Rape Culture and Ferguson

There's a story that came out back on January 11 off of the campus of the University of North Dakota. The article begins this way;

"Nearly one in three college men admit they might rape a woman if they knew no one would find out and they wouldn’t face any consequences, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of North Dakota.

But, when the researchers actually used the word “rape” in their question, those numbers dropped much lower — suggesting that many college men don't the act of forcing a woman to have sex with them with the crime of committing rape.

According to the survey, which analyzed responses from 73 men in college, 31.7 percent of participants said they would act on “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse” if they were confident they could get away with it. When asked whether they would act on “intentions to rape a woman” with the same assurances they wouldn’t face consequences, just 13.6 percent of participants agreed."

So as long as you don't use the word rape about a third of guys admit that they would rape someone.

You can find the full story here: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2015/01/11/3610327/college-men-forcible-sex-study/

So why would I mention "Ferguson" and link to an article  about rape culture? For this simple reason; people deny that "rape culture" exists just like they deny "systemic racism" exists. These things both happen for the same basic reason; hyper-individualism. In other words, we like to believe that everything comes down to individual choice and individual consequences. We like to believe a rapist is some kind of deviant or, more commonly, that the girl is some kind of slut. That way the problem is much easier to solve. Just punish or isolate the deviant citizen or berate and educate the slut. We treat things as isolated incidents rather than symptoms of a bigger problem. This way there is no need for societal change. The nice thing about this view is that if it is about deviant behaviour, society doesn't have to change, if it's a broader, systemic, cultural issue, than bigger change is needed. Even worse, if a broader social narrative is the main issue, and I am a part of that society and mainly live out of that narrative, it might mean that I need to change. This article is troubling because if it a third of all men, it is not deviance it is a societal issue and it involves me.

From the article;

“[R]ape culture,” a term once relegated to the feminist blogosphere that has recently become more mainstream. Rape culture refers to the larger societal norms that allow rape to thrive — the lack of consequences for people who commit rape, the assumption that this type of sexual behavior is a normal aspect of gender relations, and the obscuring of rape as a serious crime. 

"Societal norms that allow rape to thrive". I recommend you hop on Twitter and check out #YesAllWomen and #BeenRapedNeverReported to get a more in depth understanding of what this might mean.

Every time a woman who was raped is asked, "What were you wearing?" rape culture is advanced.

Every time a woman is made to feel responsible because she might have drank too much rape culture is advanced.

All we need is the simplest bit of evidence that individuals were to blame and we feel like we can exhale and go about our business as usual. "That girl was stupid" or "That guys is a deviant pervert" is enough to exonerate us from having to be part of the solution.

It is the same with Ferguson and New York and death of Black male after Black male  (as well as the incarceration of Black male after Black male, or First Nations males here in Canada). We want to believe this is a problem with individuals. If there is the slightest narrative that gives us a good reason to not have to care, we grab it. "He stole some cigars". "He was selling untaxed cigarettes". For too many of us this is enough to tell us that this has nothing to do with us, nothing to do with our society. These isolated incidents aren't about race, had they been white the same thing would have happened.

Except that it wouldn't. Because it doesn't.

People sweep away the wave of evidence that being a white male in North America automatically affords you privilege and opportunity that women and people of other races need to work harder to earn. We pretend that patriarchy and white privilege are things that the media and feminists make up as an excuse for not earning the things that anyone can earn with a little hard work and determination.

We somehow don't hear in our words the covert racism and sexism of insinuating that somehow white males are just the best at going out there and earning monetary success.

Rape on college campuses is my problem. The fact that so many men admit that they would rape is my problem. Doctor's retaining their license after sexually abusing patients is my problem. Dead Black men and white police officers who don't even go to trial for their deaths is my problem. These things are your problem. They are problems with our society and culture. I need to work towards a solution, you do, we all do.

I really don't want to say too much because the more you say the more people try to pick apart every detail to yet again protect the cocoon of safety we get when we can deny that they problem isn't out there and the solution starts with me.

I'll end with a video of a great spoken word piece by "Get Lit" on Queen Latifah's show. Part of the solution is ensuring that the lessons we are teaching are not the lessons that will ensure that systemic racism, white privilege and rape culture will continue to thrive. The problem is that these are lessons we teach without knowing we are teaching them. But the best way to start to reverse this trend, the way to start towards teaching something new is to stop denying the existence of them.

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