Home Featured A Few Thoughts on the Time “Rape Culture” Piece…

A Few Thoughts on the Time “Rape Culture” Piece…



There’s been a lot of discussion over the last week about the “It’s Time to End ‘Rape Culture’ Hysteria” article that ran on Time. And from what I’ve seen, most of it has been good, albeit heated, discussion.

I’ll be honest with you. If you asked me what “rape culture” was a year ago, I’d probably have said a culture that condones rape. Like, that’s the norm and it’s acceptable if not encouraged. That’s without reading any articles or talking to anyone. It’s the obvious definition.

Fortunately, that’s not what I think it means today. I had a discussion about it with a friend and we both arrived (prior to the discussion) at a pretty solid definition of what it means. Speaking for myself here, I understand rape culture to be practices and attitudes that excuse and tolerate sexual assault of women. The biggest difference in my thinking now is that I don’t see the phrase simply as a reference to the most physical act. It includes all types of violence toward women, including mental and emotional. It also includes jokes and comments that trivialize assault, reckless song lyrics (I’m looking at you Rawse), and cartoons or other nonsense that suggest rapey or, at the minimum, sexually-oriented disrespect of women.

If you haven’t read the Time article, you should know that it’s written by a white woman — a potential topic of discussion in itself — that takes the view that “Rape Culture” isn’t responsible for the unsavory occurrences. It’s the small number of individuals with incredibly compromised moral compasses that commit the crimes. She also argues that teaching men not to rape isn’t the answer, and that it implies the average Joe may have a propensity to commit the crime. She even cornerstones her opinion piece with a quote from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) that came about in their recommendations to the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault:

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“In the last few years, there has been an unfortunate trend towards blaming “rape culture” for the extensive problem of sexual violence on campus. While it is helpful to point out the systemic barriers to addressing the problem, it is important not to lose sight of a simple fact: Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime.”

Yep. I too was surprised to see this come from a forefront organization on this topic. What’s not so surprising — to me at least — is that I agree, but only at the most basic level. The men that are consciously and deliberately committing rape is a small group of extremely misguided souls. However, when we look at the more inclusive version of “Rape Culture” and rape (including general sexual assault as I described earlier) in general, that small number of men becomes a bigger group. There are men out there who may have committed sexual assault and they ain’t even know it. Only because they think of it in the most literal sense. But what about those blurred line guys? Especially young men that are more concerned with the +1, looking cool amongst their friends, and doing what they think is acceptable.

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There are men that think women expect them to “work for it,” similar to what happens with courting. Of course I can’t directly compare the two. But it’s as close as I can get. The men in these situations think they need to “work a little harder,” spit a little more game, or be a little more aggressive. And that’s when it becomes a problem. In most cases, they may get the picture once slapped or it’s clear she’s not playing a game. But at that point, the assault has already began.

There are men that know a woman is intoxicated and see it as loosened inhibitions. Because she’s still appears lucid, they assume she’s in control and potentially doing things she wanted to do already. This thinking, while wrong, isn’t without merits. How many movies or stories have you seen where consensual sex happens under the influence of alcohol? We can even look at the cliché joke of waking up to someone you wish you hadn’t. The men in these situations aren’t thinking about taking away her power (though they should be). They’re only thinking about the story they’ll tell their friends.

There are also the men who get involved with train or group sex situations. And I’m not talking about the ones that involved passed out women. They are the unfortunate situations where the woman involved likes one of the guys so much that she’s willing to do whatever he says. And there are times where the other fellas get involved. And within that, there may be the guy who normally wouldn’t participate but he wants to save face with the homies and goes along with it…against his better judgment.

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Now these may not be the majority of situations, but they happen. And when we get into conversations about whether or not it’s a good idea to teach men not to rape as a means to mitigate “Rape Culture,” I get the feeling that a lot of people aren’t thinking about these guys. And this is the group of men that I’m concerned about the most.

We’re having a lot of conversations about this, but I have to wonder if they’re the right ones. I don’t even know that we’re on the same page about what rape is. Well, I think we are in the most literal definition. But what about everything else?



