punished.  The wife would be labeled an adulteress and she would be put away by her husband.  If the victim was a virgin, she would be sent to a nunnery.  This occurred despite the fact that the victim was an unwilling participant of rape.

There is also a socio-economic component to the crime of rape.  Prior to the thirteenth century, women who were raped were able to receive some form of justice as long as they belonged to the privileged classes.  If a woman was part of the monarchy or the wife of a member of the aristocracy, her claims of rape would be believed.  Her attacker would be brought to justice and proper punishment would be applied.  If the victim of a rape during this time in history were a commoner, that victim would not see justice.  This is because the law for commoners and poor people were different from those of the privileged classes.  Rape victims of the lesser classes were expected to fight to the death in order for their claims of rape to seem plausible.  The law mandated distrust of the victim, judges instructed jurors to be skeptical of a charge of rape and prosecutors were forced to come up with additional evidence to substantiate the victim’s account of the attack.  This history reveals that men were getting away with rape for centuries while the law maintained an indifferent stance toward this crime.  This type of legal obscurity is the basis of rape culture in our current society.

Rape culture is defined as a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing rape, sexual assault and abuse.  To this day global laws toward rape remain ambiguous.  Many are still getting away with rape.  This is due to rape culture, a destructive social concept that runs rampant on a global level.

The term, rape culture was initially coined in 1975 by feminists who wanted to bring awareness of the normalization and trivialization of rape and sexual assault.

Rape culture can be traced as far back as 900 B.C. via the writings of mythology in Ancient Greek society.  An example of the rape culture in Greek mythology is when Zeus, the god of gods raped one of the Gorgon sisters while she was in the temple of Athena.  Having discovered what had occurred in her temple, Athena, too afraid to confront Zeus, blamed Zeus’ victim.  The result was that the Greek goddess transformed the rape victim into Medusa, a hideous monster of Greek mythology with snakes for hair.  Athena further cursed the victim by making her so hideous that whomever gazed at her would turn into stone.  This is reflective of the blame the victim mentality of rape culture.

Rape culture contributes to the prevalence of rape and sexual assault.  While there are many elements that fuel rape culture, there exist three main elements that do the most harm.  These elements are media, pop culture and the pornographic industry.

Media uses sex to sell their product, e.g., the American Eagle billboard that depicts a young man holding apart the legs of a female and the Dolce & Gabbana advertisement which illustrates a young man holding down a woman while she in a vulnerable position in the presence of male onlookers.  Even magazines such as Cosmopolitan clad their front covers with barely dressed fashion models and celebrity figures in order to make profit.

Pop culture also feeds the rape culture mentality by means of music videos showing women skimpily clothed and portraying characters that like being abused and dominated by their male sexual counterparts, e.g., Blurred lines by Robin Thicke.

The pornographic industry especially contributes to rape culture by producing “snuff” films and other rated -X material that encourage the degradation of women in all sorts of manner, e.g., films on female bondage and gang rape.

The above-mentioned elements contribute to rape culture by portraying women as sex objects and sending the erroneous message that men can do whatever they want to women and is a contributing factor towards the crime of rape at  in the United States.

The crime of rape can be halted by dismantling rape culture.  This calls for mandatory education on the effects of the crimes of rape and sexual assault.   This would include instructing society on the trauma and devastation these transgressions bring upon the victims and their families.  U.S. society must be taught that these violations wreak havoc on the family unit and once there is destruction of the family unit, society is doomed.

There must also be re-education on a micro level concerning the sexist attitude men have towards women.  This re-education is imperative lest the sons of such men become influenced by this attitude towards women.  This influence can lead young men to objectifying women and potentially to the crime of rape.  This micro level of education would also teach girls and young women that rape and sexual assault are not trivial nor are they normal.  Should any such violations occur to them, they should know that they have the right and the obligation to report the offence.

The concept of rape culture can be countered, and the prevalence of rape and sexual assault lessened by instituting effectual laws that will that will encourage victims to come forward and report the attacks against their persons.  Additionally, stringent punishment of the perpetrators of such offences must be enforced.  At present, punishment is too lax on the perpetrators of such heinous acts, e.g., Brock Turner, who served only three months in the Santa Clara county jail for the crimes of rape and sexual assault.  This sentence by Judge Aaron Persky, the judge who presided over the People v. Brock case, is an effrontery to women and survivors of sexual violence all over the world.

Conclusively, in order to cleanse global society of rape culture, there must exist the acceptance that women and men are socially, economically and intellectually each other’s equal.  This can be accomplished through education and time, as the less educated generations die out and the better educated generations are born.


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