What IS Rape Culture?

Popular media objectifying women, song lyrics & music videos perpetuating sexual violence, TV & move plots about men trying to get women drunk to sleep with them, excusing politicians’ comments on rape, treating straight sexuality as the norm, designer rape whistles, the “it doesn’t happen here” mentality, accepting rape jokes, expecting others to accept rape jokes, using the word “rape” casually–“that test raped me so hard,” perpetuating the idea of a “Red Zone Challenge,” blaming the victim of sexual assault, assuming everyone in a relationship is dating someone of the opposite sex, catcalling and accepting catcalling as normal, etc…

The 33 students and staff members from Gettysburg College who gathered yesterday in Plank 112 with their lunch in hand, ready to talk about the issue of rape culture on and off of Gettysburg campus, had no problem offering a multitude of examples of how rape culture is perpetuated. What is rape culture, you ask? Like the numerous examples given to describe it, “rape culture” requires more than a sentence to fully explain itself.

As defined by Marshal University, rape culture is “an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.”

Students of all majors, staff members from Student Life, Alyssa Bossold, co-president of Students Against Sexual Assault, and Kim Davidson, interim Director of the Center for Public Service, assembled to provide a spectrum of interesting topical information on rape culture, sparking the discussion with references to shakesville.com’s “Rape Culture 101” article, the sexual assault reporting policies that exist on campus, as well as the addition of many personal stories and experiences, making for an immensely fruitful discussion on the sexual safety of students on Gettysburg Campus as well as in the larger US society.

“We [Americans] are very awkward about getting serious before the fact–before something happens” stated Riccardo (’13), addressing the lack of preemptive thinking that could prevent situations of sexual assault and violence before they occur.

Recognizing the still prevalent existence of rape culture on- and off-campus, the lunch hour wrapped up with a discussion on how solutions and changes cannot be brought about without first starting on an individual level. While institutional and systemic norms are not easily changed, a greater awareness of how we as individuals perpetuate the ideals of rape culture in our everyday life gives us the ability to make subtle changes that, when combined, become widespread movements of social change.

The successful nGender discussion mirrors the larger mission of SASA’s “14 Days to End Sexual Violence” with the assertion that every person has the ability to combat the perpetuation of rape culture and, by doing so, they are part of the movement to bring a definite and important end the “cycle of fear” that is the legacy of Rape Culture.

nGender is a bi-weekly discussion on issues related to gender, sexuality and everything in between. It is one of three social justice dialogue groups on campus at Gettysburg College. 

Article written by Emily Lindholm (’13)


One response to “What IS Rape Culture?

  1. I would also like to comment on the fact that not all rape is man-on-woman, something I’ve noticed that they didn’t really touch on. There is male-on-female rape in some cases (yet most men scoff at this, as does society. Therefore victims are unable to come forward because of social pressure), there is male-on-male rape in some cases (and there are MANY jokes about this. Just as unacceptable as other jokes), and yes, even female-on-female rape in many cases as well. Heck, there is even rape on transgender individuals, and everything that falls under that large umbrella. Rape in general is a serious matter, and should not be trivialized and made into a joke. I myself am guilty of this, but I am going to make an intense conscious effort to avoid this behavior. This “rape culture” is ludicrous, and needs to vanish.

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