Personal Pleasure in a Rape Culture World

“‘Rape culture’ is a term that’s as sinister sounding as its definition—it means to turn sexual assault, rape and other forms of violence against women into entertainment, or to all together ignore or trivialize these crimes. And, it’s happening all around us.”

But contributions to rape culture come from more than violent acts alone. There doesn’t have to be a crime.

“Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.” Marshall University Women’s Center

Here are 25 Everyday Examples of Rape Culture, which “permeate our society at individual, one-on-one levels, as well as in institutionalized, structured ways,” including:

  • Pop music that tells women “you know you want it” because of these “blurred lines” (of consent).
  • Journalists who substitute the word “sex” for “rape” – as if they’re the same thing.
  • Rape jokes – and people who defend them.
  • Twitter hashtags that support accused rapists and blame victims.
  • The fact that we have to condition ourselves not to use violent language in our everyday conversations.

Music on the radio. We don’t turn the station if we disagree with (or realize) the song’s message, instead we keep listening because it’s got a catchy beat.

Jokes at the office (or “in the locker room”). We laugh so we don’t feel excluded from the gang, instead of demanding respect for ourselves and sisters.

Memes on social media. We “like” and share pictures of scantily clad women in support of the attached message, or send through PMs vulgar videos which feature sexual clips, instead of shutting them down.

We are all caught up in it, willingly or not. Female or not. Fighting it or not.

But then there are those women who are educated and enlightened about rape culture, and who work to buck against it—even as those around her deride the movement, claim we are too sensitive or easily offended, and insist there is nothing abnormal or wrong about such a culture. A culture, mind you, “where men who brag about grabbing women by the p*ssy can become president.” What is Rape Culture?

Does a woman’s aversion to rape culture mean she can’t enjoy sex? 

There are folks — male and female alike — who assume that when a woman speaks out against rape culture, sexual assault, and the objectification or degradation of women, she is an uptight prude. That if she doesn’t laugh at or appreciate a certain genre of jokes, or she bristles at sexualized movie scenes and memes, and refuses to encourage or participate in dirty talk—say, in the break room at work—she is naive and inexperienced. The label “goody two shoes” comes to mind.

Let’s review the point listed above that “sex” and “rape” are not the same thing. One is consensual, the other is not. One is intimate and private… and the opposite of all that supports and perpetuates rape culture.

Believe it or not, a woman can actually have an awareness of her own body and its pleasures. She can be confident in her personal sexuality and desire, and yet hold separate the everyday blasts and inundations of rape culture.

What if a woman who does contribute to rape culture — laughing at her male co-worker’s joke or watching a sexually explicit video which features another woman — doesn’t have a handle on her personal sexuality? Is it possible she herself is blurring the lines? Could she be letting this pervasive and conditioning rape culture define what she instead should define about and only for herself? Sadly, we are not always good at thinking for ourselves.

“Sexuality is one of the ways we become enlightened, actually, because it leads us to self-knowledge.” — Alice Walker

Self-knowledge means self-empowerment. Self-empowerment means standing up for ourselves and others in something like this “war” against rape culture.

If you question the existence and true weight of rape culture—or even if you don’t—please watch this video:


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