Hey guys I’m talking about a very serious topic and one that I hold close to my heart. I just wanted to post this trigger warning. In my essay I talk about rape and sexual assault. If you are unable to continue reading because of a past experience my heart goes out to you and I hope that you heal and have the support you deserve!
Nowadays, commenting on a “chick” wearing a tank top and some shorts aloud to your buddies seems like no big deal. The harsh reality is that you can be contributing to “rape culture” and not even know it. Rape culture is, “a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.” (Merriam Webster) But, rape culture is so much more than normalizing rape. Calling out others on the way they choose to dress or exhibit their sexuality is rape culture. A vast amount of people can agree that rape is a horrific unforgivable crime. But, if you were to ask those same people their thoughts on the severity of catcalling they’d probably think you’re some “feminazi”. The oversexualization of women through the use of grooming, “slut shaming,” and the lack of education perpetuates rape culture. However, some people don’t believe that rape culture is a problem at all. They tribute the phrase as propaganda. Rape culture can be normalized and socially accepted to the point that people don’t even know they’re contributing to the problem or that the problem even exists.
In an article from The Commentary Magazine, Heather Wilhelm writes to discredit the campus rape statistic (one in five or one in four women will be raped). She makes the point that the statistic doesn’t solely include rape it includes groping and flashing, less serious offenses. (Wilhelm 25) Wilhelm also wrote that there is over 50 pending cases reported by men claiming they were railroaded by false rape charges. The statistic may span to all areas of sexual assault but can we really say that rape culture is a lie? Rape culture IS groping and flashing, it is rape, it is the objectification of women. Just because a statistic for campus rape is a tad off doesn’t mean that rape culture is a myth. Rape culture is more than a statistic just as every life is more than a piece of data. I agree that the miswording of the statistic makes it difficult for everyone on either side of the topic to understand, but it does not falsify rape culture. False claims do happen but is it fair to throw compassion out the door when dealing with any potential victim? I loathe those who make false claims because it not only ruins another human’s life but it allows for articles such as Wilhelms’ to draw attention away from victims. It’s hard to bridge the gap between those who believe a change must occur and those who are on the fence about rape culture when false statistics are thrown around. There is no doubt that the misinformation disrupts the link between a solution but through educating the next generation and desexualizing our women and children the link can be repaired.
Sexualization is not a new concept. The millennial generation pokes fun at old ads where they plaster women half naked to advertise beer. There is also the saying, “sex sells” which is what marketing companies have capitalized on for the past few decades. This generation has seen the sexualization of women soar. Universities aim to educate about sexual violence but the problem doesn’t begin there; From a young age girls are sexualized and society approves! In a young female study by Maddy Coy, she writes that “63 per cent considered “glamour model” and 25 per cent “lap dancer” their ideal profession from a list of choices including teacher, [and] doctor.’” (Coy 376) Women aren’t encouraged to pursue options that are normally male dominated because it’s not feminine. “Young women’s options for developing intellectual, athletic, creative identities that do not embrace hyper-femininity are stunted—a process that Lamb and Brown (2006, p. 20) refer to as ‘girl typing’.” (Coy 375) Once a girl is “girl typed” her options in sports and other activities classified as not feminine are limited. Girls who come from places where support is scare rarely find support to do “unwomanly” activities. “Grooming” is a term used to describe how sexual predators train their young victims to behave and think. Younger sisters, daughters, and granddaughters are being groomed by society to essentially become victims. When people sexualize young girls, they teach girls that their sexuality is all they have to offer. So, when something such as sexual assault or harassment comes about later on in their life people are able to normalize it and say, “Oh well, it just happens.” Sexual Violence is not something that should ever “just happen.” Girls shouldn’t be pressured by society to be sexual beings from age nine and society shouldn’t allow that type of pressuring. The culture is ALWAYS changing, and it is time for a change. We shouldn’t allow a culture that pimps out little girls, tells nine year olds to strive for sexy, and scolds them for having self-confidence to exist for another day! Grooming young men is allowing them to think of and treat girls from a young age as sexual beings. Grooming is also used on young men which then leads to “toxic masculinity.” (Posadas 178) Toxic Masculinity is the term for boys will be boys and it shows that western culture teaches men far differently than their women when it comes to sexuality. (Posadas 178) Assistant Professor Jeremy Posadas teaches religious studies at a college near Austin, Texas. (Posadas 179) He writes that the problem with western culture lies in the fact that people refuse to see the problem with western culture itself. (Posadas 178) Boys should be held responsible for all their actions just as women, however when a society normalizes sexual violence it promotes the idea that a certain gender has a get out of jail free card.
