17 May Rape Culture
“You can’t rape someone unless they are willing.” I heard a friend say that casually, out loud in a bar. Just another rape joke on a Saturday night. Honestly I know I am sure I have made tasteless jokes like this a few years prior amongst friends. I feel bad about it now, and know I’ve been part of rape culture. I think we all have. We have been born into it and it’s been normalized.
Rape culture is running rampant in our society from our judicial system, to music lyrics and videos, to jokes on sitcoms, to romanticizing and normalizing rape in tv and movie plots. It’s time we become more aware and take responsibility to make a change.
Let’s start with a highly publicized rape case. Many people remember the case of Brock Turner who only spent 3 months in county jail for raping an unconscious victim behind a dumpster. A lot of people were outraged because of lenient sentencing Judge Pensky gave Brock Turner. CNN reported in June 2016 that Judge Pensky said “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others”. He committed a violent crime with a victim that has to suffer from that crime the rest of her life. Essentially the judge is saying that Brock’s life is more important than his victims. That is a typical example of rape culture where the support for the accused and guilty man is focused on over the welfare of the victim. We are so conditioned in our culture to not even think of the victims life. Give pity to successful swimmer with so much potential. Brock is the one who made a choice to rape a woman. Why should the court show pity just because he has potential. Hell we all do, but depending on what choices we make determines if we piss it away or not. Brock Turner chose to throw that potential away. What choice did the victim have? None.
Many believe that because of his white skin, privilege, and our country rape culture mentality was the reason behind his sentencing. Judge Pensky is also quoted on CBS News as saying “I take him at his word”. Huh, when do they take a rape victim at their word? The answer is absolutely NEVER. In the court of law you have to have evidence and prove rape happened. You better have a witness too. Also don’t be intoxicated or else your word won’t be valid. There were witness that caught Brock in the act yet the judge believes Brock Turners intoxicated account. The jury found him guilty and he walked away with the most lenient sentence.
This case was in 2016 and there was a backlash against the sentence. So has rape culture changed since then because of the outrage? Well USA Today published a post 3 days ago regarding a case of a bus driver raping a 14 year old girl. His sentence is 10 years of probation, fees, is a level 1 sex offender (which is the lowest risk to reoffend and degree of dangerousness posed to the public), and received zero jail time.
Pinche first met his victim as her bus driver, and eventually they had contact on social media. USA quotes the mother saying that Piche bought her daughter “gifts and invited her and other minors to his home where he gave them alcohol”. Two weeks after the incident the victim reported the rape and situation to her mother.
Eric Swartz, Pinche’s lawyer, claims there is no evidence of an attack and that “what people think there is an assaultive element when they hear that word”. He was referring to the word rape. Did she put up a fight? Maybe not, but it sure is hard to use your voice as a 14 year old girl. Was she coerced? I believe so, and songs like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and movies like the Notebook make it seem like coercing is how you get a woman to have sex with you. Unfortunately in this case a young girl was and was smart enough to report it to her mother. I’ll take her word on it.
There is nothing more physically violating than raping someone. So when Eric Swartz said there was no evidence of assault I have to laugh. I do believe it was assault and rape is generally referred to as sexual assault. Swartz trying to diminish what Pinche did to that girl and give less meaning to the word rape is an example of rape culture.
When Judge James McClusky who made the ruling was asked to justify his sentencing USA Today reported him by saying that Piche hadn’t been arrested before and “there was only one victim.” The trauma of one girl isn’t enough to put Pinche in jail for even one day. It is more important to protect a guilty man than to protect a child. It blows my mind that you have to have a history of raping more than one person to receive a harsher punishment. We have learned nothing from the Turner rape case if a few years later Judge James McClusky is doing the same thing by diminishing the trauma and severity of rape by catering to guilty rapist.
So what exactly is rape culture? On the website in the counseling & health services the College of Saint Benedict Saint Johns University defines rape culture as “a term or concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are perceived to be common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone sexual violence.”
The examples of rape culture were perfectly rape-splained on thought.com. One element listed was “Harassment and intimidation of, and threats made toward, women and girls, even those which are framed by the aggressor(s) as ‘playful’ or a ‘joke’”.
A perfect example of this was on Tosh.0 on Comedy Central. The clip still remains on their website though it is from 2014 and is so revolting how he treats women. In this clip Tosh explains a new segment called “Lightly touching women’s stomachs while they’re sitting down”. He goes on to say “It’s not what you think. This is where you sneak up behind women who are sitting down and lightly put your hand on their stomach.”
