Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault
What is rape culture? A short and to the point definition of rape culture is that we live in a society where women are taught not to get raped rather then men being taught not to rape. This is reflected in victim blaming speech, rape jokes, slut shaming, street harassment, sexual harassment, and most importantly the normalization of all of these activities.Problematic institutional practices contribute to rape culture. For one, there is a lack of effective sexual education. Individuals need to be taught what consent is and when consent can be given. Yale College describes consent as, “Clear, unambiguous, and voluntary agreement between the participants to engage in specific sexual activity.” (Yale) This is a definition that a lot of people are familiar with. The further details are the ones that are often overlooked. Other important factors are that:
Consent cannot be inferred from the absence of a “no”; a clear “yes,” verbal or otherwise, is necessary…. Consent cannot be obtained from someone who is asleep or otherwise mentally or physically incapacitated, whether due to alcohol, drugs, or some other condition. Consent cannot be obtained by threat, coercion, or force. Agreement given under such conditions does not constitute consent… Consent must be clear and unambiguous for each participant throughout any sexual encounter. Consent to some sexual acts does not imply consent to others, nor does past consent to a given act imply ongoing or future consent. Consent can be revoked at any time.
These are important nuances of consent that the average person is never informed of. These conversations rarely happen in the educational system outside of a women’s studies class. This is a problem. This unclear idea of what consent is leads to a misunderstanding of when rape has occurred. Therefore the survivor is often blamed rather than the rapist. “In fact, 69% of all victims and 66% of recent rape victims say they worry about being blamed.” (Kilpatrick)
What someone is wearing does not constitute consent. Someone drinking does not constitute consent. Someone flirting does not constitute consent. Someone going to the rapist’s house does not constitute consent. A clear, mentally sound, “yes” is what constitutes consent. The fact that people inquire about other irrelevant factors after a rape is a result of rape culture.
This societal misunderstanding can be detrimental to the survivor. To have a traumatic rape and then have a close friend say, “Well you went up to his room didn’t you? You gave him a blowjob before…” is harmful. Going to someone’s room is not consent. A past sexual encounter is not consent to a future one. There is already a lot of stress on a survivor. “Almost one-third of all rape victims developed PTSD sometime during their lifetime.” (Kilpatrick) Survivors need a support system, not an interrogation.
A lot of these issues can be contributed to a societal taboo of sex. If as a society we are not comfortable talking about sex, how can we be comfortable talking about consent or rape? So let’s talk about sex. Ask your partner(s) what they want to do. Open up dialogues. Take an active role in your school or community and spread this knowledge and support.
Kilpatrick, Dean G., Ph.D. “Mental Health Impact of Rape.” Mental Health Impact of
Rape. National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center, 2000.
Web. 23 May 2013.
“Definitions of Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Consent, and Sexual Harassment.” Yale
College. Yale College, 2013. Web. 23 May 2013.