As college women returned to school this fall, some were welcomed back to rape culture.
A few college boys who haven’t yet grown into man-sized shoes unravelled banners shouting:
Freshman Daughter Drop-Off
Hope your baby girl is ready for a good time
Go ahead and drop mom off too Read the rest of this entry
Why do we blame victims of brutal violence and shield — or even reward — their attackers?
Maybe you’ve heard about 18-year-old Jackie who met “Drew” when they worked as lifeguards at a University of Virginia swimming pool. Drew invited Jackie to dinner and a “date function” at his upper tier fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi.
Jackie was excited, and spent hours getting ready for the date. At the frat party she sipped some spiked punch and discreetly poured the rest onto the sticky floor. And then Drew suggested they go upstairs, “Where it’s quieter.” Read the rest of this entry
Why are girls so often punished for pleasing guys?
Girls grow up to learn that both men and society like a sexy look. And then they comply and get slut-shamed.
They grow up to discover sex. They think it’s fun — or not: 43% of young American women have experienced sexual dysfunction. Yet they learn that guys want sex, and some feel pressured to be nice and give it to them. But if they do, they may be punished. And by the way, don’t expect to get pleasured, yourself.
That’s what San Jose Mercury News journalist, Sharon Noguchi, found in her investigation of Silicon Valley high school culture. All these years and the double standard remains alive and well, even in the progressive San Francisco Bay Area. As she put it: Read the rest of this entry
A man sexually assaults children. Witnesses are appalled. But no one tells anyone outside their tight circle. The assailant is eventually accused of attacking eight boys. Yet members of the community rally around the perpetrator and those who protected him.
I’m talking, of course, of community support for Penn State’s coaching staff, particularly Head Football Coach, Joe Paterno, who was fired for protecting Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who now stands accused of 40 counts of sexual abuse.
Shockingly, it’s not especially unusual for communities to rally around perpetrators over victims.
At least when the perps are powerful.
And it all reflects what’s typical of rape culture.
In 2008 a 16-year-old high school cheerleader said she was raped at a post-game party by Rakheem Bolton, a member of the basketball team. He and two friends forced her into a room to commit the assault. When others tried to get into the room the men fled. Bolton left clothing behind and threatened the homeowner when he refused to return them. Bolton eventually pled guilty to a lesser charge.
School officials responded by asking the cheerleader to avoid the school cafeteria and homecoming activities. And then they kicked her off the cheerleading squad for refusing to root for her rapist. She sued the district attorney, the school district and the principal, but an appeals court ruled against her.
In the summer of 2004 three varsity members of the Mepham High School football team were sexually abused at training camp. The young men were sodomized with pine cones, broom handles and golf balls which had all been coated with a mineral ice that causes severe pain.
Many of the witnesses felt terrible about what had happened. Yet they kept silent.
When the national press broke the story, the community defended the players and coaches. Parents of the abused boys were threatened with death if they pressed charges. Campus rallies were held for the team. When the school administration cancelled football season, Mepham students felt that they had been victimized.
A culture of entitlement, silence, and protection lies behind all of the above, says Michael Kimmel, one of the nation’s leading researchers and writers on men and masculinity.
Sports stars are prone to feeling entitled with schools, coaches, professors, and even the police covering for their mishaps and crimes. After all, if the team is damaged, so is the school. And people’s identities are closely tied to their teams, so just hush up about it.
Who cares if a few lives are damaged? It’s all about me! And how I look!
And so when the Penn State Board of Trustees announced Coach Paterno’s firing, fans became incensed:
- You said Coach Paterno was fired “in the best interests of the university.” Can you define in the best interests of the university?
- Why was Coach Paterno informed about his firing over the phone?
- Was any consideration given as to how this would affect the football program?
Allen Barra over at Salon has an answer:
The football program? The football program?? Are you serious? A former assistant coach was just indicted for over 40 counts related to sexual assault on a child… crimes against humanity — against children — took place in the university’s athletic facilities…
So don’t worry about the football team. Worry about the fact that from now on, whenever the name of Penn State is mentioned, people all over the country — make that all over the world — will be sneering, snickering or spitting. Worry that a long period of penance and healing must begin, and that your actions are delaying this process.
Here we have selfish and shortsighted people who can only think about themselves, and not the pain of others, but who actually work against their own interests in the process — both in terms of how they look and the state of their souls.
So long as we continue our culture of entitlement, silence, and protection, we continue our culture of rape.
According to Facebook’s terms of service, users are not permitted to post content that is hateful, threatening or incites violence. But it appears that, in the minds of the Facebook powers-that-be, pages that encourage rape don’t violate that rule.
For two months now, Facebook users have been campaigning for the site to take down several “rape joke” pages. The titles of these pages include such gems as “Riding your girlfriend softly, cause you don’t want to wake her up” and “You know she’s playing hard to get when you’re chasing her down an alleyway.” Hundreds of Facebook users have reported the pages as Terms of Service violations, and a petition at Change.org (see below) demanding their removal has received over 130,000 signatures. But Facebook has yet to take action. Dozens of pages advocating rape or violence against women remain on the site, many with tens of thousands of fans.
The defenders of these pages say that we need to lighten up. Learn to take a joke. Feminists are, once again, being humorless. We are making mountains out of molehills when we become outraged by such trivial things as pro-rape Facebook pages.
