Rape Culture Does Not Exist In The West

There are few things in this world about which feminists from all sides actually agree, but the idea that the West is afflicted by a “culture” of rape seems to be one of the exceptions. It is a topic that is mentioned time and time again, so much so that we have reached a point where it would be safe to say that at least the term “rape culture” has become part of Western culture. However, as usual, a belief that is universally agreed upon is often the kind that is no longer considered, and that’s a bad thing. Because perhaps rape culture isn’t so straightforward after all.

Judging from the reactions to a previous article with a similar title, bar one important addition, I realise that this is a sensitive topic, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Knowledge and truth are necessary if we truly want to get rid of sexism and inequality, so even though I spoke in defence of feminism last week, today I will go back to criticising it, because a critical attitude is the only way we can make the movement improve.

So… why would rape culture not exist? At first sight, it sounds ridiculous. Just in the UK, over 200 women are raped every day, and in the US, it is estimated that 1 in 6 women have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lives. Even worse, by a broader (and admittedly contested) definition, more than a quarter of college-aged women reported having experienced an instance of rape. Those statistics are staggering, and they show that rape is still an enormous problem and that we still have a very, very long way to go.

However, that does not mean that we live in a rape culture. If anything, rape culture, at least in the West, has never been as powerless as it is today. We live in a culture in which there is near-unanimous agreement that rape is wrong, and even though definitions of what that rape actually is greatly differ, that is an incredibly important step. In fact, things like having sex with a drunk person are now being equated with rape, which is certainly not something that would happen in a rape culture. Sure, most people still disagree with it, but it is progress. Never before have we made as much headway towards a society without rape as we have today.

On top of that, something that is often ignored is that the amount of rapes in Western countries actually seem to be decreasing, according to one particular study by as much as 85% since 1980. Whether that figure is completely reliable is debatable, because the definitions and methods used in surveys can have a big effect on the outcome, but the fact that the amount of rapes is decreasing remains clear.

So does that mean that rape is not an issue anymore? Of course not. Rape is and always will remain an important societal issue that needs attention and that needs to be fought against. Right now, only 5% of reported rape perpetrators spend even one day in jail, and that is awful. But it isn’t rape culture that is causing it. It is the fact that ever since the sixth century, when Emperor Justinian compiled the Digest, the West has believed that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty, which makes it extremely difficult to convict someone for a crime that is only discernible from humanity’s most natural act by the communication that preceded it.

Ultimately, rape remains an important societal issue across the globe. Countries like India are afflicted with a culture of rape, with people truly believing that it can be justified, but in the West, that is different. Whether you live in the UK, the US, Sweden, France or Australia, you live in a culture that condemns rape. That fights against it. And that is the culture we need. Rape culture has been defeated. Now we just need to defeat rape itself.

~

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Statistics for this post can be found here. It is not the most distinguished source, but I tried to track the initial sources down for each figure I mentioned. It wouldn’t hold in a scientific paper, but for something like this, all we need are approximations.

See you next Monday!

More on this topic from Dean Richards:

The Death of Chivalry: Giving Up Your Seat For a Woman

Feminism is Losing its Touch

White Students Accuse Black Teacher of Racism: Lies, Bias and Bad Media

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About Dean Richards

A young student with a passion for writing. Aspiring author and human rights activist, but I write about anything. "If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree!" New blog post every Monday!
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5 Responses to Rape Culture Does Not Exist In The West

  1. Throughout this article, you make the assumption that widespread condemnation is an accurate measure of the state of society. We live in a racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, transpohobic society. A cultural norm is not erased by acknowledging something is wrong, though that is the start. I notice on tumblr people have pointed things wrong with your article, but you do not see that these are examples of rape culture. I’m rather angry, so struggling to write coherently, but the main points I can think of are that I, a very well educated British woman, was told by a man that he’d slept with me while I slept, and I was unable to comprehend how to combat this. He assumed that that was okay. The definition of rape is ridiculously simple. And yet this man assumed that what he’d done was okay. I doubt he would have phrased it as rape.

    And then there’s the fact that I was a virgin at the time, and therefore knew I’d have felt it if he had slept with me. So we have a man who thinks it’s a positive thing to lie about having fucked a woman while she slept? His ignorance is rape culture. He thought he was entitled to my body.

    I can think of several examples, off the top of my head, from my own life and from that of friends, of rape culture having a direct impact in our lives. It’s there. By saying that it isn’t, you are insulting every person who has been a victim of it.

    • “you make the assumption that widespread condemnation is an accurate measure of the state of society”

      Not exactly. Widespread condemnation doesn’t say much about the “state of society”, but it does say something about the culture. There are many societies that do condone rape in its most basic form, and just a few decades ago, the West was part of that. In that respect, that condemnation certainly says something about our culture, because apparently, within our culture, rape, as in “forcing someone to have sex with you”, is always wrong.

