Rape culture is real


ANTIGONISH (CUP) ― Graham Templeton of The Peak newspaper at Simon Fraser University wrote an opinion piece stating that he was offended by the very notion of a western rape culture, calling the premise sexist.

His arguments lack insight or a nuanced understanding of the issues he disagrees with. They are offensive and detrimental to the efforts of those who are fighting to end sexual harassment and assault.

I think it’s important to define rape culture, because I don’t think Templeton understands it, or took the time to investigate the meaning. Rape culture is a culture that devalues women and victims, does not understand consent, belittles rape allegations, and pushes aside the importance of mutually enjoyable sex, consent and pleasure.

Templeton makes the argument that murder is a problem, much like sexual assault, but we don’t use the term “murder culture.”
Let’s talk numbers.

According to Statistics Canada, there were 610 homicides in Canada in 2009. University of Toronto professor Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, the author of Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities, told the Toronto Star, “Your chances of getting killed by a stranger [in Toronto] are about one in 220,000.”

Victimization data collected by Statistics Canada suggests between one in three and one in four women in Canada will be sexually abused in their lifetime. Only 10 per cent of these incidents come to the attention of police.

This is evidence of a rape culture.

Templeton argues: “… We’re told that it’s not that rape is overtly condoned, but that there is a bubbling subtext just below the surface of every facet of our society that supports and normalizes misogyny and forgiveness for violence against women. It is the statement that male sexuality is, by definition, violent and predatory.”

I do not believe that the “basal psychology of males” is responsible for rape. I separate “man” from “masculinity” and “woman” from “femininity.” Men are taught masculinity. Masculinity is a set of cultural characteristics, values, and behaviours that contribute to a culture where using sexual force over women is permissible and often expected.

According to traditional heterosexual scripts, sex begins when a penis becomes erect and ends when male ejaculation occurs. Female pleasure is often secondary, less important, and rarely discussed.

In Yes means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, Thomas MacAulay Miller argues that women are often framed as guardians over their own sexuality and men strive for access to this “commodity.”

In other words, men “get some” while women “give it away.” This nurtures a culture of rape.

There are the extreme examples like The Game and other books that reduce women to prey and dating to crude, exploitative hunting.

The double standard of slut/stud, or even the notion that men initiate sex more than women, reinforces the concept that women must guard their sexuality, while men can’t be helped.

Templeton is eager to provide his own example of a double standard.

“Young boys are deluged with education designed to keep them from becoming rapists, because the rapist is assumed to be the basal psychology of the male. There are, strangely, no information sessions teaching young girls how not to exploit sexuality for their own ends,” he writes. “If the latter of these ideas offends you, then think very carefully about just how similar it is to the former. To call someone a rapist is infinitely more serious than to call them a slut, unless our rape-culture activists have completely devalued the term.”

Where is the deluge of education for boys? Since when is it easy for men to talk about healthy sexuality? Navigating the world of sexuality and gender is not easy for young men, but generally people shrug events off and say “boys will be boys.”

On the other hand, TV and popular magazines teach girls that sluts are bad people.

Templeton uses the word slut to allude to women who “exploit their sexuality.” Is this not taking power away from women who do have a strong sense of their own sexuality? Does it not debase those women who take (just a little too much) joy in sex? Women who subvert the gender norms and expectations that ensures male dominance? Once women discover that not only does “no mean no” but “yes means yes,” do they become sluts? Once the focus is placed on something other than male pleasure, and women take control of their own sexual pleasure, do they become sluts?

Calling a woman a slut is a desperate attempt to strengthen the male stranglehold on gender norms. Templeton is simply contributing to the silence and shame surrounding sexual violence of any kind.

Addressing rape culture is not easy. It is much easier to tell women to not walk alone, to stay away from certain areas, to watch their drinks, to not wear certain clothes and to not “lead men on.” All of this well-intended advice is simply another form of victim blaming that most women contend with every day.

Though there are pockets of people who think as Templeton does, there are rich, vibrant communities of people across the country who want to empower women, who acknowledge that sex and pleasure matter and who want to include men in their efforts. That I count such individuals as friends is a pleasure I’ll indulge in all I want, thank you very much.