According to statistics, 17.4 percent of women in the U.S. have survived a completed or attempted rape, and that figure would likely be higher if victims were not so often silent about their experiences. Yet we are not supposed to question what it means for us, as women, to live in a culture that dehumanizes us with acts of sexual assault (the vast majority of which are committed by men we know personally) and then dehumanizes us further by pointing and laughing at our victimization, belittling trauma with crude humor. This is the definition of rape culture: a society that upholds the conditions for sexual violence against women and treats this violence as an unchangeable norm.
Anyone who claims that a rape joke is just a joke does not understand how rape culture works. Just as racist jokes can only be found funny within a culture of racism, rape jokes could not exist outside of a culture of rape. When our society allows men to believe that having sex with a sleeping woman is not rape; that having sex with a girlfriend or previous sexual partner is never rape; that having sex with someone who is too intoxicated to consent or object is not rape; men are taught to feel entitled to these acts (and women are taught to accept them in silence). When our culture is casually permissive of sexual assault, it inevitably perpetuates more sexual assault.
It would be absurd, of course, to suggest that anyone goes out and commits assault as a direct reaction to a Facebook page. But in reducing sexual violence to nothing more than a joke, they reflect and perpetuate the idea that women are objects to be used for the sexual satisfaction of men. Countless seemingly small things work together to uphold that kind of pervasive misogyny.
It would be naïve to imagine that the removal of these pages will in and of itself end rape culture. But that doesn’t mean the appropriate response is to simply accept them. Daunting as the task may be, the only way to end rape culture is to confront it.
Facebook is certainly not responsible for the prevalence of sexual assault in our society. But those in a position of power at Facebook are responsible for the choice they make to either condone or condemn the use of sexual assault as humor. Silence, as the saying goes, is acceptance. And Facebook’s refusal to take sexual violence seriously is exactly the kind of complicit silence that rape culture thrives on.
To sign change.org’s petition, click here.
This piece originally appeared on the Ms. Magazine Blog
Six British soccer players confessed to gang-raping two 12-year-old girls last March. But an Appeals Court recently freed the men because, “The girls wanted to have sex,” explained Lord Justice Moses.
They wanted sex? Even Moses admitted, “They had pretty miserable, fleeting sex in a
freezing cold park.” Now that sounds like what girls want.
Apparently one of the 12-year-olds had been texting the players, and she and her friend agreed to meet them in a park. There, five of the men gang raped one girl while a sixth assaulted the other. When they didn’t return home, one of their mothers called the police, who found them wandering alone in the early morning hours.
At the least this looks like statutory rape. The girls were only twelve after all. They claimed to be sixteen, but shouldn’t adults use some judgment?
Most importantly, the men admitted to rape.
Yet those “frank confessions” convinced the judges of the soccer players’ “positive good character,” suggesting they had been duped into sex.
Colin Horgan, a regular contributor to The Guardian, looks to Men’s Studies professor, Michael Kimmel to consider why men sometimes side with rapists over victims.
In some men’s eyes a girl is seen as offering herself for a sexual encounter just by “being there.” The men feel entitled to sex because, deep down, they all “know” that’s what she wants. So gang rapes end up being seen as something the victim actively did or encouraged, and not something done to her.
Horgan says porn plays a role, not as an instruction manual but as a projection of the fantasies and validation of the feelings of men who consume it. Some studies do suggest that certain types of porn promote the myth that women secretly want to be raped.
Meanwhile, Stephanie Hallett, over at Ms., observes that rapists are continually let off the hook because, “The girls were dressed provocatively, the women were drinking, women lie about rape, there was “sex in the air,” yet:
Research has shown that most rapists are serial rapists–and those serial rapists commit 90 to 95 percent of all rapes. What’s more likely–that these repeat perpetrators just happen to get “tricked” by underage women or receive “mixed messages” from unconsenting women, again and again–or that the overwhelming majority of rapes aren’t really committed “by accident”?
She makes a good point.
The boys (not men) of Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) chanted, “No means yes! Yes means anal!” at the Women’s Center on campus last week. See video.
What was their motive?
When people do things like this – put others down – they’re trying to create an identity for themselves and for the people they are targeting.
“No means yes.” While rape has a sexual component, it’s mostly about power. In this chant, the guys were celebrating images of men overpowering women. “Yes means anal”? If she says yes, then do something she didn’t ask for (and presumably wouldn’t want) turning even “yes” into rape.
Chanting in front of the Women’s Center – a safe space for women who have been assaulted or abused – makes that message stronger.
Afterwards, the frat offered an apology that let them off the hook. And which actually helps them to feel powerful: We can do anything so long as we apologize.
How sorry are they? Frat boys shouted the same slogans in front of the Women’s Center in 2006. In 2008 a different fraternity bellowed their love of “Yale sluts” in the same location.
Here we have boys desperately trying to assert their manhood. Intimidating women to create a sense of male superiority that doesn’t exist in nature – otherwise they wouldn’t need to try so hard. It all screams “insecurity!” There must be a big gap between the men they want to be, and the boys they seemingly are, to make that much effort.
Guys in frats are often pressured to hurt women to prove their manhood. “Bros before ho’s.” Sociologist, Michael Kimmel, studies men. And he says that many of these pledges don’t want to do the hurtful things to women that they are pressured to do.
But aren’t men supposed to be strong, confident, courageous? Don’t men follow their conscience instead of following the crowd?
What we see here is not courage but bravado. Trying to appear more brave than they really are.
This is supposed to prove their manhood?
Are women that threatening? Really, these guys are just scaredy cats.
Related post: Ever Wanted To Be A Woman? What Men Say