      “I notice on tumblr people have pointed things wrong with your article, but you do not see that these are examples of rape culture.”

      The thing is… just because one or two persons disagree, does not make the idea any less valid. In fact, there were also quite a few people who do agree, and, with all due respect, I didn’t feel like the person who was the most vocal about her disagreement was really someone you could have a discussion with. She stuck to namecalling, ignored my main point about the Just World Theory, and concluded that because she didn’t understand my point, she was automatically right.

      In fact, there are plenty of scientists, both men and women, who also believe that rape culture no longer exists in the West. This is not an issue to get angry about. It’s a discussion, and both sides of that discussion have good arguments.

      “I doubt he would have phrased it as rape.”

      As strange as your story is and as much as I’m struggling to understand what on earth this guy might have been thinking, the actual “rape culture” part is based on an assumption. You assume that he would not have thought having sex with you while you slept would be considered rape, but it’s just an assumption, because in the end, for whatever reason, he did not do it. He only said he did.

      That doesn’t make it okay or any less of an issue, but to argue that he would not have thought it to be “rape” is something you really can’t know for sure. It is definitely a big problem that such things happen, and it is a clear example of sexism, but there is a fair chance that he’d tell the story quite differently to his friends.

      “By saying that it isn’t, you are insulting every person who has been a victim of it.”

      Why? Does the argument that we don’t live in a culture of rape suddenly invalidate the crime? I’m not denying that rape is a major issue, I am only arguing that it is not a cultural thing anymore. After all, if the West still lives in a culture of rape, then what isn’t a culture of rape? What would you call India? What would you call the Middle Ages here? Would there be any place on this earth that does not have a culture of rape?

      If the West still has a rape culture, then everyone does, and that would imply that it isn’t a “culture” of rape, but instead, it would be a “nature” of rape. And perhaps that’s true. Perhaps rape is natural. Perhaps we will never get rid of it. But as much as that is a possibility, it is not a good position to start your activism from.

      Ultimately, the world we live in is pretty darn terrible in quite a few ways. Violence is normal, sexism, racism, homophobia and whatever other kind of discrimination you can think of happen all around us, all the time, and people do go out of their way to convince themselves that we live in a just world after all. They will blame the victims whenever they can, just so they don’t have to accept that the world isn’t so just after all.

      But none of that means that we live in a rape culture, not anymore than we live in a culture of murder, of sexism, of racism, of inequality and of injustice. Perhaps we live in a culture of violence, in which rape is included, but there is no proper reason to give rape a special status of its own. It is a terrible crime that we need to try and get rid of, but that goes for lots of things. And that’s what activism is for.

  2. samgeimer says:

    I think that the term “rape culture” means very different things to people. While most Americans are educated and compassionate enough to know rape is wrong, you can’t deny that there are those who believe sex is something to be “taken” from woman by a man, and that even consensual sexual activity somehow damages or demeans a woman. This seems to be true especially in young men which is a little disturbing to me, as a mother of three. I have wondered lately if the feminist pushback against “rape culture” which I support, my have unintended consequences on the sexual freedom that woman have also fought very hard to obtain.

    • Yes, I definitely agree. The stigmas surrounding female virginity are still a very clear sign that something is wrong, and that is something that will really have to change. I’m not all too pessimistic about the future, though. I do think it can and will be changed, and for instance, while you mention that it is especially true in young men, I’d argue that perhaps that’s logical. They are of the age when virginity is still “recent” and something to think about, and they are also of the age when sex has a completely different “meaning”. So if you ask me, it’s a phenomena of the age, and not of the generation, so I don’t think that in 20 years time we’ll have an awful group of 40-year olds.

      And unintended consequences are normal for activism, I guess… It’s part of the sacrifice that has to be made, and it is what makes activism so incredibly difficult. Activism is something you really have to think about because the consequences aren’t always obvious, but at the same time, it is something that is done by enormous groups, and groups are never rational. So unintended consequences are just part of it, I’d say, and they’re pretty much unavoidable.

  3. julia19ae@gmail.com says:

    “Rape culture does not exist”?!
    I’m enraged.
    Society does not “condemn rape”.

    Rape culture really lies primarily in the word “rape” itself. People condemn the word “rape” without knowing what it really is. Anything other than consensual sex (which requires direct CONSENT) is rape.

    I really don’t care for your article, and I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it, so here:
    -ostracizing of rape victims (Steubenville rape, Maryville rape, find specific examples online)
    -the notion that drunk sex is not rape (maybe you believe drunk sex is rape; many do not)

    And surely sexist culture is also rape culture, as it views women as less capable and less deserving. I’m not really going to spend my time explaining sexist culture, although you might not believe in that either.

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