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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Rape culture in the U.S. does indeed exist

It looks like The Badger Herald has embraced the thoughts of the one Mr. David Hookstead again. And this one is a doozey!

Let it be known Badgers, rape culture DOES NOT EXIST! Well, according to Hookstead it doesn’t, at least. For God’s sake, it does though. This is like asking the obvious question, is the Pope Catholic? We should not be having this conversation any more, but it appears we need to have a talk with Hookstead again and explain to him why rape culture does indeed exist.

According to PAVE, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s peer-to-peer sexual assault awareness and victim advocacy group, rape culture—the one in which we live—views sexual assault (an umbrella term including rape) as an inevitable thing that is unchangeable. To expand on that, a rape-support culture is one that includes various cultural phenomena that either sympathizes with sexual assailants (i.e. rapists, stalkers, people who perpetrate intimate partner violence etc.) while putting the blame for such acts on the victim.

This culture, the one that apparently doesn’t exist, is reinforced by Hookstead! The most recent Letter to the Editor systematically alienates one in five women on campus and other victims of sexual violence.

Sexual assault and intimate partner violence (aka domestic violence) are incredibly prevalent as the statistic above shows and are often connected with other forms of abuse. Although other crimes do exist, it is important to spotlight forms of sexual assault, because many crimes can become interrelated. The sheer prevalence of sexual assault is reason for it to remain in the spotlight. Murder might be a high profile crime, but it is much less common than sexual assault. One quarter of the women on campus are not murdered during their time at UW-Madison, but one quarter become victims of sexual assault.

Cultures do shape crime as well. Murder is more common in the United States than it is in many other developed countries because we do live in a violent society. I don’t mean this in the sense that we watch violent movies and the British don’t. Nor do I mean that we have a violent past and Russia doesn’t, but we live in a society in which violence is seen as a way to exert power and control, and resolve issues we have. Studies have looked into this and all you need to do is watch “Bowling for Columbine” to get a hint of this. That violence can be used in other ways too… like, oh, sexual violence. While people are not inherently good or bad, they are shaped by their culture to do good or bad things. Various cultural tools can be used to retain certain power balances whether those balances are based on race, religion, sexual orientation or gender.

Rape culture exists all over the place in the United States. Some of it is in the media like Tyler Farr’s country song “Redneck Crazy” and the accompanying music video but much of it is on the street. This can range from using sexist language or language that demeans a person based on their sex or gender to joking about rape like it is not big deal. Going into a classroom and saying ‘Wow, that exam raped me’ undermines the experience victims go through and it makes the action of the perpetrators seem as mundane as a difficult exam.

Rape culture is the culture that views female sexuality as being irrelevant. It claims ownership of other people and their bodies. It is telling somebody that if they didn’t want to get raped they shouldn’t have worn that skirt because it was too short or those heels because they couldn’t run or they should’ve had mace because they shouldn’t have the freedom to feel safe walking home from the bars at night.

Such things are never invitations to perpetrate sexual assault. Nothing is an invitation to commit sexual assault and should ever be used as an excuse to commit sexual assault. And lots of young men are taught that rape and sexual assault are acceptable means to gain power over women. Please, tell me that the letter recently sent to members of a fraternity in Georgia telling them how to take advantage of women at a party for sex was not instructions on this? Please, tell me there wasn’t any pressure on these young men to have sex? Are we to believe that rape wouldn’t be seen as an acceptable option at some point?

And for the record, men are not to blame for all assaults happening. Yes, men are the victims of sexual assault like women, sometimes at the hands of women, sometimes at the hands of men, but the fact of the matter is men are the perpetrators of around 95 percent of all instances of sexual assault. That is not to say all men are doing this. Only about 5 percent of men commit such acts, but this is still something that is a crime disproportionately committed by men against women. This is according to statistics from Sex Out Loud and PAVE.

The unfortunate thing is we don’t even know the real scope of sexual assault, because many times it goes unreported. Sexual assault is not regrettable sex however, but the use of sex and sexual violence as a means to coerce, manipulate, degrade and disempower people. Women are not using this as a way to demonize men. This is people—more than just women—pointing out there is an entire culture around us that supports widespread sexual violence against them and that this must change. We do live in a rape-support culture, and it is up to us to change that culture, but we can do it.

Not with the help of one Badger though, but he can shove off. For those of you who believe in the existence of the rape-support culture and want to help by supporting victims of sexual assault, bringing rape culture to an end or simply want to learn more I highly recommend getting in touch with PAVE. They, in addition to the Rape Crisis Center at UHS, are wonderful student resources for victims of sexual assault looking for support resources and potential allies.

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What did you think of David Hookstead’s letter published in The Badger Herald? Do you believe the rape culture exists? Please send all feedback to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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