The case of Kavanaugh is already old news, right? In our political climate of constant chaos, old news is good news (in a small sense) because it means, despite feeling a specific event was the end of the world, life went on. Nonetheless, these unfolding tragedies reveal the ripped seams of our American culture. The case of Kavanaugh only affirming and cementing our very established rape culture.
Though Mrs. Ford did not suffer rape at the hands of her abusers, she did experience sexual assault, and what happened to her, and the culture that primed her attackers for sexual violence against women is not okay. What is happening (and has happened) to females on campuses, and off campuses across the United States and the culture that is priming (and has primed) the men predicating these attacks is not okay. It is far from okay. This is not to imply that sexual assault does not happen to boys and men. It does, but it is far less common than what happens to females, and men are not living in a culture that supports sexual assault against their bodies. Girls and women do. Even if a woman is not sexually assaulted by a man, the culture predicates rape against her, subtly, but daily through sexually objectified images of the female body, creating a slowly induced trauma, resulting in body surveillance, depression, anxiety, etc.
Kavanaugh needs to answer for his crimes against women. But taking down every man who commits sexual assault against women will not solve the problem, anymore than putting a band-aid on the chest of someone suffering from lung cancer will cure their disease. Society needs to answer.
In our culture, several falsehoods are used to prop up rape culture, one being the view that men are naturally sexually aggressive and brute. We all know the adage branded by this falsehood (upholding the patriarchy): “Boys will be Boys,” a maxim often conjured to excuse bad behavior.
It’s time we rewrite the script, one that has FOR FAR TOO LONG been conveniently written by and for men. As a Facebook post I came across so eloquently put it:
“Boys Will Be Held Accountable for their Fucking Actions.”
What is Rape Culture?
Wikipedia nicely defines it as:
Rape culture is a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include 1). victim blaming, 2). slut-shaming, 3). sexual objectification, 4). trivializing rape, 5). denial of widespread rape, 6). refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence, 7). or some combination of these.
As women, we know these societal attitudes ALL TOO intimately. Many of us, survivors of sexual assault have lived them.
Looking at the Kavanaugh case, specifically, you can see all these attitudes at play. Many of the criticisms of Ford are that she was only testifying for publicity, monetary gain or was simply a pawn for democrats. On social media, people asked, “Why was she at a party with a bunch of boys, anyways?” (Victim Blaming).
Here is a meme that was widely circulated on Facebook depicting a false picture of Ford, with the insinuation that she was too ugly to sexually assault (Sexual Objectification).
And on and on we could go.
The point is, and let’s be clear, we live in a rape culture. The idea of men being sexually aggressive and in control of female sexuality is so pervasive in our culture that it is barely recognizable. It has become so normalized that it has been rendered invisible, even too many women, despite it being based on dogma, myth, and tradition, rather than science.
Let’s peel back the curtain, looking at how rape culture permeates the social arena of young adult dating, the larger media, pornography and our leadership.
HOOK UP CULTURE AND RAPE
In Benjamin Nolet’s new film, “Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution,” audiences are asked to explore what social scientist have dubbed hook-up culture, a culture dominating the sexual lives of teens and young adults. In the film we follow young men as they hook up with various young ladies, many times using coercion. In one scene, a young man attempts to hook up with a fellow beach goer. The female astoundingly apologizes to him for not wanting to engage in hook up sex, and then continues to say, “I’m just not drunk enough yet.”
She sums it up, doesn’t it?
Some would argue this illustrated the stillness of one girl but taking the film’s (and society’s) message in entirety, you walk away with some astonishing realities. Young men are engaging with women as if they were objects to “conquer” as one young man in the film calls it. These women are not seen as people with separate and equal sexual desires and wants but rather collecting chips. The young woman apologizing, stating that she was not drunk enough speaks volumes. She was not drunk enough to let a man bust a load on her, and let’s be clear, that’s what it boils down to. These young men are not all that interested in reciprocal pleasure but one-sided orgasms. If her pleasures and her desires were important, she wouldn’t need alcohol to numb the process. If after sex, she wouldn’t be branded a slut, or a whore, while her male counterpart was patted on the back, she wouldn’t need alcohol to dull her mind.
Her apologizing is even more disturbing. Rape culture exist, and has existed for so long, that even women feel the need to apologize if they are unable to bend to its arc. Social scientist have dubbed this phenomenon—the internalization by the oppressed of the oppressor’s negative messages—as, aptly, internalized oppression. Think the famous doll test of the 1940’s.
THE MEDIA AND RAPE CULTURE
Blockbuster hits not only promote rape culture but turn it into a running joke. Steve Rose, writing for The Guardian, called out the movies of Kavanaugh’s times such as, “Animal House” and “Porky’s” but forgot to call out the movies of our time, as if rape culture somehow ended with the credits of Caddyshack. If only…
Here is a clip from a movie made in 2012, “Harold and Kumar.”
Compared to one of the more disturbing scenes from “Animal House.”
In the first (more recent film) clip, there is not a dual between good (not committing sexual assault) and bad (committing sexual assault), but rather the attitude, “Can I get away with sexual assault?” with the two main characters of the film (the good guys) deciding NOT to intervene because they want to witness a sexual assault. This is not to excuse the first film’s overt sexism, but to highlight things have not seemed to change for the better. In fact, the sexual objectification of women’s bodies has only increased in recent years, a long with more depictions of violence against women.
It isn’t just our films that promote a culture of rape, but also our T.V shows, our books, magazines, and music.
Lyrics to a song released in February 2018 by the rap artist, 6ix9ine (Song Gummo):
“…On the stoop, crills in my draws, your girl on my phone
She wanna fuck but keep her clothes on, I only want the jaw
Man that’s really all I use her for, I kick her out the door
I don’t want her, you can keep the whore, she fiendin’ for some more…”
PORNOGRAPHY AND RAPE CULTURE
We can’t talk about rape culture in America without talking about Porn. It’s the billion-dollar industry cashing in by disseminating real sex, trading it in for very formulaic—and debasing fantasies. Don’t kid yourself, either. These are not harmless fantasies, but ones centered on male pleasure at the expense of female pleasure—even if that means female pain (think of the rise of anal sex in heterosexual porn). Rape and sexual assault are built on the same foundation: Male power/pleasure at the expense of female power/pleasure.
If this wasn’t enough, porn’s effects are far reaching with the average age of first exposure between eight and eleven years old. Sex education in America today is video after video of men exploiting the objectified bodies of women, bodies conveniently devoid of thoughts, feelings, or desires. In fact, in much of mainstream porn, the only thing the object desires is to be his object.
And let’s be clear. Pornography not only operates on misogyny, it is also a direct tool used in many sexual assault cases, with pedophiles using pornography to groom their victims, similar to boyfriends who use it groom their sexual partners into coercive, male centered sex acts. Many perpetrators of sex crimes also admit to having addictions to pornography and using pornography to fuel their sexual fantasies.
Here is a new pornographic film, just released a few days ago, titled, “Chocked and Soaked” (2018), with an accompanying description:
Dirty director Aiden Riley spotlights male-dominant anal sex….Wearing fetish-style garb, petite cutie Keira Croft creeps through Small Hands’ house looking to pilfer his prized diamond. He subjects her to rump-reaming retribution. Hands fucks her twat to creaming; he chokes her as he rudely rails her rectum.
THE COURTS/OUR LEADERS AND RAPE CULTURE
Aside from trash culture, which has far-reaching effects, rape culture permeates in our court system with most rape victims silenced, their allegations becoming water shed for just another assault. Back to Kavanaugh. Despite Mrs. Ford being a rather credible witness, even passing an FBI administered lie detector test, Kavanaugh was assigned to the highest courts in the United States. Just the fact that he had to face questioning, regarding the charge, angered many, their anger echoed in such statements as, “This man’s life has been ruined!”
A man escaping consequences for his behavior (“boys will be boys”) is not an unusual trajectory for a male predator. Think Donald Trump. Despite years of repeated offenses (verbal and otherwise) against women, he was elected to be the president of the United States—one of the highest positions in the world, if not the highest. In fact, many men, in high positions in the political and media sphere have abused women, as the #MeToo movement has generously brought to light, without consequence, yet you rarely hear, “This woman’s life has been ruined.” Instead you hear things like, “I’m sure it wasn’t that bad,” or “How do we know it even happened?”
With sexual assault being the least likely of crimes to result in a conviction in a court of law, what consequences can we hope for? According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network), out of 1000 rapes, only 310 are reported to police (victim shaming), out of that 310 reported, only 7 cases will lead to a felony conviction.
Quotes by Donald Trump:
“You know, it doesn’t really matter what [they] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
‘How are you going to change the pageant?’ I said, ‘I’m going to get the bathing suits to be smaller and the heels to be higher’.”
He later added: “If you’re looking for a rocket scientist, don’t tune in tonight, but if you’re looking for a really beautiful woman, you should watch.”
This blog covered some areas in which rape culture influences many of our societal stomping grounds, but the truth is rape culture saturates all aspects of our culture because it is one of the foundations from which our culture was built. Our entire way of life was built on the belief that women were inferior to men, simply a helpmate.
If we want to end sexual assault, we need to end rape culture. That starts with everyday choices from everyday people like you and me. Choose not to consume cultural products that promote the sexual objectification of women, sexual violence against women and/or toxic misogyny.