On this thing called "rape culture"

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I'm spinning this off of the Dickwolves thread, because this discussion is a lot bigger than even Penny Arcade.

Alternate title is "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Rape But Knew You’d Be An Asshole If You’d Ask"

If there's anywhere on the whole of the internets where there can be a rational discussion of this, I trust it to be here so if you have genuine questions, don't be afraid to speak up. And to get the whole "anyone who supports rape culture must be a monster" thing out of the way, I wrote this in the other thread:

I've survived multiple assaults, and I still perpetuate rape culture too.

When I choose to wear sneakers instead of cute shoes on a night out, because you never know when you might have to run or fight, I'm supporting rape culture because I'm making the assumption that a rape attempt is an everyday, common event that I need to plan for. When I shake my head at a news story about a drunk woman being assaulted in a stranger's car, I'm perpetuating rape culture by thinking that only women who make bad decisions get raped. When hear a guy in a bar call his girlfriend a stupid whore and don't intervene because I don't want him to beat me up, I'm supporting rape culture because I'm allowing him to think that acting that way, even in public, is acceptable and that people around him support his actions.

Rape culture isn't about people going around saying "yay rape!" It's about acting like sexual violence is a common and normal part of society, and making comments and decisions that reinforce that.

In a teeny-tiny nutshell, rape culture is a phrase used in social science to describe an environment where sexual violence (against any gender) is normalized, considered commonplace, and sometimes glorified.

The outer boundaries of the concept of rape culture are where people get into giant arguments about it, but you can read a good, non-politicized definition here.

Examples of Rape Culture:

Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”)
Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)
Sexually explicit jokes
Tolerance of sexual harassment
Inflating false rape report statistics
Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
Gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television
Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
Pressure on men to “score”
Pressure on women to not appear “cold”
Assuming only promiscuous women get raped
Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped
Refusing to take rape accusations seriously
Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape

How can men and women combat Rape Culture?

Avoid using language that objectifies or degrades women
Speak out if you hear someone else making an offensive joke or trivializing rape
If a friend says she has been raped, take her seriously and be supportive
Think critically about the media’s messages about women, men, relationships, and violence
Be respectful of others’ physical space even in casual situations
Always communicate with sexual partners and do not assume consent
Define your own manhood or womanhood. Do not let stereotypes shape your actions.
Get involved! Join a student or community group working to end violence against women.

Elliottx wrote:

I have been following this thread in hopes of understanding rape culture due to my lack of education on the subject, as it wasn't focused on in the feminism courses I took in the early 2000's. But I am curious as to whether challenging a man's manhood is part of rape culture?

Culture being such a strong word that I would have to imagine it encompasses a larger area then what has been brought up so far. Is rape culture separate from misogynistic culture but with overlaps or is it the same anti-female actions?

I don't have a master's degree in this, but some say a culture that hits a certain level of accepted misogyny becomes a rape culture, and some people just equate the two. The hairsplitting people get into is whether things refer to sexual violence/ignoring people's personal or physical boundaries, or if they just paint women in a stereotypical, oversimplified, or categorically unflattering light.

If they're identical I feel I have a firm grasp of misogynistic culture, but if they're not perhaps I could be told which culture the following falls into or neither? If not, I understand and thank you for any responses I receive.

My list of confusion:
The Bachelor
Anime with teenage girl panties
Vikings/Pirates - historical rapists who are idolized by American society, not the football and baseball team who are both just awful in my opinion.
Taunting of a man that he is not man enough or scared of women
Super Mario's Princess Peach/Link's Zelda(originals, no smash bros) - as in, damsel in distress, can't do anything except get kidnapped.
How some women dress for Halloween - aka kitty, nurse, Playboy bunny, overtly sexual takes on non-sexual characters. They have every right to dress how they want late at night but is it fueling misogyny or rape culture?

Everyone, including every feminist, is going to have a different set of answers for you. Your critical analysis here is what counts.

To answer your original question, challenging a guy's manhood is generally considered to be a part of rape culture because it hinges on a deep-seated cultural narrative that "real" men act in certain ways (and therefore "real" women don't act in any of those ways), and it pressures men to act more "manly" whether they want to or not. Since one of the main areas that's exerted is through the pressure for guys to "score", it perpetuates rape culture by pressuring men to accumulate sexual conquests whether they want to or not, and whether their partners consent or not.

