Our View: Stopping a culture of rape justification
Editors note: This article contains graphic language
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 17:01
The investigation is still underway in Steubenville, Ohio, where several high school football players allegedly sexually assaulted an underage girl who was under the influence of alcohol. Allegations of sexual aggression struck much closer to home this weekend, and women on our campus may have reason for concern for the first time since 2010. The way that we respond to these tragedies is indicative of a society very confused about sexuality. Was she really raped? Or did her presence and intoxication somehow implicitly give consent? While it’s easy to believe that boys like the accused in Steubenville are just bad apples in an otherwise normal society, the fact that several hold the victim at fault suggests that they acted exactly as our society raises men to act: as rapists.
When adults like Steubenville football coach Nate Hubbard blame the victim for being the recipient of sexual aggression, they normalize rape and make seeking help a much more difficult barrier for abused women to overcome. Hubbard was quoted as saying “I think the rape was just an excuse…what else are you going to tell your parents after coming home like that?” This appalling example of rape justification is part of a pattern of victim blaming that insulates rapists and acts as a motivating factor for men who don’t believe they’ll be reported or punished for their acts. Forgiving sexual aggression by males is characteristic of the double standard we place on sexuality between men and women.
The use of language to emphasize gender roles is something that many feminist theorists, like Julia Wood, have also referenced repeatedly: Men are strong. Women are small and frail. Men get around, women get passed around. A man is a pimp, a woman is a whore. A man takes what is his, a woman lays back and takes it. Calling a man a ‘pussy’ implies that he is weak by comparing him to female reproductive anatomy. So is the way we discuss sexuality in reference to the way things really are, or is it shaping and justifying notions as we reinforce it? In a society that plasters naked women on products to increase sales, and that considers sexual ‘conquests’ to be a part of transitioning into manhood, what message are young, developing men supposed to get? Could these issues be contributing to a culture of sexual violence towards women?
The use of force in sexual interactions is endemic on college campuses, and according to crisisconnectioninc.org, 60% of male college students indicated some likelihood of raping or using force in certain circumstances. Statistically, there is a rape on an American college campus every 21 hours.
In reality, teaching men the appropriate way to interact with women is the only way to deconstruct the rape justifying culture we live in. College campuses are the perfect place to start. The only way to protect women in the future from being victims of sexual assault is to create an environment in which men know they will be held accountable for their actions, and that means fostering an environment where women feel safe in coming forward.
“Our View” is written by the editorial staff. The opinions are not necessarily reflective of the student body, faculty or administration of Arkansas State University.