Monday, November 15, 2010

Rape Culture pt. 1

Okay, here's a little run down on the term "rape culture" that came up last class. Essentially this term defines a culture in which sexual harassment and assault are encouraged/condoned/perpetuated by cultural attitudes about men, women, & sexuality. 
Rape culture is complex -- this is a very brief, general overview of a few aspects of our society which contribute to the encouragement/condoning/perpetuation of sexual violence. (I'm addressing two aspects right now, then going to bed and writing up more after tomorrow's class.... yeah an excellent topic to dwell on pre-bedtime).

Models of Men's and Women's Sexuality
... are ridiculously problematic. The ideas we have for how men and women approach and 'get' sex reflect our deep-seated association of certain qualities with masculinity and femininity (assertive/passive, productive/receptive, etc.).
Male sexuality is often framed as conquest, (hence some of the terminology of domination and violence we use for sex... "scoring" "nailing" "banging" "fucking" "screwing" etc.). Indeed, masculinity is often dependent on whether or not you can prove your virility by 'getting some.' Men are supposed to be always on the prowl, unrelentingly aggressive, seducing their prey until they give in (or skipping seduction altogether and asserting their power without bothering for consent).
Women, on the other hand, are supposed to be temptresses, but not sexual aggressors. Women's sexual power lies in their ability to attract, flaunt, entice. The role is one of passive seduction.
Women are also seen as gatekeepers of sexual experience -- they have the power to either 'put out' or withhold their bodies when a man makes advances. Combined with the expectation that a woman be simultaneously nice and naughty, virginal and sexually available, this allows for the male narrative of "she says no but means yes": women are thought to secretly desire sex but want to uphold their reputation and respectability, and so need a man to push them where they won't allow themselves to go.

Dehumanization of Women another aspect of rape culture. As we all know, women in the U.S. are extremely sexualized. In entertainment and advertising media, women are made into objects... reduced to their bodies (or specific body parts) and treated as accessories to powerful men or as objects of desire to consume. So not only are women's bodies made into non-feeling, non-thinking objects, but they are also made into commodities. I would venture to say this is why some men speak of going out and "just taking it" in reference to rape.
Women are also dehumanized & made inferior in the language we use. Not only do we constantly use femaleness as an insult... "stop being such a little bitch" "pussy!" "grow a pair" etc., but titles for women themselves are also derogatory and dehumanizing... "bitches," "hos," "chicks," "tricks," etc.  Psychologically, it's a lot easier to assault a "bitch" or a "piece of ass" than a woman.

(to be continued in comments section)


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