What rape culture?


BURNABY, B.C. (CUP) — I am offended.

I so rarely get to say that, since being offended has a lot to do with self-identification as a victim and, as a middle-class white male, I really don’t have much opportunity to feel that way. However, the allegation that we live in some sort of “rape culture” offends me. It is a statement both empirically wrong and deeply sexist.

In and around the “SlutWalk” movement, I’ve heard a lot of talk about how we, as a society, have a tendency to blame the victim in cases of rape. This is utter nonsense. Ironically, SlutWalk is itself the perfect illustration of exactly how flawed this premise really is: one cop makes one stupid, misogynistic comment, and thousands take to the streets in protest. Is this your rape culture?
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, formerly one of the most influential men in the world, has been utterly ruined by just the allegation that he is a rapist. Is this your rape culture?

Our government invests enormous amounts of money in social programs for abused women, our universities carve out whole faculties for echo-chamber conversations about rape prevention, and our TV stations are legally required to air public service announcements about how “No Means No.” Is this your rape culture?

Now, never let it be said that sexual assault isn’t a real problem – but really, so is murder. I’ve yet to hear the allegation that we live in a culture of murder. Additionally, there are unquestionably real incidents of victim blaming. The biggest recent example is the near-total forgiveness granted to filmmaker Roman Polanski by the mental midgets of the Hollywood set. However, to say that these cases make our culture a rape culture takes levels of self-pity I almost can’t imagine. It saddens me that there is a very strong and vocal movement asking every woman alive to think of the world as hostile to her, to think of herself as constantly in danger, constantly under attack. Walking with a sign that says “Stop the raping” implies that somewhere there is a group of people whose agenda is, indeed, to prolong the raping.

We don’t tell Jews that, because the KKK exists, they live in a culture of anti-Semitism. We don’t tell soldiers that, because of the Westboro Baptist Church, the world is happy to see them die.

These days, the argument has largely retreated behind the unassailable walls of interpretive analysis. In this framework of apologetics, 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. To reduce a woman’s psychology to such a mechanistic level would be bigotry of the highest order.

Of course, the perpetrators of this rape-culture myth are far too timid to ever take their own thinking to its logical conclusion. 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. 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.

Additionally, think about what it does to young boys, to have their budding sexuality constantly (and I do mean constantly) compared to rape. It is really all that different from the cultural shaming of girls for their sexual impulses?

In short, the SlutWalk movement teems with the implication that I, as a man, must march through the streets with a sign reading “I am not a rapist” or else be assumed to be a rapist. It’s sexism in its purest form.

You know which places have a culture of rape? Saudi Arabia. Liberia. Congo. Those cultures do more to facilitate rape than simply having men within them.

If the existence of rape, however infrequent, is all that is necessary to continue the assumption that we live in a rape culture, then we will, forever and always, live in a rape culture.

Graham Templeton
The Peak (Simon Fraser University)


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