Welcome to the Rape Culture

Trigger warning: this post talks about rape. If you have been raped or have experienced anything with this, I am so sorry. Know that you are valuable and whole and loved. Consider finding others to talk to about this and experience healing. –Michael

photo credit: Connor Tarter via photopin cc

I’m glad that I have two sisters, and not three or four. If I had four sisters, one of them would be raped, and I don’t know how I would live with that. Statistically speaking, 1 in 4 women either are raped or experience a rape attempt in their lifetime. How can we live with this?

I’m terrified of the fact that I might have a daughter, and one day she might be raped. I could tell her all the right things: I could teach her to be ashamed of her body and to hide it under layers of clothing in the vain hope that someone might not rape her. But that doesn’t change the fact that if she walked down the street in a burka she might be raped, because it is not the clothes the victim wears that makes them be raped.

I am petrified when I consider having a son, because he might be raped and no one would believe him. We live in a culture that says men are sex machines: they are creatures always wanting sex, and if a woman gives that to them, it is an ever welcome gift. A man “can’t be raped”—they can only have a good time.

I’m afraid of having a son because statistically, he might grow up to be a rapist. I could teach him to treat women right, and I could teach him to be respectful and nice and to be a decent human being, but those very attributes could contribute to him raping someone, because our culture teaches that being a nice guy means that women owe you something. The friend-zone exists because we’ve come to expect a relationship or sex as a repayment for being a good person. We do all the right things. We hold the door for her, pay for her meals, and drive her around. We invest into her, and then she doesn’t return the investment. She doesn’t understand that when I’m nice to you, you go out with me. I listen to you and help support you when you go through a break up, and because I was such a nice guy, you are magically obligated to have sex with me. If you don’t, you were just using me, even though the exact opposite is the truth.

Welcome to the rape culture. Our society tells women to cover up or they’re a slut; watch how you dress and maybe you won’t be raped. Politicians drop lines about how you won’t get pregnant from a rape because your body shuts it down, and if you get pregnant, you must have wanted it. For every Luke Skywalker who saves the galaxy and is rewarded with a wink, a kiss, and a medal, there is a princess Leia in a bikini chained up to the fat slug that is our society using her to fulfill their sexual desires. One of the most popular songs of the summer could have been written by a rapist, as it describes getting a girl high (which “always works for me”) then smacking the girl and pulling her hair while having sex and constantly telling her that “I know you want it”.

One of my coworkers had men hitting on her and staring at her while she was working—when she got off work, they were waiting for her in the parking deck. Thankfully she had another person with her, so they ran off. A friend went on a date with someone who tried to physically force her into having sex with him in a parking lot—thank God someone saw what was happening and stopped it. If you talk to them about what happened, it usually gets glossed over because it is an expected part of life. Start talking about rape or assault and if you’ll listen, you will hear countless stories like these.

The distressing thing about all of this is if my genitalia went in instead of out, this outpouring of words would be ignored and I would be marginalized. I would be called “emotionally unstable” or a “crazy feminist” for speaking up about the fear that I would have lived with for my entire life and the systems that perpetuate it.

Rape has to be talked about, but we shame those most qualified to speak about it into silence.

Don’t speak up. This is the message that we send. We tell wives to talk through these problems this with the husband that rapes them every night because he thinks that when she said “I do” at the altar she was signing her body over to him. He has his “husbandly rights”, and they can’t be denied.

Girls, you should talk about this with your boyfriend–he could help protect you from a rapist. He’ll provide the muscle that will keep other men at bay as you walk down the street in the middle of the night and be the voice of reason reminding you “don’t go down the alleyway”, forgetting that it is ingrained in you from the time you were a child to avoid those alleyways because you might be raped if you go down them. We’ll ignore the fact that the same muscle that holds other men at bay gives him the strength to hold you down as he violates you.

He’s such a nice boy—you kind of have to go on at least one date with him… He puts so many little deposits into that favor bank. When you’ve had a little too much to drink and he offers to take you home—he makes another deposit. When you, inhibited by the alcohol coursing through your veins, are unable to verbalize or resist his advances—he cashes in his ‘IOUs’ and has sex.

Go home to your fathers and ask them to explain sex to you some more; except maybe he didn’t give you a sex talk, he just had sex with you.

 ‘She didn’t say no’, so it wasn’t rape. No! She wasn’t in control of herself and didn’t say yes, so it was rape.

Men, stop complaining about the free sex already—are you gay or something? Every guy wants sex. So stop being a wimp and get some!

I’m glad I have two sisters and not anymore, because that’s one less set of ears that has to hear this filth being spewed in every aspect of our culture.

I wish that I could say I’ve never been part of this system, but I have. I’ve looked down on the girls who dated around while not thinking twice about my friend who dated more girls than the “easy” girls ever kissed. I’ve advocated for the patriarchal ways of blaming the girl for the man lusting:  I “couldn’t help it” when I saw those girls dressed like they were and acting like they did, so I lusted after them and used them to fulfill my sexual fantasies. A rapist is one who used another sexually without their consent…what does that say about me?

Please don’t take this as someone talking down to you: this is a guilty soul screaming NO MORE!

Did you know that you are more likely to be raped by someone you know than a stranger? What do you do when it’s your family or a family friend raping you? Who do you turn to–who will listen? This is one of the reasons most rape victims talk about how they were ignored by those who claimed to love them when they named who raped them. The men and women who are raped are often blamed for the atrocities done to them instead of comforted.

This has to change. We cannot continue to go on like this. Women have to live their lives with the constant threat of being sexually assaulted in the back of their heads. It dictates where they go, when they go there, and how they dress. Victims who overcome the social shame of being raped and speak up about it are marginalized and gagged. I have the luxury of being able to ignore these facts and the privilege of being able to live without this fear, but they don’t. I can’t—no, I refuse—to ignore the rape culture we live in anymore. Can you?

Keep it civil in the comments. If you disagree with some of the specifics I’ve talked about, that’s fine–I’d like to talk about that with you. However, if anyone speaks against those who have been hurt or attempts to marginalize them, that is not acceptable. Speak to build up, support, and love—not tear down and wound. If you’d like to talk about any of this in private, my email (michaelvuke.writer@gmail.com) is open to you; I’d love to listen and talk. –Michael                                                          Subscribe to get my weekly posts sent to you.

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  • Becca

    I’m thankful to have a male friend who will speak up. :)

    I appreciated this spoken-word piece on the topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlb4Pu23kqw

    • http://www.michaelvuke.com/ Michael Vuke

      It is so important that we do–even though it shouldn’t be, when men speak up we are often heard better than a woman is, so we must make sure that our voice is helping change that and not hurting, even by silence.

      And I meant to bring headphones so I could listen to that, but I left them at the apartment, so I’ll give it a listen later.

  • Tory Sherrill

    Our society today seems only to speak of rape in the context of abortion. They only talk of empowering women after the assault. Why not, since the government seems so willing to give away free “protection”, make self defense training more available??? There is a definite lack of awareness on this issue.

    • http://www.michaelvuke.com/ Michael Vuke

      I’d take it a step farther than that, Tory; we should certainly make sure that men and women have resources available to them on self defense, but to focus on that is still missing the point. Rather than focus on the victim, we should focus on the perpetrator! Instead of teaching women to not get raped, why not teach men not to rape? Public awareness campaigns, social pressure, education on what is not acceptable, etc. all help stop rape at the source–the rapist.

      Our education resources and social campaigns are largely focused on the victim and preventing rape via better lighting, more defense training, more clothing, or other such things, but ultimately there are ways around every one of those things–its all defensive and victim oriented. This lends itself to blaming the victim when rape does occur. Post-rape, a lot of coverage is given to what could the victim have done differently, but the focus in the wrong place. That right there is another example of the ‘rape culture’.