Rape Culture: Fact or Feminist Fiction? – Rosy Trewin-Marshall

Rape culture, I’m sure, is not top of everyone’s dinner time conversation starters, but, I suggest tentatively, perhaps it should be. For there ever to be a conversation where solutions can be found, the conversation must first be started. So, here I am, starting this conversation. I’ll talk about what rape culture actually is and whether it exists as, bizarrely, there does seem to be some contention. At this point, I’ll put up a quick warning. If you can’t cope with explicit content, this article is definitely not for you. I’m attempting to show what some people’s real lives are like – if that is too shocking, then you’ll be pretty shocked when you start living your own life outside the RHS bubble.

For those of you who don’t know much about feminist theory, I’ll start off with some definitions. Let’s start with rape: in brief, the principal definition is that rape is sex without consent. However, this isn’t a fulsome definition rape. What counts as sex? What is consent and how can you tell if consent has been given? A more detailed definition details that a rape has been committed if a person intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with his penis and the other person does not consent to the penetration, and he does not reasonably believe that his victim consents.

In even simpler terms rape is sex without consent.

For those who can see the obvious grey area there, reasonable means that both parties must have taken steps to ascertain this information. Basically they just need to ask. It’s as simple as that. I’m sorry Robin Thicke but your “blurred lines” would not stand up in court. What he is singing about… Yeah, that’s rape.

Rape culture, however is more than just rape. It is a much broader term which was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalised sexual violence specifically male sexual violence.

If you don’t believe that rape culture is a thing, take a look at Roosh J. He is a militant pro-rape activist, who campaigns online for men to take up rape as a hobby. He organised mass rallies in Scotland for men who wanted to explore their “rapey feelings”. Some argue that Roosh J is a victim of the hypocritical and that he was simply exercising his right to free speech but really, any event planned to coach men to coerce women into having sex is not a free speech issue but a public safety issue.Clearly, there is truth in the protest slogan “what men fear most about going to prison is what women fear most when walking down the street”. Nevertheless, many would still deny that Rape Culture exists so I’ll take a moment here to address some arguments against the existence of rape culture

“But it’s worse in like Africa and stuff” – Yes, in South Africa a girl is three times more likely to get raped than to get an education. But that shouldn’t invalidate the sufferings of the people in this country who are being raped and sexually abused every few minutes. In the time it takes me you to read this article, at least one person will have just been sexually assaulted in the uk.

“It’s not everyday. You might get assaulted once in your lifetime, but that’s it” – So when women cross the street to avoid groups of men, that doesn’t count. When women have their phones ready on speed dial, that doesn’t count. When women have their keys between their fingers lest they need a weapon, that doesn’t count. When women wear date-rape drug detecting nail polish or buy one of the countless night safety apps that calls the police if you let go of your phone, that doesn’t count. When women text their friends every time that they get home safe, that doesn’t count. The list of things the the majority of women do every single is almost endless. And you may still argue that none of these women are being raped, but my point is that the danger is such a reality, and our society so backwards that the onus is placed on women to protect themselves.

“#Notallmen” – this Twitter sensation gripped many anti-feminists all over the world. Unfortunately, they’re missing the point. The point is yes all women. We have to change how we live in order to protect ourselves against rape as I just explained. All of a sudden it’s our problem. But if miniskirts and short shorts were a cause of rape then rape stats would double in the summer, but they don’t. Rapists are the cause of rape. So please stop asking what she was wearing when it happened. If someone was dressed like a vampire you wouldn’t stake them through the heart. They weren’t asking for it. It is not the victims fault. And it is those questions which mean that the survivors don’t want to report the crimes. 68% of rape cases are never reported and 98% of rapists never even spend a day in prison. I’ll just remind you, rape is illegal. It is a crime and 98% are never punished.

The victims on the other hand suffer public shaming, self blame, guilt, mental instability, sickness, headaches, PTSD and a thirteen times increased chance of suicide. Shame is a huge barrier to victims reporting rape, especially male victims. They won’t report their rape because, as victims they are suddenly perceived as vulnerable and weak, they become scared they won’t be taken seriously and their very manliness is threatened because men are considered to have insatiable desire for sex and it would never be the case that they wouldn’t want sex. To quote Robin Thicke “I know you want it”. To be a man and to be a victim, in this patriarchy, is impossible. You are either one or the other because even in our childhood we are taught that women are victims and men are saviours. How many times did your parents read you the story about the prince who was stuck in the tower guarded by the dragon but was then saved by a fair maiden in shining armour who slew the dragon and saved the prince. Oh yes… Never! It is the same thinking that teaches that women are weak that teaches that men must be strong. If I still haven’t got this point across, come and ask me to clear it up for you.

Now, unless you’ve been under a rock you’ve definitely heard about the controversy surrounding Kesha. Plastered over Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, Reddit #Freekesha. Adele, Lady Gaga, Lena Dunham, Lorde, Ariana Grande, Zedd, and Jack Antonoff have all publicly shown their support.

For those rock dwellers, Kesha, a platinum selling recording artist, claimed that her producer, Dr. Luke, has been sexually assaulting her since she first entered a contract with his record label. The ruling against her left her stuck in the contract because Sony had “already invested so much in her career”. Now there is a great deal more to this story than initially presented, for instance, Kesha has previously sworn under oath that Dr. Luke had never made any sexual advances on her and her mother, also under oath, agrees. In retaliation, Kesha says that Dr. Luke threatened her with ruining her career, her life and her family’s lives if she ever told anybody the truth and as Dr Luke  then pursued two court cases against Kesha’s mother as well as the one against Kesha herself. Although Kesha’s case is at an end, the feminist jury is still out on this one.

But the truth is, that this isn’t about Kesha, or at least, it is not just about Kesha. This case is about the thousands upon thousands of victims who are disbelieved when they finally get the courage to speak up. The first three women who spoke out about Jimmy Saville’s abuse were ridiculed, vilified, discredited, threatened and they were certainly disbelieved. Why does there need to be 73 victims, and counting, for it to be taken seriously? The patriarchy has a big one to answer for here.

So what now? Well now we do something, and not just the girls, because as Eve Ensler says “I am sick of passivity of good men. Where the hell are you? You live with us, make love with us, father us, befriend us, brother us, get nurtured and mothered and eternally supported by us. So why aren’t you standing with us? Why aren’t you driven to the point of madness and action by the rape and humiliation of us?”

Finally, I do apologise if any of you are put off or bored by my emotional investment in this article. Please enjoy having no emotional investment on the topic of rape culture. You are one of the lucky ones.

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