  1. Rape culture is real. We all know what the problems are, even the men that claim no rape culture exist know what the problems are. It's impossible to deny. Problem is that the solutions can never be agreed upon. I read article after article and I come to the same conclusion every time. This is a great answer, but only on paper.

    For years they've said, "Why aren't we teaching men not to rape?". Not only does it make it harder to weed out the perpetrators by treating it as a group problem, it makes about as much sense as telling someone not to murder. That's something you learn at a young age. You don't harm someone in any way, shape, or form. If you're still doing it after that, then that's a whole different problem. That's a choice an individual is making and he needs to be punished as an individual for his actions. And that's the part we always fail at.

    Also, they've been attacking the rape culture on campus from the wrong angle. The main problem I see here is accountability. A lot of stuff happens on college campuses because the college community tolerates it. People will watch borderline rape go down in a frat house and say nothing. Everyone will say it's not my responsibility. And that leads to victim blaming since they're the only ones who can't walk away from it. A few times it may end up at the other end of the spectrum. Some kid may get wrongly accused and no one takes the time to investigate. Again, everyone looks for someone else to blame and the accused is left holding the bag. Now, no one will take it seriously when someone really does get raped. And we need to stop expecting college administrations to handle rape. First, it's a serious crime that should be reported to an actual police department as well as the college. Second, conflict of interest. If punishing someone for sexual assault means losing good publicity, then we know what they won't do.

    The blurred lines problem needs it's own separate discussion. I read several articles pertaining to pressured sex which is considered sexual assault but it's like where does responsibility with oneself lie? There was one I read which stuck out to me because it was the epitome of "this isn't gonna work in real life." Then there's alcohol. I like to drink but we need to talk about how we can control it.

  2. 1. I think rape culture affects men/includes sexual assault against men as well.

    2. There is no borderline rape. Consent is given, or consent is not given. Also, consent can be taken away at any point. You do not and should not have control over someone else's body.

    3. As far as blurred lines are concerned, how is not getting raped/sexually assaulted anyone's responsibility other than the perpetrator? You step a bit too far into victim blaming when you start to ask that. I am all for responsible actions, but that should be across the board, not just for victims. The first question should not be "what were YOU wearing/doing/drinking/etc".

    4. When I think about teaching men not to rape, I am definitely thinking about those guys. I am also thinking about the "nice guys" who don't understand the word no, or think just because they are friends/dating/married that everything is okay. Rape is not always some violent thing like Law and Order SVU… most victims know their rapists. And for all of those types of men described in the post, why aren't we teaching them that sexual conquest is not the be all end all? that consent is what's sexy? that maybe their masculinity/manhood is not determined by the number of girls they sleep with?

    just some thoughts…

  3. I don't think one can argue for or against rape culture, because culture don't rape people, individuals do. I realize it's natural for academics to always blame abstract forces (society, culture, media, environment etc) for the causes of behavior, especially in the social sciences, but honestly, if that's the case, what's the difference between those who rape and those who don't, if we're all a part and influenced by the culture? Are they suggesting that rapists are partially or primarily conditioned by culture and thus aren't 100% to blame for their actions, due to the fact that they have less defenses against cultural influence than others?

  4. I liked your definition of what Rape Culture is. @abarb10 had some good comments as well #Salute and lastly, I don't believe teaching individuals not to rape is the answer. That's like teaching individuals not to have unprotected sex. It is done, but it isn't necessarily the answer. It is a behavioral issue, so we must focus on the behaviors that help in supporting the practices and attitudes that excuse and tolerate sexual assault of women/men.

    Rape within families–especially African American families, which I know to well from my own family–happens often and is never spoken of. I am glad discussions are continuing to take place. Thank you for this article.

  5. The whole diagram doesn’t add that Men can also be victims, even if we are a minority (seeing that in writing matters), and False Allegations ARE part of the culture, IMHO. Lives are changed forever in false claims, with the measures to repair one’s reputation and having that label of Rapist/Sexual Predator going into the Abyss known as Public Opinion.

    There are no substantial reprocussions for false accusers (ask Brian Banks, Central Park 5 and others) who lost time in years , opportunities, families, friends and their Name Tarnished by false accusations.

