[Trigger Warning: This article may be traumatising to victims of rape and sexual assault.]
A girl you know has a reputation for taking a different guy home every time she is at the club. A man who has been watching her decides that if she said yes to the first 20 then his is also implied… When she goes to the police for help they question her about the number of sexual partners she had, what she was wearing, whether she was drunk. They dismiss her case and blame it on her history of being a slut. She goes home dejected and vows not to speak up again. If the case makes it to court, she faces the risk of having her entire sexual history dragged out by the judge and this will add to her humiliation.
A young woman goes to a party with friends. A guy who has fancied her sees this as an opportunity to turn her long standing refusal of his advances into a yes and begins to ply her with alcohol. Eventually, the young woman becomes intoxicated and passes out. The guy, knowing full well she will not remember this in the morning, has sex with her unconscious body. The following day, nobody will scold the boy who intentionally got a girl -who had clearly expressed that she did not want to sleep with him- drunk so that he could take advantage of her, but will question her behaviour and why she wasn’t more responsible. “You should be more careful at parties,” they tell her “don’t you know what happens to girls who hang out with the wrong crowd?”
A male student is in his final year of study. His female lecturer has yet to sign off on one of his courses that will allow him to graduate. His father has put extra pressure on him as he is the first in their family to go to university. This is why he does not tell anyone of the things she makes him do in her office late at night. He knows if he tells his peers they will mock him. This is his mess, he got himself into it, and will do it until she signs off. He has no choice.
This is an example of rape culture – a normalised attitude to the crime of rape that leads to a society where both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death.
In a rape culture, people are surrounded with images, language, laws and other everyday phenomena that validate and perpetuate rape. Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is unavoidable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are.”
Still don’t understand?
Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what to wear, how to wear it, how to carry oneself, whom to trust, how much to drink, to learn self-defence, to never let your guard down and failure to adhere to the rules means it’s your fault.
Rape culture is ignoring that the thing about rapists is that they rape people, whether strong or weak, careful or not.
Rape culture is street harassment, it is being groped in public transportation, it is treating women’s bodies like public property.
Rape culture is the narrative that boys can’t be raped, that wives can’t be raped, that sex workers can’t be raped.
Rape culture is rape jokes. No sir, you weren’t JUST JOKING. Rape culture is using the word ‘rape’ casually in conversation. “That exam raped me” That’s rape culture.
Rape culture is even hidden in the imaginary friendzone. Yup, the friendzone, that mythical land where a man believes that he is entitled to sex with a woman simply because he was nice to her for an extended period of time. And yes, even women are guilty of this.
This lax attitude to the word rape, this feeling of nonchalance about a crime that happens in Kenya every 30 minutes, to boys and girls, women and men, regardless of age or dressing or whether they were drinking, is a huge problem. It is dependent of society believing that women owe men sex, that consent is not necessary and that they should take what they want from us whenever they deem it necessary.
Rape and sexual violence is normalised and that’s a bad thing. We would rather believe that these things are perpetuated by bad men wielding axes in dark alleyways even though two-thirds of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. We would rather believe that the terrible realities we hear about aren’t real or that, at least, we can’t do anything about it. The truth is ugly. But by denying the obvious we continue to allow rapists to go unpunished and leave survivors silenced.
But blogging about it is not enough. Pointing it out on a forum tends to reduce the intensity of the message. It reduces it to a long winded conversation that will be forgotten when the wi-fi is out. So this is my solution.
I would like to go to high schools, everywhere in the country and educate young adults about the extent of rape culture. And I need your help.
We will go to schools, both private and public, in suburbs and impoverished areas, teaching them about this societal ill that will face them as soon as they are out of school. We will teach them about street harassment, victim shaming, slut shaming and all the things that are encapsulated in rape culture.
Sign up here to add your voice to #StopRapeCulture. Since the problem lies in a culture that is entertained by degrading acts and images of women, the solution is to look at the individual acts as a symptom of rape culture and solve it holistically. We all have a part to play in allowing rape culture to exist—so, we can all do something to eradicate it.