What is “Rape Culture”?

You’ve probably heard about this recently but what does it actually mean and does it affect you?

The first thing to say is that the term “Rape Culture” does not just mean rape. It is a term that has been used for a while now to describe what is seen as society normalising a whole range of male behaviours from low-level misogyny through to rape.

So then the next question is – what is misogyny? It’s when males are prejudiced against women and girls, just because of their sex. As always these views and behaviours will be on a spectrum, from the ignorant but fairly harmless individuals to the harmful and criminal. Misogynistic views can come out in lots of ways, from the milder end of sexism through to the other end of the spectrum “what was she wearing?”, “had she been drinking?” if a woman or girl is raped, and thinking that sexual violence, in whatever form that takes, is ok.

It’s really important to say that not all boys and men are like this and also there is a whole spectrum of male behaviours here but, unfortunately, what the Everyone’s Invited website has highlighted is that the objectification of women and girls, and to some extent, the sexual abuse of women and girls by men and boys is seen as normal and accepted by lot and lots of men and boys. As one example, we hear lots of stories of girls being “rated” by boys, as to how “shaggable” they are. In  some environments that is considered completely normal.

Just think about all the negative words that there are to describe behaviours of girls and women – “slut shaming”, for example. Who is this term used about? It’s almost always women and girls, sometime men and boys who are gay, but never straight men or boys. So it’s our society saying that women and girls should not have lots of sexual partners, but if a straight man or boy does, then he’s seen as a bit of a stud, a bit of a lad. That attitude has not changed since time began and that is what needs to change.

Then there are the expressions like “boys will be boys”, which sometimes people use to excuse misogynistic and even sometimes criminal behaviour. Female victims of sexual harassment and assault are blamed for the abuse behaviour of the male. The whole “well if she hadn’t been wearing such a short skirt……………..” or “had she been drinking?” argument, which again, unfortunately, is how lots of people think. Society expects women and girls to behave a certain way and if you don’t conform to those social norms, as a female society can judge and blame the victim, rather than looking at the behaviour of the perpetrator.

Rape culture is an extension of sexism and should be challenged at every level but at Hidden Strength we don’t underestimate how hard that can be sometimes. What we would say is it’s always better to talk. Talk to a trusted adult, whether that’s your mum, your dad, or another adult in your circle of family and friends, or maybe that person for you is a teacher, or support worker. If no one comes to mind, or you would rather not talk to someone you know about this and something has happened to you the NSPCC is in the process of setting up a helpline, as I write this, to support potential victims and provide advice to children and adults.

It’s also equally important, if you are a boy and, although you might never say it out loud, you recognise yourself in what you have read here. Explore those views with an adult you trust, go online and educate yourself about gender inequality and make yourself a better person. We can all improve as human beings and this is your time to do it.


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