Rape culture exists

We can’t allow ignorance or rape apologists to explain away rape culture.

Trent M. Kays

I grow weary of some arguments. As someone who studies rhetoric, this doesn’t surprise me. However, some fights are so boneheaded that I almost cannot approach them. Instead, I sit mouth agape, wondering in what universe such arguments would ever make sense.

One of these arguments is the debate around rape culture. In a letter to the editor in the student-run Badger Herald last week, University of Wisconsin-Madison political science junior David Hookstead called out the “myth” of rape culture. His troglodytic argument reminded me that our culture has a long way to go in understanding humanity. His op-ed, titled “Rape Culture Does Not Exist,” prompted appropriate outrage.

Hookstead relates the instance of a woman raping his friend, a male student-athlete. Hookstead wonders why there is no outrage over a woman raping a man in the same way there is a man raping a woman.

Tragically, what Hookstead fails to realize is the silence that surrounded his friend’s rape is caused by rape culture. This is a similar silence that surrounds women who have been raped.

Hookstead’s tale is not evidence of the nonexistence of rape culture; it’s proof of it.

I cannot take Hookstead’s argument seriously. However, I take Hookstead’s ignorance seriously because it is dangerous.

Rape culture surrounds us in movies, in news stories, on social media and all around the world. Rape is an act of violence. Rape is the oppression of one’s will by another through sexual conquest. If you force non-consensual sex on someone else, you are a rapist.

If you slut-shame someone because of what they’re wearing, you are perpetuating rape culture. If you blame the victim for their rape, you are perpetuating rape culture. These things, among others, serve as part of the fuel that drives this rape culture.

Indeed, if rape culture didn’t exist, rape would not be so pervasive. The myth that rape is simply a crime or act between individuals is destructive.

If so many individuals are raping so many other individuals, what or who is telling them such an act is OK? Rape culture and rape apologists.

The belief that rape culture is a creation of radical feminists in order to subjugate men is pathetic. While rapists are predominately men, even feminists acknowledge that women rape too.

Men rape women; women rape men; men rape men; and women rape women. Sexual assault among transgender people or those with intersex conditions is also an issue.

We have a corrupt value system. We allow the oppression of women to continue even though we believe in equality. We tell women how not to be raped instead of men not to rape. We let rapists go uncharged with a crime based on the misogynistic argument that the victim must’ve wanted it.

Any argument that a victim must have wanted to be raped is caused by rape culture. We let it happen, and the truth is in the statistics.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, one in six American women has been a victim of attempted rape or rape. Similarly, one out of 33 American men has been a victim of attempted rape or rape. These statistics are unacceptable.

It’s clear women are victims of reported sexual assault more than men, though an aspect of rape culture is the stigma against reporting it. Prison rape, for example, often goes unreported but may account for a large portion of instances of male rape.

If we were to take Hookstead’s argument seriously, we’d think that men were the great-oppressed victims of domineering women. But this likely isn’t the case, though I empathize with Hookstead’s friend. However, people of different genders deal with their own issues involving sexual assault.

As long as we continue to treat women as sexual objects to be used, we will continue to have rape. Our culture is absurd, and the idea that the victim of a crime is to blame for the crime is disgusting.

Do we blame the victim of a murder for their murder? Do we blame the victim of a kidnapping for their kidnapping? Do we blame a 12-year-old child for their molestation?

A 12-year-old doesn’t ask to be molested. A 12-year-old doesn’t want to be traumatized by another’s oppression.

If you find these statements ridiculous, this is good. I hope you do, because they are ridiculous, and they are the same types of arguments people use to explain away rape.

Imagine being bombarded every day by sexualized images, discourses about how “sluts” are nothing and media about how men and women are actually equal. That culture would be a terrible one to live and work in. Such a culture allows troglodytes to post work that is blatantly oppressive or attempts to explain why rapists aren’t really rapists.

Such a culture would allow politicians like Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., to explain “legitimate rape” or treat sexual assault as just another conception method. Such a culture would often treat women as prey and men as predators, and it would foster submission as a way to build relationships.

Is that the kind of culture you want to live in? Well, you do. Welcome to rape culture.

We cannot begin to change this violent and oppressive culture until we recognize its existence and the underlying value systems that give rise to it.

Repeat after me: Rape culture exists, and we must change it.