January 27, 2015
Changing the (rape) Culture
The term rape culture was initially coined by American feminists in the 1970’s. In the book
Transforming a Rape Culture, Emilie Buchwald maintains that rape culture is: “a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence
against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent.
In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges
from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical
and emotional terrorism against women as the norm…In a rape culture both men and
women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable…However…much of what
we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.”
Rape culture permeates all levels of our society, and ranges from jokes, TV, advertising and seemingly harmless conversation such as “that exam just totally raped me.”
If you’ve had enough of rape culture and want to do something to change it, continue reading to find out some steps we can take to change the culture.
1. Understand Sexual Assault Myths and Work to Deconstruct Them
There are many sexual assault myths that work to minimize and/or deny a survivors’ experience with sexual assault. These myths often blame the survivor and make excuses for the perpetrator. The legitimization of these myths fails to address the realities of sexual assault, which further perpetuates sexualized violence. Many myths surrounding sexual assault are deeply connected to systems of oppression including (but not limited to) sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, racism, transphobia and hetero-normativity. For an extensive list of sexual assault myths and facts please reference the
2. Be Intersectional
Intersectionality is a term that was created by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a black legal scholar, in 1989. The term acknowledges that all types of oppression are connected, and that they intersect with one another to contribute to each person’s unique experience. Bringing intersectionality into the movement to end sexualized violence means that we have to push beyond the boundaries of only recognizing white, heterosexual, cis-gendered women’s experience with sexual assault. People who identify as gender queer, trans*, gender non-conforming and any other identity that resists the gender binary experience violence at higher rates than gender conforming people. It is also important to think about how race, class, sexuality, physical ability, mental health, and immigration and citizenship status would affect their vulnerability to violence as well as their ability to access to criminal justice system.3. Situate Violence in a Historical Context
As Canada is situated on unceded, stolen, and ancestral land of the First Nations People, we cannot talk about sexualized violence without acknowledging the long history of
state sanctioned violence that continues to have permeating effects on their communities. Decades of colonial governing has fostered sexist and racist stereotypes that make Indigenous women more vulnerable to violence. Not only are Indigenous women at higher risk to violence, but the violence they face is also more severe. It has been documented that over 1,200 Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada over the past 30 years. It is also important to acknowledge the everlasting effects that slavery has had on black women, as well as Japanese internment camps in Canada. Situating violence in a historical context allows us to have a broader understanding of why some bodies are more vulnerable to violence and how the state continues to prioritize some forms of violence over others.4. Popular Culture Matters – Choose Wisely
The media is informed by culture as culture is informed by the media. It’s important to ask who creates the media, who benefits from it and why does violence need to be a part of it? As celebrities such as
Jian Gomeshi, Bill Cosby and Woody Allen are glorified, survivors who come forward with allegations of sexual assault are often dismissed. It is crucial to recognize how their fame works to dismiss survivors’ accounts of sexual assault and protect them from legal prosecution. As many of us are on the receiving end of media, we can make the choice to choose programs and support artists who don’t make rape jokes, don’t trivialize sexualized violence and who don’t use their fame as a way to avoid accountability.
5. Be an Active Bystander
Some ways to be an active bystander include:
-Supporting a survivor of sexual assault by believing their story and validating that they were not at faul.
-Watch out for the people around you. If you are in a situation where you think someone is uncomfortable, you can check in with them and make sure that they are ok.
-Intervene if someone says something derogatory, offensive, racist, or oppressive in any way. It can be helpful to let them know why their language is inappropriate.
-Get involved! If you are interested in learning more about becoming an active bystander check out Access and Diversity’s Really? Campaign. To learn more about being an anti-violence ally and how to support survivors check out the SASC’s Anti-Violence Ally Training.
6. Get Consensual
Always remember to bring consent into your own sexual practices. Rape culture relies on bl
aming survivors of sexual assault for their experience, while dismissing the perpetrator. However, it is always up to the initiator of a sexual act to gain consent from their partner. Consent is also a continual process. This means that consent can be given or taken away at any point during sexual activity, and must be continually negotiated. All participants must be ok with receiving a yes or a no when initiating something new. Acknowledging that we are all responsible for gaining consent before sexual activity disrupts the idea that survivors are at fault for their assaults reaffirms that sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor.