We all know rape is not okay. In fact, rape and sexual assault is illegal. That doesn’t stop rape from being encouraged, excused, or normalized. Why? We live in a rape culture. So, things like victim blaming, Brock Turner getting a laughably short sentence for raping somebody, and Donald Trump saying *dry heaves* “grab them by the pussy” are all clear signs that rape culture is still present and as awful as ever. In fact, it’s so prevalent that there are things in your every day life you thought were normal but are actually part of rape culture. Small ideological aphorisms like “if he teases you, that means he likes you”; “boys will be boys” and advice like “girls should always have a buddy when they go out or go home” contributes to the idea that women are categorized into two states: the raped and un-raped, that we can switch from one party to the other without any warning, and we should always be prepared for this to happen.
It sounds harsh, but it’s true. Stemming from how our society thinks about gender and sexuality, we see rape as an inevitability instead of what it is: a serious crime that should be handled and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law just like any other crime. So why is it so normalized? This harms victims, supports attackers, and in the meantime, colors our everyday thinking and behaviors to the point where we also think it’s normal and okay to have these thoughts when in reality, no one should be on edge about rape or constantly aware of it all the time. Now, some of this mentality is meant to help people survive the rape culture we all live in and is totally necessary in order to be safe, but that doesn’t mean that it should be the default we all are conditioned to living in. Rape culture hurts everybody involved, not just women and girls. If you don’t believe me, these are 22 things you thought were normal that are actually part of rape culture.
1) Carefully picking out what you’re wearing since how you dress is a direct reflection of what level of sexual activity you’re interested in for the day.
Have you ever had that dark thought of “if I were to get raped today, what would they say about me based on what I’m wearing?” In a world where we talk about how a girl can be “asking for it” it feels like we have to dress like nuns sometimes in order to get the full respect we deserve, but honestly even then, someone will probably have something to say about it.
2) Schools having an enforced dress code against girls clothes, but not enforced policy against aggressive male behavior.
I know of schools with a zero tolerance policy against totally benign summer attire and having your belly show when you reach for something high, but looser restrictions against the casual harmful misogyny boys are allowed to get away with on a daily basis. This isn’t supposed to be normal.
3) Unsolicited butt slapping and bra snapping.
Speaking of that casual misogyny, this happens every day to a ton of women in schools, public spaces, and at work. Ever hear of action being taken against it?
4) Leaked nudes being blamed on the picture takers, not the those who circulated them.
“Well if she didn’t want anyone to see them, why did she take them?” I’m going to stop you right there: she wanted a certain person to see them, not for them to be posted all over Reddit. Remember fap-gate? Or what just happened to Leslie Jones?
5) Jokes like “it’s not rape if you yell surprise” or rape jokes about men in prison getting raped.
Things like “don’t drop the soap” are still harmful and reflective of rape culture.
6) Women as objects in ads and movie posters.
There’s commonplace literal objectifying of women. Slices of a woman’s body are shown in studio movie posters. She is either not facing the camera or only has her legs showing, probably in a V-shape. Overtly sexual ads like American Apparel are meant to look like candid boudoir shots an off-camera lover might snap on a Polaroid, but still involve very young looking girls in very suggestive poses. Once you see this, you can’t unsee it. Sorry/not sorry.
7) Doubting the stories of sexual assault survivors.
Leaving room for skepticism or giving the alleged rapist the benefit of the doubt is part of rape culture instead of believing and supporting the person in question who was attacked.
8) Saying survivors just want attention or to ruin the lives or careers of their attackers.
I can’t even begin to unpack how awful and problematic this is. Even the extremely brave act of coming forward against a rapist can get completely reframed as a narrative all about the rapist’s innocence.
9) Defending your faves who are also rapists.
We all know about Chris Brown, but have you forgotten that Woody Allen abused his step daughter, married his other step daughter, and Amazon still gave him a comedy series? He still makes movies! Sean Penn also smacked Madonna across the face with a baseball bat, in case you forgot. Stop defending rapists and abusers.
10) Focusing rape prevention on victims’ behavior not rapists mentality.