  6. "Teach men how not to rape" Is the mot ridiculous thing I've heard. It's something that is morally and legally wrong, how out of the way could you go to preventing the average joe from deciding not to go out and brutally assault a women. If you have raped someone, there is there is something deeply wrong with you morally/mentally and that isn't society's fault.

  7. First off, I feel some type of way about the term "rape culture", because its so sexy and sensationalized, minimizing rape into a term that people that people throw around for debate. Although the idea of a "rape culture" is at its peak, rape and the condolence of rape have been around forever. In 1998, 83% of rape victims were under the age of 25! (911rape.org) And 1/5 women are raped in their lifetime! Do you understand and feel how ridiculous that is? And I see we are missing some female voices on this issue, hmm?!

    I had a whole thoughtful comment on this that was erased accidentally, but basically all of the super good stuff boiled down to this:

    1. The definition of rape is more problematic than the act of rape. I firmly believe that a victim was raped if he/she GENUINELY feels that she was raped.
    2. Clear consent or lack of resistance is not enough to prove that a person was not raped. Even fear leads to consent.
    3. There are differences in men and women's perspective that may contribute to a misunderstanding of rape. What men don't consider rape- losing their virginity to a much older woman, being pressured by an older girl, being "attacked" by a sexually aroused woman, receiving head while they're still asleep- most women do (maybe not the head part, just me).
    4. Perhaps the key to reducing rape occurrence is to make men aware of rape in their own lives^^^^

    1. I just wanted to add that I am so hurt that we don't have more women commenting on this article. I know men are victims too, but I don't think many men identify themselves as such. With the number of female victims, women can shed some much needed light on this. I myself am a victim of attempted rape by an acquaintance- just this past summer in fact- and I believe my sister was a victim of rape, so I hold that 1/5 statistic dear to my heart. As an anti-rape/domestic violence advocate, I have no qualms about using my story in this anonymous format to hopefully emphasize the urgency. The crazy thing is that I had written a 15-page paper on rape perception on college campuses a few months before it happened. I do identify myself as a victim of attempted rape, but I am lucky that I have no anger and I was able to maintain contact with the person months later to make him see his wrongdoing and to make peace with myself. I told him he had raped me and made him swear to never do it again, but for months I kept thinking to myself, "If he wanted to rape me, he wouldn't do that. If he really wanted to rape me, he could have," and it isn't until now that I realize what could have happened or how it could have been worse does not take away from what did happen. At the time it was happening, I repeated about 3 times, "You're raping me. You're raping me" and he just replied, "No, I'm not," while still on top of me.

      Even though rape and sexual assualt are not the same, in certain contexts, rape begins long before any penetration or sexual favors. And if anyone is wondering, he eventually got off of me on his own, but defense mechanisms I tried were crossing my legs underneath him, squeezing the shit out of his dick until it went limp and afterwards, and telling him he was raping me- the latter of which he cited as the reason he eventually let me go although he did complain about me squeezing his dick so hard.

      1. To be fair, I don't think men can even afford the luxury (if such a thing exists) of seeing themselves as such because there is no sympathy or concern for a man who does such. If men began to express the fact that they felt victimized, they'd be told (by men AND women) to "man up", so there's an inherent conflict in those two situations with the general idea of "men can't be victims". The truth is that the present environment paints men as being unable to be victimized and is more likely the predator instead of the prey. Can't have it both ways.
        My recent post Does everybody really deserve to be happy?

        1. That's a very good point. We need to address that mentality first, although it would not be easy or fully achievable. I believe the first step in redefining masculinity would be to address how young men view themselves (in addition to their manhood). My university has started a program similar to the Good Men Project, in which male participants, especially male athletes, attend a week-long retreat before orientation where they discuss what it means to be a man and other stuff. I think its a great program that should be made more available to young men. I am not trying to womanize men; I like "masculine" men in my sense as well. But to touch on your point, I think we are moving closer to a point where men can have it both ways. I mean just looking at the evolution of men's fashion to skinny jeans, muscle shirts, clothes with jewels and flowers, dreads (long hair), etc. lets me know that male acceptance has changed. I even think someone posted an article on here a few weeks ago about getting a pedicure. Even though men are still seen as the predator, I think the queer movement has an effect on gender stereotypes as well.


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