On your list the things that jump out of me as rape-culture-ish are the "fan service" (I'm going to see up her skirt whether she wants me to or not, because I want to) and the taunting (implies "we're going to say you're scared of women, so show us you're not by scaring some women").

A thought on the Halloween thing- I think part of the reason women go overboard with the sexy-this-sexy-that costumes is that it's become the one time of the year a "normal" girl can wear a really short skirt, neat boots, or fun-looking fetish stuff without being called a prostitute. Or at least without the label sticking, the way it would if she wore it on a regular night out. I think it's ridiculous, but I understand the rebel streak that propels some of it. The flip side of that is that it's damned hard to find a Halloween costume that doesn't make you look like a stereotypical prostitute, so it's a chicken-and-egg question to me.

I don't think women dressing provocatively fuels rape culture (that's the Taliban argument). I think people who argue that the provocatively-dressed woman must "want it" if she's dressed that way are, though.

::

It's a problematic phrase, though. And that makes the fact that this is so pervasive harder for people to discuss rationally. I wish there was something else le social scientists could call it that doesn't provoke so many knee-jerk arguments.

Another aspect of "rape culture" that really bugs me. We talk, as a society here in America, very freely about the culture of prison rape and sexual assault as if the prisoners deserve it. "Office Space" joked about that being a certain kind of prison. When the shooter in Arizona was arrested some gleefully wished a lifetime of raping on him. You hear this far too frequently. Not only does it trivialize something horrific, but it becomes almost like "the rape that's cool to talk about". We have euphemisms for it. We have jokes about it. Because, you know, we're totally sensitive to how terrible it is. Unless it happens to people that deserve to be raped. Then it's A-OK.

That's always bothered me. It definitely fits the bill of "cruel and unusual punishment". It's no way to run a rehabilitative prison system. Or even a punitive prison system where you hope prisoners don't exit worse than they entered the penal system.

DSGamer wrote:

Because, you know, we're totally sensitive to how terrible it is. Unless it happens to people that deserve to be raped. Then it's A-OK.

And once society has determined that it's ok for some people who "deserve it", then everyone gets to have an opinion on who deserves to be raped and who doesn't. Good times.

Okay. This is going to sound very, VERY caveman, but here it is....

This is certainly less true here in the US where we generally negotiate sexually a lot more openly, but in societies where sex is taboo and the negotiation is never verbalized, the line between normal sexual behavior and rape is not nearly as well defined as you might think.

When I was living in Taiwan, I noticed that ladies you'd pick up at night clubs would be hot, hot, hot all the way to your bedroom and then would go all demure in a hurry. Being from America, I did what any responsible dude raised in the era of "no means no" would do. I told them to get their clothes on and leave my apartment. It wasn't until I bumped into a woman who went to university in the US that it was explained to me that women in Taiwan are raised not to take responsibility for their sexuality and that it was normative in their cultural context to "play the game" of making the decision for them. I told her that was pretty retarded and ended up dating a Japanese woman (who had no trouble telling me to wake up and do my duty) for the remaining 3 years I was there.

clover wrote:

When I choose to wear sneakers instead of cute shoes on a night out, because you never know when you might have to run or fight, I'm supporting rape culture because I'm making the assumption that a rape attempt is an everyday, common event that I need to plan for.

I have a question about this statement. First of all, I don't disagree with the premise: if you make decisions in your life based on an assumption that embodies a particular culture, then you are supporting it, in a way. I think that wearing sneakers is a little different from your second example, which is blaming the victim. You can make that choice not to contribute to the rape culture and not to wear those sneakers, but if someone tries to assault you, you can't really expect much traction out of, "wait, no, I don't support the rape culture so you'll have to go find someone else to rape. Note the cute footwear."

There are all sorts of things we do to prepare for those rare disasters in our lives. How many of us keep a gun at home for protection? Does that mean we support a burglary culture? How many of us have a spare tire? Does that mean we support a pothole culture?

There's a line between supporting a culture and preparing for a possibility. You might leave the sneakers at home and 999 out of 1,000 times you'll feel good about your choice not to support a destructive, misogynistic culture. 1 out of 1,000 times, it may be perfectly reasonable to suddenly value personal protection over social change.

