Rape culture refers to elements of culture that point to the idea that rape or sexual assault is an "acceptable" behavior, as we clarify below. The term has been used in sometimes inconsistent ways, and we have discussed and reached some degree of consensus on what we in Why This Way consider to be part of rape culture.
What do we consider part of rape culture?
- Victim blaming, including ideas in which people who are the objects of a person's attraction are seen as being responsible for the actions of that person
- The idea that a sexual encounter or favor can be "earned"
- A cultural narratives which depicts men as lacking self-control about acting on their sexual desires
- Elements of culture which contribute to people being much less likely to believe accusations of rape, relative to the degree to which rape actually happens
- Any cultural incentive or pressure on people to not talk about rape, sexual assault, or sexual abuse, which can include
- Ideas that promote fear of damaging someone's reputation
- Negative stigmas placed on people who are raped or sexually assaulted
- Narrower definitions of rape that define non-consensual sexual acts as "not rape".
- Rape being punished less severely than crimes generally agreed upon as being less harmful
What does "acceptable" mean?
The ways in which rape culture points to rape being "acceptable" include:
- People who commit rape avoiding consequences in the criminal justice system
- People who commit rape avoiding social consequences
- People finding reasons in the moment that they use to justify raping someone
- People avoiding taking responsibility for admitting that they raped someone