In the clip he shows himself doing this to women in his work place. Not only is he touching their bodies without permission but he is purposely trying to humiliate and body shame women by advising his views to “Make sure she’s aware in fact you’re feeling a roll.” One women says “Why are you touching my tummy, don’t ever touch my tummy” and Tosh walks away laughing and eventually she does too.
Tosh most likely is her boss since it is his show. He is in a position of power and he plays it off as a joke, but it’s not. He is perpetuating that men have a right a women’s body, even though he knows before doing this experiment that they will not like it.
Tosh ends the “segment” by saying “Ok guys during our break I need you to film yourself lightly touching women’s stomachs while they are sitting down. Be careful because they like to pretend like they don’t love it.” Every women in Tosh’s clips looked completely violated and he just plays it off as a funny joke. Making a joke of not respecting women’s bodies and boundaries makes it easier for rape to happen because it’s the same principle.
We see rape culture everywhere like in the HBO show Game of Thrones. In season one episode one Khaleesi Targaryen is undressed by her brother Viserys Targaryen, and he fondles her breasts. He says that she must be perfect for tonight and gives her a threat to not “unleash the dragon”. I’m assuming that means his abuse towards her. This instills the belief that women are not entitled to their own bodies and it belongs to men including your brother, ew.
Viserys treats Khaleesi’s body as a present he is giving Drogo. Which is the most foul objectification of a women’s body. Khaleesi tells her brother “I don’t want to be his queen…I want to go home.” Viserys essentially says she doesn’t have a choice and he would let all of the Dothraki people and their horses to fuck her if it meant he got the iron throne. Before she leaves for her “wedding night” Viserys tells her to “make him happy”. That comment leaves me feeling like all the mens happiness and sexual fulfillment is more important than what she wants for herself. Khaleesi rides away on the horse like a child bride without hope and a choice. As the wedding night ends Drogo undresses her as she cries and he bends her over to rape her.
After Khaleesi has been raped a few times by her husband while always crying she asks one of the Dothraki women that serves her about how to make Drogo happy. The sex slave teaches Khaleesi that “you must look in his eyes always, love comes in at the eyes” and “don’t make love like a slave”. That is how you make Drogo happy.
As Drogo almost rapes her again that night she stops him and says no twice but he still persists until she says in Dothrakian “Tonight I would look upon your face.” She climbs on top and they start easing into a passionate love making scene made to believe they are falling in love because she is looking in his eyes. It sickens me that they are romanticizing rape and that if you look into your rapists eyes you too will fall in love.
The first time I saw that episode on Game of Thrones I felt relieved that she fell in love. Now that I rewatched it, it makes me sick how subtle and that how he treated her was ok because they ended up falling in love. Until we call attention and take responsibility to our rape culture in our media, how we treat women, rape victims and their abusers nothing will change. The responsibility is on each of us to make that change.
Donaghue, E. (2016). Judge on Stanford attacker’s consent claims: “I take him at his word”. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/brock-turner-ex-swimmer-judge-in-stanford-sex-assault-case-i-take-him-at-his-word/?ftag=CNM-00-10aab7e&linkId=25588930
Fantz, A. (2016). Stanford rape case: Who is the judge who gave Brock Turner 6 months? Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2016/06/08/us/aaron-persky-brock-turner-stanford-rape/index.html
Dastagir, A. (2019). A bus driver rapes, a man keeps girl captive and neither are going to prison. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/05/03/bus-driver-shane-pinche-wont-go-prison-rape-hes-not-alone/3653181002/
Keneally, M. (2019). No jail time for bus driver who raped girl, 14. Retrieved from https://abc13.com/no-jail-time-for-bus-driver-who-raped-girl-14/5279577/
Cole, N. (2019). Definition of Rape Culture With Examples. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/rape-culture-definition-and-examples-4109257
Rape Culture. (n.d.) para. 1. Rape Culture. Retrieved from https://www.csbsju.edu/chp/health-promotion/sexual-violence/rape-culture
Lightly Touching. (2014). Lightly touching women’s stomachs while they’re sitting down. Retrieved from http://www.cc.com/video-clips/mmknm2/tosh-0-lightly-touching-women-s-stomachs-while-they-re-sitting-down
Patten, T. (Director). (2011). Winter is Coming [Television series episode] Game of Thrones. Malta: HBO
Patten, T. (Director). (2011). The Kings Road [Television series episode] Game of Thrones. Malta: HBO