I know that we've had Goodjers who have honestly stated that they consider female sexuality to be a weapon, and that not only is a low-cut blouse an invitation, it's a threat: "give me what I want because I have these." The argument typically came up in birth control conversations; the individual in question believed that a condom allowed a woman to use her sexuality at will with no risk of consequence. Needless to say, I couldn't disagree with that sentiment more. If a man is enchanted by a lovely figure, that's his fault, not hers. I don't know if that Goodjer is still hanging around but if they are, I hope they'll speak up. I'm not saying they're in favor of rape, I'm saying that they have a strong concept of "propriety" that I think could add another dimension to this conversation.

I don't think it is exclusive to patriarchal society. Women can be just as cruel and condescending to women as men are.

I will say it infuriates me to this day that we still raise our kids that our boys have to be captain of the football team and our girls have to be head cheerleaders.

Practically all of my childhood friends frequently "banged" "ugly" chicks because they were "easy" or "available" in college. I bit my tongue so many times and struggled in silence when dealing with my own desires and private shame over my virginity. I may have held myself in too high a regard and my standards may have been too high (I didn't go on a date with a really cute and pleasant young woman because she had bad teeth), but I refused to participate in the misogyny.

Got to go to work but will post more...

Paleocon wrote:

Okay. This is going to sound very, VERY caveman, but here it is....

This is certainly less true here in the US where we generally negotiate sexually a lot more openly, but in societies where sex is taboo and the negotiation is never verbalized, the line between normal sexual behavior and rape is not nearly as well defined as you might think.

I think it may be a good move to clarify (or not, I don't know where the discussion will go) whether we are discussing Westernized cultural ideas, here, and Generally Accepted Western Principles so we don't get bogged down in the worldwide cultural differences. Opening the discussion to areas of the world that treat women differently (Asia, Africa, the Middle East) may just bog down the conversation into yet another "who's to say what culture is right" masturbatory affair.

So, without passing judgment on the cultures of non Westerners, it will suffice to say my comments don't include them.

I'm glad you made this post, clover. I backed right the hell out of the Dickwolf thread because of my extreme ("extreme" defined by the general position of the posters on this forum) views on the subject.

I think DSGamer's point is a good one. It's become accepted that in addition to going to prison, the life of the incarcerated will include rape. This has gone from a running joke to just par for the course. Family Guy made reference to this by lining up 6 different "butt hurt" jokes when Brian spent a night in jail. This is, as clover pointed out, indicative of rape culture, because once it's okay to rape certain people, that pool will inevitably expand in certain social circles.

Another point that I think goes hand in hand with rape culture is that of a patriarchal society. This is also known as male privilege, which goes hand in hand with rape culture. In fact, one might call rape culture a facet of a patriarchal culture.

fangblackbone wrote:

I don't think it is exclusive to patriarchal society. Women can be just as cruel and condescending to women as men are.

Well, the women are also a part of patriarchal culture. It's not like men are the sole inhabitors, they're just the sole benefactors. It's difficult to describe -- and even more difficult to resist -- the structure from within it, regardles of sex.

I think part of the problem is trying to separate out "rape culture" from a violent culture in general.

I'm not a small guy. I'm not a violent person but don't look like someone easy to mess with.

Worry about shoes, because I might have to fight or chase someone who has my kid? Check.
Worry about getting in a strangers car, stopping to help out a stranded car, chatting with the beggars downtown? Check.
Generally stay out of public arguments because you never know which one of the crazies is going to attack you? Check.

Violence specifically targeted at women is a subset of a general violence seemingly inherent in our species and prevalent in our national culture. Maybe we can declare a "War on Violence"?

LobsterMobster wrote:
clover wrote:

When I choose to wear sneakers instead of cute shoes on a night out, because you never know when you might have to run or fight, I'm supporting rape culture because I'm making the assumption that a rape attempt is an everyday, common event that I need to plan for.

I have a question about this statement. First of all, I don't disagree with the premise: if you make decisions in your life based on an assumption that embodies a particular culture, then you are supporting it, in a way. I think that wearing sneakers is a little different from your second example, which is blaming the victim. You can make that choice not to contribute to the rape culture and not to wear those sneakers, but if someone tries to assault you, you can't really expect much traction out of, "wait, no, I don't support the rape culture so you'll have to go find someone else to rape. Note the cute footwear."