“Slut shaming” is a popular term used to describe people who shame others for having sex. Whatever one may choose to do with their own body, it is their choice; They should not be criticized for embracing their sexuality and being confident in their own skin. In the Hackman study, the group of women were implying that because some girls choose to have multiple partners they will be victims of sexual assault. (Hackman 702) Using someone’s sexuality and confidence against them is another contributing factor to rape culture. Many people have problems with developing self-confidence and more often than not we see confidence problems with women. Women are left feeling degraded and even less confident than they were before because people belittle their sexual encounters or criticize the way they choose to dress. We are all entitled to our own opinions but to shame someone for expressing themselves is slut-shaming and it leads to the nasty rape culture epidemic we see today. Everyone should be able to wear whatever they feel comfortable in without criticism or FEAR. Unfortunately, rape culture has taken a toll on creativity, people are afraid to be judged and people are afraid to express themselves. I refuse to live in a society where I would be ridiculed and harassed for wearing fuzzy Christmas socks. Now this is not the case but replace “fuzzy Christmas socks” with “tank tops” “shorts” or “a bikini,” this is what many women live on a daily basis. They live a life where they are told catcalling is a compliment and to make sure their shorts aren’t “too” short. Condescending voices echo in the minds of women who are mocked for every outfit choice. Slut-shaming is more than name calling, someone else’s sexual encounters should have nothing to do with any of us! If only our society could focus on watering the flowers of our mind which is our curiosity, creativity, and intelligence, rather than focus on how many people a woman has slept with. Imagine that.
College students are well aware of the epidemic regarding sexual violence however, they don’t realize their actions and thoughts are what indeed allows rape culture to prosper. In various studies, participants subtlety victim blame. The group of women participants said that women who party excessively and dress more revealing are the ones who have problems regarding sexual violence. (Hackman 702) This is the first red flag when talking about rape culture and sexualization because women should never sexualize each other. “Nested within the social construction of gender norms, the sexualization of girls and women negatively impacts individual, interpersonal, and societal levels of social interaction.” (Moloney and Pelehach 2014, Abstract) Sexualization is diminishing social interaction, it’s no wonder why even women don’t see a problem with blaming victims. This is why education in ethics is not only important at universities but other pre-university schooling as well. If taught from a young age all the do’s and don’ts of how to deal with sexual violence then young people will understand how to handle unfortunate situations and not allow rape culture to take the world by storm. Education paired with compassion and empathy will give a platform to ending rape culture.
The lack of education whether it be because of religion, status, or other reasons begs for a change. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is what it takes to make a change that’ll last. Showing any amount of empathy for fellow human beings is how to fix this broken culture. Melissa Breger, a law school professor writes, about normalizing rape throughout modern day culture. (Breger 42) She identifies that implicit bias affects America because it is one of the only modern societies that implicitly accepts violence against women. (Breger 42) It’s odd that such an advanced civilization with hover boards, electric cars, and smart phones, turns a blind eye and believes violence against women is typical. The severity of this social decay falls on deaf ears. It’s normalized to the point where women are too scared to come forward. It’s overlooked to the point where women feel insecure about wearing shorts when it’s one hundred degrees outside. Normalizing rape is something you hear about in countries such as Pakistan, Iraq, and Nepal but it’s happening right here. Education does not involve only schooling but it involves how parents teach their children to react to those of the opposite gender. A powerful video by Mayim Bialik points out that mothers don’t set out to raise their sons to disrespect women but, they do have an opportunity to now prevent it. In an interview with Allison Tate,
“The actress told TODAY Parents that she knows her sons will, at certain developmental stages of life, be hormonally motivated by a desire for sex. “That’s not a bad thing,” she said, but “using girls and women for sex or being insincere about your interests for the purpose of using someone for sex” is what she is discouraging. She is trying to teach them how to approach sex in a healthy way for both them and their future partners, she explained.”
Teaching them that people are free to express themselves however they choose and that no one is entitled to anyone’s body are key points that need not be avoided in this day and age. Today’s generation was involuntarily taught habits that now perpetuate rape culture and we can see it in the outcry.
There was a large event called, “A Day Without a Woman,” which was broadcasted through social media platforms on March 8th 2017. The purpose of the event was to draw attention to everyday things women have an impact on. The event urged those to wear red in support of equal rights for; Immigrants, African Americans, and LQBTQIA, along with support for ending violence, protecting the environment, and Disability rights. The Washington post revealed that, “The Women’s March on Washington was likely the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history.” The post also revealed that there were around 653 reported marches in the United States alone. Chenoweth and Pressman wrote, “In total, the women’s march involved between 3,267,134 and 5,246,670 people in the United States (our best guess is 4,157,894). That translates into 1 percent to 1.6 percent of the U.S. population of 318,900,000 people.” 3,267,134 to 5,246,670 people showed their support because they believe that something is wrong with how minorities, women, and the LQBTQIA are presently being treated. Rape culture is around because we allow minorities, women, and the LQBTQIA to be openly mistreated. This horrible culture feeds off of the uneducated youth and misguided America. I am incredibly moved by the number of people who see a broken culture, a culture that was shaped by allowing violence against women. Now that people know they are not alone in striving for a better tomorrow I believe that a change is in motion.
