Our society is filled with mistaken ideas about rape which have followed us for centuries. Rape culture allows for an environment that justifies, normalizes, and even glorifies sexual pressure, coercion and violence therefore excusing the abusers of their behaviors. Men and women are taught from the beginning to take on different roles in today’s culture, where they are seens as passive as well as objects to men. Rape culture is perpetuated through the glamorization of sexual violence that allows our society to disregard women’s rights and safety. Rape culture is extremely prevalent on college campuses, due to the students being free from adult supervision and exposed to a different set of influences for the very first time. The misguided theory that men are naturally sexually aggressive lets them think having sex with women makes them appear more manly. With the ease that drugs and alcohol provides, it’s an open door that a lot of people are walking through at college parties especially.
Sexual abuse is more about power than sex. The act may be sexual, but when the abuser rapes or harrasses it stems from their need for dominance and control (Yonack). Sex is the tool they choose to gain power over someone else. Most sexual violence is perpetrated by men, and typically arise within asymmetrical power dynamics, where the perpetrator occupies a more powerful position than the victim (Yonack). Men assert their power bestowed on them because of them being men, and coerce or attack women leading to sexual violence. In the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, the authors discuss the common thread connecting societal theories of sexual violence towards women that allow everyday objectification providing the stepping stones to extreme forms of sexual violence.
The heterosexual male gaze, in which a man stares at a woman’s body, is a powerful indicator to women that they are being seen as an object rather than a human (Gervais). Complimentary objectification sends the message to women that they are only known for their looks. Psychological research shows that sexual objectification chances social perception, where women are often perceived strictly based off of their body rather than their personality traits (Gervais). Men are taught to talk about their female peers as sex objects in society due to the party rape culture has normalized failing at recognizing female’s emotions during sexual interactions (Gervais).
Objectification also ties into how victims of rape are blamed, due to how they dressed or their behaviors (Gervais). An highly known example of this was with Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexually assaulting a unconsious women. He was giving only six months in county jail due to the judge fearing a longer sentence because it could have a “severe impact” on the rest of Turner’s life (Gervais). This case overlooked the impact of the victim, and played in part of rape culture ignoring that sexual assault is wrong. In the book Gender, Ideas and Interactions, rape culture also makes it harder for women to recognize that sexual assault is a crime. A common reason for this is drawn from victim blaming, where the victim is held responsible for the abuse.
This makes it harder for them to come forward and report the assault because they believe they are at fault. By engaging in these victim-blaming attitudes, our society allows the abuser to avoid acknowledgment or punishment for their actions. Anti-sexual assault campaigns on college campuses tend to focus extensively what women can do to reduce their risk of sexual assault. This approach reinforces the idea that women could stop sexual assault if they made different choices, which is an odd way to think of crime. It puts sexual assault into a matter of female risk taking, and the abuser disappears from the equation. (Wade 234). The idea that women somehow “get themselves raped” is brought up by hookup culture, which is brought up in colleges campuses allowing casual sexual contact to replace any romantic intentions.
An article by Katie Wilson ties the two cultures to show that hookup culture is the reason we have rape culture. Encouraging this atmosphere of little or no emotional connections and instead relying solely on physical connections has become normal. Staying away from this lifestyle has become more taboo (Wilson). Media prepares students for the “sexually overloaded college scene”, even when most people don’t prefer random hookups. So, it dominantes college campuses because they do very little to direct sexual activities of their students. Relationships can also be time consuming and emotionally draining, while random hookups can give young people the opportunities for more sexual experience as well as blowing off steam.
People who don’t want to participate in the hookup culture do it anyways so they don’t feel excluded from it. They feel as if “everyone is doing it”, where it is enacted by the students with the most power to shape campus sexual culture: white, heterosexual and attractive people. When casual sex and drinking is encouraged, it also encourages rape culture because women are seen as “easier to get into bed” when they are drunk (Wilson). There is a expectation for some guys to hook up with drunk girls at parties, and the line for what consent is gets foggy. If a woman is unable to consent, that can be thought as consent. The journal Sex Roles by Timothy T. Reling focuses on rape myths and hookup culture and how college kids perceive them. Both hookup and rape culture depend on the gender norms of sexual interaction, reinforcing the idea that men’s sexual drive is higher than a woman’s.
The journal suggests hookup culture and rape myths use of power in heterosexual interaction, either in the case of control in hookups or aggression in rape or sexual assault. (Reling). With this idea that men are control, these myths help indicate that men just get “carried away” with confusing signals from women who did not fight back enough. The hookup situations reinforce that is is normal for men to control the hookup, and therefore experience more sexual pleasure than women. (Reling). Women initiate a hookup less due to the stigmatization behind it with her possibly being seen as a “slut”. (Reling).
Rape culture surrounds all of us, as it is very prevalent in our society. Being a girl in college especially allows it to be something you are always conscious of. My guy friends are always worried about me when I go out, everyone tells you not to set your drink down at a party or walk home alone. Women have to constantly think about their safety when they go out. You never think anything bad will happen to you, so you let it stay at the back of your mind. But imagine, one night something happens that allows it to be the first thing you think of. The stories you hear on the news of drugging and sexual assaults at frat happens, but it’s your own story now. The night starts out with you and your best girlfriends, one of them visiting from high school, and you want to show her the “great” party scene in Boulder.
Your first stop is a frat your friend is in, and at the door security asks to see your buff one cards, but your high school friend can’t get in since she doesn’t go to CU. You show up to a more low-key frat you have never been to, and immediately a guy asks if you want alcohol. Following him up the stairs, you realize how truly sober you are since you have only sipped on the beer that was split with you friend. There were two bottles: vodka and tequila, and you ask to drink vodka. Looking at each other suspiciously, they deny the offer and pour two dixie cups full of tequila. The last thing your remember after that is the guy leaning in for the kiss and grab you and you pulling back, then him punching you to the floor. Waking up, your friend is standing over you stumbling back and forth trying to help you stand up. You see blood on your hands and knees as you stand up, and you are constantly holding your head where the mysterious frat guy punched you.
Waking up in the morning with your head pounding, your friends told you that they have never seen you in such bad shape and could barely hold themselves together. You realize you were drugged, as you were sexual assaulted. But, the next day it is like nothing happened because you hear another story like this the next day from someone else, and then another one of girls getting drugged in wine bags on the news. It has gotten so constant of an issue we are not shocked anymore. Women all over campus have stories like this, and they think it’s “no big deal” since it happens all the time, or that they think it is their fault if they were drunk or giving certain signals.
In reality, sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Rape culture is encouraged by our society where casual hookups are thought of as replacing emotional connections, and we feed off of what is common on campuses. The idea that men constantly need to initiate sexual intentions onto women in order to be more powerful is becoming more common and is leading into these unwanted sexual acts. In social media, the events that have most recently occured are men in certain positions of power by having what their victims want, a place closer to the center of power such as a job, and dangle that in front of the victim which leads to sexual misconduct. Society claims to despise rapists when they are hardly punished or held accountable.
Rape culture initiates the idea that we need to teach women how to not get raped, instead of teaching men how to not rape. Using that victim-blaming language allows rape culture to happen, as well as making women feel they have to tend to the sexual needs of men. Hookup culture allows sexual violence to remain a serious problem, with the combination of drugs and alcohol in the college party scene to combine with society’s pressure that hookups are completely harmless and instead higher someone’s social status is the reason rape culture is highly accepted.