It is different from the second example; I tried to choose snips that showed really different areas of life that are influenced by this. I put it in the category of rape culture because if a guy is stopped on the street by a masked stranger with a gun, he's likely to lose his watch and wallet. If a girl is stopped on the street by the same guy, the cultural assumption is that instead of just losing her purse, she'll be dragged into an alley and raped as well.

A person is far more likely to be raped by someone they know than a random stranger, but it's a socialization thing. Women are taught pretty much from birth that you have to be careful when you go out, don't do this, don't do that, etc. A lot of that is common sense, yes, and men are instructed in a certain amount, but for women the volume is definitely louder and is centered mostly around the idea of keeping yourself out of situations where someone will try to assault you.

And not saying that these are all a bad idea from the self-preservation angle (like the shoes thing), but it shows that we as a society are more interested in teaching women how to avoid aggressive men than in teaching men how to respect women's (and everyone's) boundaries. That in itself is considered to be part of rape culture- the idea that men can do whatever they want and women have to adapt to protect themselves.

LilCodger wrote:

I think part of the problem is trying to separate out "rape culture" from a violent culture in general.
...
Violence specifically targeted at women is a subset of a general violence seemingly inherent in our species and prevalent in our national culture. Maybe we can declare a "War on Violence"?

I grew up socialized to high levels of violence (Flint, MI) so I'm with you on this one.

Active feminism tends not to focus exclusively on the broader context of violence, because it bends back to male privilege and guys feeling left out or persecuted by the conversations. You'll see it referred to sarcastically online as the "what about the menz" argument- it has a companion argument in racism discussions too.

Note that I'm not saying you're trying to swing the discussion that way, just that that's why organized feminism hasn't completely taken up the banner against general violence.

But a blanket War on Violence will inevitably lead to "violent video games encourage violent thinking" screeds and then we're back to that whole argument, because people (North Americans), as a society, don't seem to want to engage in nuanced critical thinking. How would that argument go, that could eloquently parse the difference between rape jokes and violent video games? I'm struggling with it here, but I need something better than "it just is"

I still think the term "rape culture" is really problematic, as far as being something to have rational discussions around. We're socialized to think that only neanderthal-esque monsters are capable of rape or behaving violently toward women (and meaning it- the nice guys just "made a mistake"), and so the turn of phrase sets everyone up to be very defensive from the start. But it's what we have for now.

I know this forum is heavily populated by North Americans, but I'd love to hear opinions of this from around the world.

A parallel I can't help thinking of, and perhaps it's related to the main topic, is the UK versus continental Europe drinking culture, over here there is a problem with people going out for the sole purpose of 'getting lashed' and the stereotypical continental drinking session is a slower affair where you don't get absolutely drunk. Also worth thinking of is that the US, and I'd say the UK, are stereotypically fairly prudish about sex compared to the continent.

Quite how much of it holds up in reality is another matter, but I suspect no one has a really good idea.

Scratched wrote:

I know this forum is heavily populated by North Americans, but I'd love to hear opinions of this from around the world.

A parallel I can't help thinking of, and perhaps it's related to the main topic, is the UK versus continental Europe drinking culture, over here there is a problem with people going out for the sole purpose of 'getting lashed' and the stereotypical continental drinking session is a slower affair where you don't get absolutely drunk. Also worth thinking of is that the US, and I'd say the UK, are stereotypically fairly prudish about sex compared to the continent.

I'm really interested in hearing other angles on this, and it's a good example of privilege- I was raised and still live in the US, so I assume, unless I step back and actively question myself, that other people have the same kinds of experiences that I do. That's patently untrue, but it's the position all people operate from in one area or the other.

So when the phrase "male privilege" or "white privilege" or "whatever privilege" comes up in these sorts of discussions, it's not about vilifying dudes, or saying that men categorically have an overinflated sense of entitlement- just that the privileged person lacks the frame of reference to really understand what the other person's experience is, without an immense amount of honest discussion.

I'm now officially making an effort to check my North American privilege at the door, and to try to identify it (I think I did to some degree already) while writing. Teachable moment!

::

Edited to re-add Seth's male privilege link from earlier.

Bonus link: anti-feminist bingo

The whole rape culture idea is new to me, so I'm still chewing on it. So far, I have a few thoughts on 'blame the victim'. Hear me out here, because this will sound outrageous at first, but I'm probably not saying what you may think I'm saying. Stick with it to the end before getting upset.

Somewhat related to Codger's comment: to some degree, you see victim blame with many crimes. If I'm wandering in a bad area after dark, and I get mugged or beaten, I would be kicking myself seriously for being stupid, and I would expect other people to do the same. "What were you thinking, you idiot?" It's absolutely the case that if I knew it was a dangerous area, and I went there anyway, I'd share part of the responsibility for what happened. Not blame, but responsibility; if I hadn't put myself in that area, the crime wouldn't have happened. I chose to take the risk, and lost the bet.

Like it or not, it's a hard reality that women are weaker than men; IIRC, on average a man has about triple the upper-body strength of a woman. If it comes down to physical conflict, most women will lose. (I've known a few that would have kicked the sh*t out of most potential rapists, but they spent years learning how.) Physical reality dictates that women are vulnerable more often than men are. And criminals exist, and always will, and women will always be tempting targets. It doesn't matter what the overall culture does, it doesn't matter how the laws change, reality trumps opinion.

If a woman puts herself at risk by going somewhere she knows is a bad idea when she has other alternatives, then I do think she shares some of the responsibility for what happens. If I go wandering around alone in East Oakland (day or night), I'm running a hell of a risk. If I get mugged, I'm absolutely partly responsible. If a woman decides to visit the San Francisco Tenderloin at midnight by herself, then the outcome is, without a doubt, partially from the unwise choice she made. There are more unsafe areas for women than men, but that's simple biology, and certainly isn't going to change for at least a hundred years.

But, and this is a BIG but, there's a difference between thinking about responsibility on a personal level, or among friends, and assigning blame to the victim on a legal basis. "He was asking to get mugged by being in East Oakland" is absolutely not a valid defense against criminal charges. Likewise, "she dressed like a slut" or "she was in a bad area" is no excuse for rape. This whole line of defense in court needs to die, die, die. It's categorically wrong. A woman may share responsibility for being raped, by going to an unsafe area, but she shares none of the blame. The perpetrator is not less culpable because of any choice she made. That is utter bullsh*t, top to bottom.

I think fixing that aspect of the legal system might very well reduce the incidence of rape. I think a lot of the other claims made by the rape culturists are probably off base, but I think they're right about that.

tl;dr version: I differentiate between responsibility and blame. Your friend telling you it was stupid to walk in the park after dark is reality. The defense attorney implying that you deserved what you got is rape culture.

LobsterMobster wrote:

I know that we've had Goodjers who have honestly stated that they consider female sexuality to be a weapon, and that not only is a low-cut blouse an invitation, it's a threat: "give me what I want because I have these."

What's she going to do... smother you?

Some women with an appearance society values highly can be jerks and take advantage of men who are distracted by women's bodies, just like guys with an appearance society values highly can distract certain women by taking off their shirts and flexing.

But unless the woman in question is grabbing a guy's face and smushing it into her cleavage, it's not a weapon any more than a bodybuilder's "guns" are from afar. Boundary violation is the thin line of violence.

Boundaries, and whose responsibility it is to enforce boundaries, is where the arguments and the interesting conversations lie.

Malor wrote:

A woman may share responsibility for being raped, by going to an unsafe area, but she shares none of the blame.

I differentiate between responsibility and blame. Your friend telling you it was stupid to walk in the park after dark is reality. The defense attorney implying that you deserved what you got is rape culture.

I think that's an argument that's almost too nuanced. I don't disagree, but I could also say that someone choosing to live an urban area is partially responsible for getting lung cancer, or the parents of a rape victim are partially responsible by choosing to have it in the first place. They accepted the risk of having a girl, after all.

In the end, I do agree with you because I tend to always err on the side of personal responsibility in general, but...yeesh. The chances of having the argument misunderstood -- from multiple facets -- is very high. And it would be so easy for people to use it as blame shifting -- like what happened to Palin in the Congressperson shooting.

edit -- I'm still not sure if I agree with this. I'll need to contemplate.

