PSA: Rape Culture

[Crossposted from my tumblr]

Dear everyone,

When someone says you are doing something that is perpetuating or upholding or contributing in some way to "rape culture"?  Here is a list of things they are not doing:
  • Accusing you of being a rapist
  • Comparing you to a rapist
  • Saying you don't think rape is bad
  • Saying you don't care about rape victims
  • Claiming that your actions will literally cause someone to go out and rape
If you think being accused of upholding rape culture means any of these things, you are wrong, and it is because you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what rape culture means.  Here is what they are actually saying:
Your words and/or actions are in some way participating in the creation and maintenance of a social climate in which consent is minimized and/or mocked, the bodies of all people who are not men are considered public property/disposable commodities, the boundaries of people who are not men are routinely violated in ways large and small, people who are not men are actively discouraged from having and holding firm on personal boundaries via negative social feedback ("bitch", "frigid", etc), and an ever-shifting and -increasing set of required behaviors are shoveled onto people who are not men in order to prevent themselves from being raped, and if they are raped it is presumed to be because they failed in some way to meet every single one of the required behaviors and therefore they are at fault.
Or, to put it more concisely, your behavior is contributing to a cultural phenomenon that hurts and even kills a lot of people.  This is a Bad Thing.  You don't want to contribute to something that harms people, do you?

Nobody is saying, or even attempting to imply, that you are singlehandedly responsible for this social climate.  Your actions or words may be small enough that you think they are insignificant in the grander scheme of things.  But that's how these things work - a million, billion small actions, jokes, words, tropes, media depictions all act together to form a wider social climate, in much the same way that an avalanche is made of billions of individual snowflakes and a sand beach is made of billions of individual grains of sand.  Your contribution may be something as small as a lip gloss with a rape joke for a name.  Your contribution may be as eyeroll-worthy as some creeper running a public opinion poll to try to manipulate his ex into taking him back.  The size of your personal action is not the point.  The point is that you are, in some small way, contributing to the creation and maintenance of this toxic culture that really fucks people's shit up, and we are going to need you to stop doing that now, for our own safety and for the safety of others.

No, stopping you from doing your one little thing won't magically erase rape culture.  We know that.  But that's how such huge things are dismantled.  One tiny bit at a time.

This public service announcement brought to you by defensive jerks Not Getting It.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast.


itchbay said...

Seriously. Why is it so hard to have a conversation about problematic words without people getting defensive? 

Jadelyn said...

I think to a certain extent it's because, for as well as "rape culture" as a term is defined in feminist/social justice circles, it hasn't really penetrated (no pun intended) mainstream though.  So for at least some people, it's genuine ignorance giving rise to a knee-jerk reaction of "HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE ME OF LIKING RAPE" because they genuinely don't know any better.

Hence, why I wrote this.  

Abbey said...

You put this really wonderfully. I've had to explain the term "rape culture" a lot in my offline life recently, and I will probably be borrowing bits  of your explanation. People get really defensive when they hear "rape culture". :/

Jadelyn said...

Thanks!  It can be tough to explain to people outside the social justice sphere, especially because the term uses such a charged word - rape - and so, much like saying someone is doing something racist, the immediate response is a defensive "I'm not like that!" 


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