Sexualizing women shouldn’t be the norm just as grooming eight-year-old girls shouldn’t be normal. Rape culture sinks hooks into the idea that women should be sexy but not too sexy. Living an impossible paradox everyday would be enough to push anyone to the breaking point but women persevere. Through the use of grooming, slut-shaming, and lack of education, the oversexualization of women fuels rape culture. Accidental stereotypes are projected on young girls and last a lifetime. A critical or rude comment about a personal subject such as sexual partners or clothing choices hurts more than people know. The lack of awareness and education is evident in the ongoing epidemic we call, rape culture. There is no perfect solution just as there is no guarantee rape culture can be ended, but I am certain if society is able to take a step back and desexualize women, rape culture will find it very hard to exist.
Thanks for reading guys! I would love to hear your opinion on this shoot me a comment!
Breger, Melissa L. “Transforming Cultural Norms of Sexual Violence against
Women.” Journal of Research in Gender Studies, no. 2, 2014, p. 39.
Professor Breger has taught at Albany Law School for over 18 years. In her journal she examines how individuals have become complacent and lenient in a culture that normalizes violence towards women, whether it be sexual or domestic abuse. (Breger 2014, p. 39) She implied that implicit bias means no outward animosity towards a specific group but rather a normalized thought such as women would be better caretakers than men. Implicit bias has also been seen developing in young children. (Breger 2014, p. 41) I want to use her theory to prove that rape culture, which entails implicit bias and toxic masculinity, is caused because of the oversexualization of females. (Posadas 2017, p. 178)
Chenoweth, Erica and Jeremy Pressman. “Analysis | This is What We Learned by Counting the
Women’s Marches.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 7 Feb 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/02/07/this-is-what-we-learned-by-counting-the-womens-marches/?utm_term=.0b5b73e8e329.
Coy, Maddy. “Milkshakes, Lady Lumps and Growing up to Want Boobies: How the
Sexualisation of Popular Culture Limits Girls’ Horizons.” Child Abuse Review, vol.
18, no. 6, Nov-Dec, 2009, pp. 372-383. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/car.1094.
Maddy Coy is the deputy director of child and women abuse studies at London Metro University. Her focus is on evidence that proves young girls who are exposed to the media are prone to think only of achieving societies sexual ideology. This study showed results of young girls selecting lap dancer and glamour model rather than a doctor or lawyer. (Coy 2009,) This gives evidence that at a certain age young girls are pushed to think of themselves and strive to be sexual beings. This can limit their horizons and lead to the prominent rape culture today by allowing girls to view oversexual comments and interactions as healthy. When girls want to be sexualized beings, what society makes them think is desirable, they lose focus on what is truly important, things such as a powerful career and developing life skills. The findings in this article could also be problematic because it focuses on younger girls. I want to focus on how sexualization of females perpetuates the rape culture in older females. However, unfortunately in our world young girls are also subject to victimization. I plan to use this to show the process of how the sexualization begins at a young age. As it is nurtured it encourages rape culture in problem communities such as college campuses and other high-risk areas.
Edell, Dana, Brown Lyn, M., Tolman, Deborah., “Embodying Sexualisation: When
Theory Meets Practice in Intergenerational Feminist Activism.” Feminist Theory,
vol. 14, no. 3, Dec. 2013, pp. 275-284. EBSCOhost,
The authors review SPARK (Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge), a program that helps educate young girls about resisting sexualization and media appearances. (Edell, Brown, Tolamn 2013, p. Abstract) This article follows Emma, a member of SPARK, who was interviewed wearing a short skirt on national television. In Emma’s interview she reveals the confusion in SPARK’s message, “Even in my own school with my own classmates, like ‘what are you doing wearing that shirt? Like, I can see your bra. Aren’t you supposed to be about covering it up?’ da da da da da. Which I’m not. I’m not about that at all. I’m about women having choices.”
Hackman, Christine L., Pember, Sarah E., Wilkerson, Amanda H., Burton,
Wanda, Usdan, Stuart L., “Slut-Shaming and Victim-Blaming: A Qualitative Investigation of Undergraduate Students’ Perceptions of Sexual Violence.” Sex Education, vol. 17, no. 6, Nov. 2017, pp. 697-711. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/14681811.2017.1362332.