Malor wrote:

Stuff and then

tl;dr version: I differentiate between responsibility and blame. Your friend telling you it was stupid to walk in the park after dark is reality. The defense attorney implying that you deserved what you got is rape culture.

This is where I am personally, actually. You just articulate it a whole lot better.

The reason, I think, that the distinction isn't promoted is that (North American!) people as a collective don't like so much nuance- we want things in black and white sound bites. Whose fault was it? Should she have been there or not? Who's right and who's wrong? What would have prevented this? We want easy answers.

And that's why advocates for women don't (can't) go anywhere near your well-reasoned position- the people most likely to trot it out in front of cameras, in sound bites, and in women's faces after assaults aren't going to say "going there may not have been a smart decision, but it's not your fault." They'll get "You shouldn't have been raped, but what the hell were you thinking going down there after dark?" To appear to stake out any common ground with people who DO want to blame women is, quite frankly, bad PR.

Plus, when someone is in the hell they're in after an assault, the last thing they need to hear at that point is "that wasn't so smart" because they won't see the nuance either. They're already likely to be busy telling themselves it's their fault (blame) for whatever happened, and outside reinforcement, even with the distinction you make, will only exacerbate that period. Some people never climb out of that stage at all because society promotes the "blame the victim" angle well enough.

With time and/or therapy survivors will sometimes get to the point you describe. I wish it could be discussed that way more openly, but as long as society finds it more convenient to blame the victim altogether, I think the distinction will continue to be lost.

(I would get excoriated in some places for writing this, but it's my position.)

clover wrote:

(I would get excoriated in some places for writing this, but it's my position.)

Not trying to create a thread that eats its own tail, but isn't the above indicative of the culture as well? That you know you'd be excoriated for having a different, nuanced point of view?

DSGamer wrote:
clover wrote:

(I would get excoriated in some places for writing this, but it's my position.)

Not trying to create a thread that eats its own tail, but isn't the above indicative of the culture as well? That you know you'd be excoriated for having a different, nuanced point of view?

I think it's just indicative of the diversity located within feminist thought. There are those who would excoriate me for claiming that some people like having sex while intoxicated, because their position is that all sex while intoxicated is technically rape.

But like with Christianity, it's best not to judge a movement by its fringe.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

I've gone back and forth on whether or not to post this, but seven or so years ago I was a feminist blogger and wrote this post about rape and responsibility. It ties into this larger discussion because the ideas I talk about illustrate the assumptions that underlie a normalization of rape.

That link doesn't work for me, but here's another link to your piece.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

I've gone back and forth on whether or not to post this, but seven or so years ago I was a feminist blogger and wrote this post about rape and responsibility. It ties into this larger discussion because the ideas I talk about illustrate the assumptions that underlie a normalization of rape.

The link is missing part of the address.

Edit: Tannhauser'ed with the correction.

DSGamer wrote:
clover wrote:

(I would get excoriated in some places for writing this, but it's my position.)

Not trying to create a thread that eats its own tail, but isn't the above indicative of the culture as well? That you know you'd be excoriated for having a different, nuanced point of view?

You get a cookie.

My other ouroboros thought is that I intended to start this thread a couple days ago, but debated quite a bit with myself and then waited until it almost couldn't be avoided. Meta!

I've gone back and forth on whether or not to post this, but seven or so years ago I was a feminist blogger and wrote this post about rape and responsibility. It ties into this larger discussion because the ideas I talk about illustrate the assumptions that underlie a normalization of rape.

clover wrote:

That link doesn't work for me, but here's another link to your piece.

Gravey wrote:

The link is missing part of the address.

Thanks for the fix. I've updated my comment.

(On an unrelated note, it's very weird to read the writings of nineteen-year-old me.)

Subscribing, for personal edification.

Its fascinating to me that the one point that sticks out to me in the OP that rubs me the wrong way is the sexually explicit humor. The problem is, I can't come up with an example of sexually explicit humor that doesn't objectify, or perpetuate shauvanist stereotypes. (sp?)

But humor is a much more productive way to quickly relieve tension. And explicit humor relieves sexual tension and combats our prudish and hypocritical views on sexuality.

