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Opinion

Rape culture staple of American society

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February 14, 2013

This past fall, in the thick of the presidential election season, there was major controversy surrounding the issue of rape. Richard Mourdock, a GOP Senate candidate, made a remark stating that any pregnancy resulting from rape is “a gift from God.” Clayton Williams, the Republican candidate in the 1990 Texas governor’s race, nonchalantly said that victims of rape should “relax and enjoy it.” These words coming directly from our country’s leaders clearly reflect the rape culture that plagues our nation today.

The most obvious characteristic of our rape culture is the sexual objectification, specifically of women, that exists in a multitude of forms. In the media, women are often portrayed as sexual objects, instead of human beings. For example, female characters in movies and television shows are often seen wearing revealing clothing that is designed to make them sexually appealing. In addition, thousands of companies use women in advertising campaigns as a source of sex appeal to increase their product sales. While the media clearly plays a significant role in this problem, the pornography industry is a catalyst for such sexual objectification. Pornographic outlets tend to depict women in compromising positions by showing men acting aggressively towards them for the sake of sexual pleasure. In addition, this content makes it appear as if the woman’s purpose is to satisfy the sexual needs of the man. If our society believes the content that the pornography industry exposes it to, it is no mystery why the act of rape is so common: everything about the content we are exposed to tells us that this aggressive behavior is acceptable.

Another contributing factor to our nation’s rape culture is the victim-blaming attitude that many people take on when citizens admit to being rape victims. If a man or woman reports that he or she was raped, that person is immediately subjected to a plethora of questions from police officers, lawyers and advocates. These questions are not always centered on the incident itself. Victims can be asked what they were wearing at the time, how they were acting before the incident occurred or even if they are lying about the encounter altogether. This extensive questioning is not designed to help the victim. Instead, these questions cast blame upon the victim as if he or she could have stopped the rape from occurring by doing something differently.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail. The main reason these criminals are not punished for their crimes is because many victims do not come forward to report the attacks. Our rape culture has become so strongly engrained in our society that citizens are afraid to admit to being victims or rape because it is likely that they will be blamed for the incident. Victim-blaming occurs because it is far easier for our society and its institutions to cast blame outwardly instead of accepting responsibility for the roles they play in facilitating rape culture.

The final characteristic of our country’s rape culture is the fact that as a whole, we trivialize incidences of rape. The leaders of our nation have a high level of insensitivity towards this issue (as demonstrated by the quotes in the opening paragraph), and this insensitivity trickles down to our citizens. Our society makes it appear as if rape is not a significant issue when in reality, rape is becoming increasingly more common. Unless our nation chooses to view rape as a problem, it is likely that our rape culture will continue to grow until it is outside the realm of our control.

I fully realize that many people will read this article and label me as a raging feminist. These people are part of the problem. Recognizing the existence of a rape culture in our society makes me nothing more than a realist. Until Americans choose acknowledge the problem at hand, incidents of rape will become more prevalent in our society, and guilty criminals will continue to walk freely among us.

Morgan Stippel is a political science major and a professional writing minor. When she graduates from UW-River Falls, she wants to become a state prosecutor and specialize in domestic violence cases.