This article was about a study that the authors conducted among undergraduate students. The study was a basic questionnaire and interview that allowed the subjects to express their opinion about sexual assault topics but not going into detail about their own experiences. This study was conducted with male (n = 3) and female (n = 12) undergraduates. (Hackman, Pember, Wilkerson, Burton, Usdan 2017, Abstract) The top three results via this study were alcohol, slut shaming, and victim blaming. The girl focus group leaned towards slut shaming saying that “if a girl has less pride and respect in herself then she just sleeps around.” (Girl B) This survey proves that rape culture is perpetuated throughout social culture, even subconsciously. I noticed the girl subject group was more judgmental than the male subject group. This brings me to the conclusion that sexualization starts at a young age. (as cited in the work bellow, Coy 2009) It is fostered into something to strive for but at the same time taboo, it can entice merciless judgement among fellow females.
Jeremy Posadas, author. “Teaching the Cause of Rape Culture: Toxic
Masculinity.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, no. 1, 2017, p. 177.
Assistant Professor Jeremy Posadas teaches religious studies at a college near Austin, Texas. He is a core faculty member in gender studies with an emphasis in ending rape culture. (Posadas 2017, p. 179) Throughout his article he mentions the various backgrounds his students have, such as religions, gender, and race. (Posadas 2017, p.177) He focuses on “coming to the consensus of truth that sexual violence in the West is fundamentally a problem of masculinity—a manifestation of the phenomenon that gender studies conceptualizes as “toxic masculinity.”” (Posadas 2017, p. 178) I want to implicate that the concept of “toxic masculinity” and the sexualization of women are contributing factors in perpetuating rape culture. (Posadas 2017, p. 178) Posadas proposes, “Students need to understand that while rape culture is the mechanism that channels toxic masculinity into specific, socially legitimized practices of sexual violence, if we want to eradicate sexual violence, we must transform the apparatuses by which boys are subjected into toxically masculine men.” In other words, stop teaching “boys will be boys” and teach proper social etiquette.
McKenney, Sarah J. and Rebecca S. Bigler. “Internalized Sexualization and Its Relation
to Sexualized Appearance, Body Surveillance, and Body Shame among Early
Adolescent Girls.” Journal of Early Adolescence, vol. 36, no. 2, 01 Feb. 2016, pp. 171-197. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.uvu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1086055&site=eds-live.
This article touches upon the sexualization that is built up within a female. However, for my research it has a section on appearance. It is documented that young girls as well as women often feel that because of society and media they have to dress a certain way, exposing their body, dressing “sexy” etc. (McKenney 2016, p. 175) It is also documented that this behavior promotes men to act harshly and encourages their primal instinct. (McKenney 2016, p. 189) When women are told to look a certain way from when they are young they feel the need to immediately do what society says is the “right” way for women to look. I believe the aggressive behavior of men during sexual assaults can be linked to sexualization of females throughout their life. Boys are not only taught, “boys will be boys,” but women are taught that in order to be noticed they must be sexual and appealing.
Moloney, Mairead Eastin and Lisa Pelehach. “You’re Not Good Enough”: Teaching
Undergraduate Students about the Sexualization of Girls and Women.” Teaching
Sociology, vol. 42, no. 2, 01 Apr. 2014, pp. 119-129.
The Authors evaluate how sexualization is affecting women today. There are programs that help understand objectification and programs that help girls understand negative body image. However, there are no programs on sexualization specifically. This article focuses on teaching women about sexualization This will help my research because in order to link the sexualization of females to the perpetuation of rape culture, I must be able to clearly understand and explain why sexualization of females is important and what is wrong with it. “Nested within the social construction of gender norms, the sexualization of girls and women negatively impacts individual, interpersonal, and societal levels of social interaction.” (Moloney and Pelehach 2014, Abstract) Sexualization affects the individual causing them to have a disconnect with society which makes it easier to become a victim in sexual assault. If sexualization is studied and found to negatively impact the societal levels of girls and women, why has nothing been done to stop the thing that enables sexual assault?
Tate, Allison Slater. “Mayim Bialik Explains Why Her Sons Won’t Be Like Harvey Weinstein.”
TODAY.com, TODAY Contributor, 13 Oct. 2017, www.today.com/parents/mayim- bialik-why-her-sons-won-t-be-harvey-weinstein-t117503.
Wilhelm, Heather. “The ‘Rape Culture’ Lie: Zero Shades of Grey.” Commentary, no. 3,
Heather Wilhelm, a writer and columnist for realclearpolitics, takes on an opposing stance on rape culture. She reviews that the one in four women will be sexually assaulted statistic has been disproven and the statistic includes things such as kissing and groping. (Wilhelm 2015, P.24) This contrasting view on rape culture will support my claim that people who normalize or rationalize any one woman being sexually assaulted prove that rape culture is not only real but overlooked by the current social culture. She also refers to America’s conversation about rape culture as a “farce.” (Wilhelm 2015, P. 29) I extremely disagree with this thinking because this is what perpetuates rape culture itself, planting seeds of doubt when victims come forward.