So the conflicting conclusion is that explicit humor both a gateway drug and opiate to soothe the masses?

Seth wrote:

I think that's an argument that's almost too nuanced. I don't disagree, but I could also say that someone choosing to live an urban area is partially responsible for getting lung cancer, or the parents of a rape victim are partially responsible by choosing to have it in the first place. They accepted the risk of having a girl, after all.

In the end, I do agree with you because I tend to always err on the side of personal responsibility in general, but...yeesh. The chances of having the argument misunderstood -- from multiple facets -- is very high. And it would be so easy for people to use it as blame shifting -- like what happened to Palin in the Congressperson shooting.

edit -- I'm still not sure if I agree with this. I'll need to contemplate.

At the end of the day, personal responsibility is a pretty big deal, but a book I was asked to read in sixth grade had a quote that really stuck with me - you tend to either have freedom to or freedom from. I think it's a pretty false dichotomy, and one that is somewhat illustrated in the context of rape victims. Even if you say "well I'm not blaming you, but you are responsible for putting yourself in that situation", I personally can't think of how that's actually different than saying "your fault, too" in a way that is trying to sound nuanced.

The key difference here is that when someone is (insert any sort of action here) by another person, it is still the choice of the person doing it. You can increase/decrease your chances of having that happen to you by doing X, Y, and Z, but assault, rape, theft, and other things perpetrated by human beings are not unreasonable, immutable natural forces. This view starts treating them that way by degrees, which is really one of the major dangers the concept of rape culture tries to illustrate.

Scratched wrote:

I know this forum is heavily populated by North Americans, but I'd love to hear opinions of this from around the world.

A parallel I can't help thinking of, and perhaps it's related to the main topic, is the UK versus continental Europe drinking culture, over here there is a problem with people going out for the sole purpose of 'getting lashed' and the stereotypical continental drinking session is a slower affair where you don't get absolutely drunk. Also worth thinking of is that the US, and I'd say the UK, are stereotypically fairly prudish about sex compared to the continent.

Quite how much of it holds up in reality is another matter, but I suspect no one has a really good idea.

Having seen it on both sides of the Atlantic, I think the drinking culture is a red herring. While UK drinking culture is far more widespread than it is over here, it's not actually all that different in tone. Dudebros are still hitting on girls in short skirts in bars in trendy parts of town, while trying their best to get falling-down drunk.

While the drinking cultures may be different in scope, the commonly held beliefs about masculinity and femininity are largely the same, and I think that's the key issue.

But I've got a very narrow view - I live in a progressive US city that embraces a lot of alternative communities. Could be a whole different kettle of fish in small-town America - I can't speak with any authority on that.

LilCodger wrote:

I think part of the problem is trying to separate out "rape culture" from a violent culture in general.

I've been mulling over this thread since Clover posted it this morning, and this particular point is where I keep getting stuck.

Rape is, IMO, a crime of hate. Now, mind you, I'm not getting into the concept of a legally defined "hate crime" here. I'm talking philosophically. Rape and violence are actions rooted in hate, regardless of how we may want to pretty them up in other terms. Rape is a violent act, though they are often defined separately.

Our culture has built up a certain degree of violence inherent in many forms of hate: hate against women (the majority of rape crimes), hate against ethnicities (racism resulting in violence, mostly in the form of violence against minorities), hate against alternative sexual preferences (violence against gays in particular), and so on.

As others have noted, the issue is that as soon as we tolerate violence of one type as a culture, it starts to spread into other accepted forms of violence. And yes, while violent entertainment doesn't directly cause violence, it does start to desensitize us to varying degrees of it. Heck, how often are school-age fist-fights written off as "boys will be boys"?

How much tolerance of violence is ok, and how much is too tolerant?

These are honestly difficult questions to answer.

As a corollary, Cracked had a good write up of wrong ideas people get from porn. Things like women love it rough, or you can jump right to intercourse without much foreplay.

Sexual education in the US is pathetic. Which shockingly has led to our high rates of STDs and infant mortality. Could frank discussion and education be a significant factor in combating rape culture. Like oh, maybe so many rapes are un reported because girls are fed a steady diet of sex is evil and they are bound for hell?

Rape comedy that's funny because it's true:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSrL2T4IbcY

(NSFW language)

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