It is not your job to prevent a rape from happening to you, it’s their job to not be rapists. Even innovations like date rape drug nail polish also low key support rape culture even though the intentions behind it – women’s safety – are golden. What are we supposed to do? Wear it every single day?
11) Media outlets calling using the words ‘sex’ instead of ‘rape’ when talking about sexual assault.
Rape is not sex. Lose that thinking.
12) Having a defensive strategy for walking alone or planned comebacks for cat callers.
You shouldn’t have to feel like a lone undercover assassin when you’re doing something as normal as walking from point A to point B. It might sound dramatic, but if you’ve been put in an unsafe situation by street harassers, you know what I’m talking about.
13) Knowing you can’t tell anyone about getting harassed or they’ll blame you, judge you, or brush it all off.
This should not be par for the course. It’s not normal or okay. It hurts and it’s harmful. Take care of people who share their stories with you, don’t enforce the negative thoughts behind the attack and aid in arming girls against attack. Help them out and listen. Validate.
14) LOCKER ROOM TALK.
SHUT IT DOWN. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW WITH THAT BULLSH*T PHRASE. “LOCKER ROOM TALK” IS NEVER OKAY.
15) Rapists blaming society, memes, a girl being more mature than her age for the rape.
Nah. What had happened was, you’re a rapist and you raped somebody.
16) Laughing at trigger warnings.
People saying that trigger warnings are there because people are too sensitive clearly never needed a trigger warning and should be thankful that they’re so hashtag blessed. In the meantime, let the people who need them utilize them for their mental health and recovery. Kthanks.
17) Most pop songs.
“Blurred Lines” gets a lot of flack for being sexually suggestive and that consent is fuzzy and Robin Thicke can get whoever he wants, but that’s also kind of… every single pop song? Seriously sing along with the radio next time you’re in the car. It’s not just men either. Have you listened closely to Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night”? It sounds a lot like she got raped. Speaking of, that part in “E.T.” during Kanye’s verse where he says “See I abducted you so I tell you what to do”? But like… it’s just “Blurred Lines” right?
18) The narrative that sex isn’t supposed to feel good.
When you talk about losing your virginity, you probably talk about it being painful or hurting for the next few times or that it’s okay to not enjoy yourself. This may very well be the case for some girls, but saying that having a penis inside of you is supposed to feel awful normalizes the notion that your pleasure is a secondary bonus to sex and almost should not be present at all. Forget it if you’re a woman who has sex with other women because you’re completely left out of this discussion. This false belief is heteronormative, leaves female pleasure out of the discussion about sex, and demonizes men.
19) How we police and politicize girl’s virginity.
If you’re pure–AKA virginal–you’re good. If you have sex, you’ve opened Pandora’s box of stuff that’s okay to do to you sexually, with or without your consent. This comes in to play when a girl is raped and she was a “virgin” before, we’re supposed to feel bad for her, but if she’s previously had consensual sex–especially if it’s with her attacker–there’s a little wiggle room in this narrative. Also, ICYMI: VIRGINITY IS A MYTH WE MADE UP TO RESTRICT AND CONTROL WOMEN.
20) Lack of comprehensive sex education.
If you live in a state or go to a school with abstinence-only sex education, you’re probably more aware of the rape culture story that surrounds the way you think about sex. To put it simply, safe sex leads to less pregnancies, which leads to less abortions. In sex ed, girls are taught about menstruation, their anatomy, aaaaand that’s about it. Not talking about safe sex, contraception, and consent contributes to lies about sex and sexual assault that we keep feeding to ourselves over and over again.
21) How we talk about what consent really means.
One more time with feeling: it is not the absence of a no, but the presence of an enthusiastic yes. Stop talking about “how drunk do you have to be in order for it to be rape?” If you didn’t want it, it was rape.
22) Rape not being treated or handled as a serious crime, but something tragic and normal.
You probably know someone who has been assaulted or they can’t come forward. The fact that as girls, we’re made so aware and armored against rape as an inevitability of being female in the world and that we are lucky to have never been raped is awful. Rape culture isn’t normal, it’s a defect of the patriarchy that we need to stop.
How does rape culture show up in your life? Do you know when it comes up? Let us know in the comments!
You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.