Jean Ketterling
Xaverian (St. Francis Xavier)

1 comment

  1. george bailey 3 October, 2011 at 18:37

    Damn, this is a very sensitive subject.
    According to Jean, “Masculinity is a set of cultural characteristics, values, and behaviours that contribute to a culture where using sexual force over women is permissible and often expected”. First off, I’m thrilled to see that somebody else uses serial commas. Secondly, what? That’s a rather rude and twisted definition. Humphrey Bogart would be rolling around in his grave if he weren’t cremated. No, I’m certain he would lean towards Wikipedia’s view on this one, where, apparently, “In many cultures, the basic characteristics of masculinity include physical prowess (strength, fitness, and a lack of laziness), courage, wisdom, and honorable or righteous behavior”. Although, he’d probably have explained this to someone over the course of a fine, personal, evening meal by candlelight, rather than turning the horrible issue of rape into (primarily) polarized, self-righteous gender wars like Jean and Graham have done.
    Just because some men mistake the feeling of sexual dominance with masculinity does not mean that masculinity is a characteristic of rapists. No, these are people who fuck the definition of masculinity up in order to meet their self-esteem bar more easily, just like Jean has done in order to justify a few of the angry things she says. They lower their standards for what a “real man” acts like, going from Wikipedia’s definition to hers.
    Now, I wrote a 1000 word critique of Jean and Graham, and it too was frequently/needlessly rude. To sum it up, Graham shows how absurd, sexist, and anti-male the term Rape Culture is, both in its definition, name, and use. Please look it up, and decide for yourself if the name fits the definition. He thinks it blows the issue out of proportion. Graham feels butthurt, so he seeks to take the source down a peg or two. He comes off as insensitive in doing this, though he saves a bit of face by acknowledging the existence of victim-blaming, which is included in the definition of rape culture, but he may as well have left it out, because Jean clearly zoned out for that paragraph. That, or she didn’t bother to look up his article to see what was and was not removed when the article was reprinted for distribution at her university.
    Jean has the unfortunate role as the counter-arguer, so her article is more likely to be angry, and thus easier to find issues with. She touches on a bunch of little things that are easy to agree with/difficult to disprove, in spite of the at-times sporadic flow. She uses a few statistics which help her argument, but also show how defensive and adult-female-centric she is (though in the beginning of the article, she tries to redefine Rape Culture so that it applies to more than just females). She mentions neither prison rape nor child abuse. I don’t suppose she needs to, as the point of her article is to counter Graham’s. She makes some baseless claims that make her seem silly, unless she grew up as a young man who had trouble “navigating the world of sexuality and gender”. I do agree that men benefit from this so-called Rape Culture, though. At least, until they go to prison for hurting women (as they should), and are beyond the realm of concern of Rape Culture activists. And hey, all the power to her for indulging in whatever she’s referring to in her final paragraph, as we all have our own pleasures that some may not understand, or tease us for (like pokemon games, yoga, or porn…never at the same time). I don’t think Graham believes female sexual pleasure is wrong, but instead that the effects that come from saying “you are a male, so you are selfish when it comes to sexuality” shifts the targets of sexual/psychological harm from one group to another, rather than attempting to end it entirely. Graham’s belief is that Rape Culture activists are sexist. Jean seems to reinforce that belief, rather than counter it.
    I agree with both of them on some of their points. These two have the passion and courage necessary to show many other people what they think, but lack the maturity to consider compromise and mutual understanding. Cuz they mad.
    The fact that Rape Culture is defined with females as the sole victims is completely fucked, if you ask me. The theory itself is fair and very warranted, but the name just bothers me. There are several terms already in existence that are defined with females as the victims, and creating a term that seems to have a large scope, but really is about a single group of victims, is more than a little bit arrogant. Doing so implies that when women become victims of sexual assault, humiliation, and objectification, and are sometimes blamed for such treatment, it is significantly more foul than when it happens to children, animals (it happens), and men. Wait, does that sound familiar? Giving one distinct group a higher value than another…hmmm there ought to be a word for that, because sexist just doesn’t do it justice. There is no hope for seeing sexism end so long as sexist terms and arguments are used in discussions about it. It’s like fighting fire with gasoline.
    Damn, I was done, and then I thought of a group of people whom Jean ought to beg the forgiveness of every single November 11th until she has stopped being a pseudo-intellectual.
    Consider the soldiers of the past who risked their lives so that their family, friends, and innocent strangers could have better futures. Granted, wars are often started by selfish, power-hungry men, but they need good men and women to fight their wars.These men and women were, and are, masculine as fuck. Of course, some get carried away and commit vile acts, but only because they lost their way and removed the "honourable" part from their definition of the word "masculine". Anyways, Jean doesn't consider the examples set by truly masculine people. By attempting to tear down that which has led millions of men and women to selflessly sacrifice themselves, Jean sets herself up as an easy target for war veterans. You know, people who ought to be respected. I guess Jean needs to look that up. Maybe her, Graham, and I should have a wikipedia-referencing session and talk about more shit that doesn't matter, considering there's an island of garbage in the Pacific that's the size of Texas, and millions of people will die this year in poverty while the three of us live hunger-free in a grossly obese culture.

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