Monday, November 14, 2011

We Live in a Rape Culture. And it Hurts Everyone.

Trigger warning for discussions of rape.

Having been wrapped up in a work situation that was ultra time consuming, I haven't had much time to keep up--both with consuming news and writing. It's made me feel a little disconnected. However, one story that hasn't slipped past me is the Penn State child rape story. Now that I've been able to catch up on some sleep, reading, and life in general, I'd like to talk about this for a bit.

I'm sure that anyone who has access to any form of media, like the internet for example, has heard of this story. So if you're reading this, I won't summarize the horrific details. I would, however, like to drive home the point others have made. This story highlights how we live in a rape culture. If you are unsure what this means, I suggest you check out Melissa McEwan's recent piece on the topic. In it, she not only lists many specific, concrete examples, she also quotes Transforming A Rape Culture:
In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death or taxes.
Much of McEwan's words center mostly on the gendered situation of sexual violence. But the Penn State story, much like the scandals which have rocked the Catholic Church, remind us that rape culture affects us all and is clearly evident here.

Rape culture is particularly evident through the fact that students protested the firing of head coach Paterno. As Jill at Feministe said,

Seriously, Penn State students who are rioting because the board of trustees fired a man who helped cover up serial child molestation? You all should be ashamed. And if the comments on your school’s facebook page are any indication of the level of intellectual discourse (and basic spelling and grammar skills) you’ve got going on over there, I would suggest you spend more time hitting the books and less time bleating about how Joe Paterno is a victim, too.
I know you all like football. I know a lot of people like football. I know it’s fun and culturally important and for some reason people identify incredibly strongly with Their Team, many to unhealthy levels. But it’s football. It is just football. Feeling personally devastated because someone you trusted made a really terrible decision is one thing; being personally devastated because your identity is so wrapped up in your team that the idea of any member of that team being punished for covering up child rape strikes you as fundamentally unfair is another thing. It is something that should make you seriously reconsider your identity and your values. Being really good at coaching football doesn’t absolve you from looking the other way when you hear about child rape; it doesn’t absolve you from encouraging others not to report child rape to the police.

I couldn't agree more. This reaction is disgusting. You see, rape culture not only creates an environment where people choose football over rape victims, but it also produced a group of men who thought it was better to deal with the allegations amongst themselves than to involve the law anyway. It produced a witness in this case who walked in on a man raping a 10 year old boy and not only didn't intervene, but also didn't immediately call the police. It made him actually confused about what to do when he saw a child being raped.

If we lived in a world where rape wasn't normalized through the many things McEwan listed in her explanation of rape culture, this could never happen. No one but rapists benefit from rape culture, so how about we all stop playing along? You can do your part to reject the rape culture in many ways. For example, you can accept that people who are complicit in rape crimes deserve punishment. You can put children above football. You can stop using rape analogies and jokes. You can refuse to engage in victim blaming and call others out.

Edit: Just also saw Eve Ensler's piece on rape culture. Check it out too.


  1. Thought you might find this interesting, considering it's about rape culture and slightly Community-related...,

  2. Wow...I had no idea. I don't follow Donald Glover beyond his role in Community. So disappointing.


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