“If You Don’t Like ‘Rape Culture’ Then Focus For A Minute On Sex and Status” by Soraya Chemaly

Soraya Chemaly discusses our culture’s reluctance to accept the fact we live in a culture that normalizes sexual assault. This is an excerpt from a recent article published by The Huffington Post. The source of this excerpt is http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/if-you-dont-like-rape-cul_b_5105062.html?utm_hp_ref=college&ir=College

The idea that we live with a culture that promotes rape is anathema to people who a) don’t want to believe it because, when you start to really think about it, it’s awful and scary and defies reason; b) live in communities filled with words used to deny, promote or camouflage sexual assault or c) are people who have power and benefit, in multiple, intersecting ways, from the status quo.

image courtesy of wikipedia

image courtesy of wikipedia

“Status” is the operative word. If you don’t like the words “rape culture” or you are uncomfortable with the idea that men rape women (and that is the vast preponderance of cases) in huge numbers, here is a different way to think about this: People with higher status are entitled to rape and abuse people with lower status in society.

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Anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday studied more than 90 human societies and divided them into rape prone and rape free. She found that rape is rare in 45 out of 95, and common in only 17. Rape free societies were marked by several notable characteristics. First, women have high status and are held in high esteem as respected, valued members of the society who participate in governance or religious leadership. This was true even in warlike societies, such as among the Iroquois. The Nagovisi, a people living near Papua New Guinea, can’t even conceive of rape. We do not live in a culture that esteems women, girls, women’s authority or femaleness as an idea. Our language, media, institutions are sodden with expressions of female isolation and denigration and the glorification of violent male fraternity.

Second, boys in rape-free cultures are taught to respect girls and women. They are not taught that aggressive, violent domination of women is “natural.” They are not taught to think of rape as a source of entertainment or to think of women as trophies and prizes, products and playthings. We don’t even need to focus on gonzo porn, in which women are violently raped into submission. This eroticization of abuse isn’t outside of our mainstream culture, it the logical expression of it. It goes hand in hand with everything else. If conservatives were really interested in reducing sexual assaults then more than 23 percent would understand why having more women in public office is salient.

We are spoon-feeding children this culture by not teaching them that gender discrimination — an everything it represents, including widespread sexual abuse — is an enduring truth. I asked a group of more than one hundred 15 to 17 year olds, more than half of whom were boys, two questions recently. One, how many of you have heard a rape joke and laughed? And, two, how many of you have talked to an adult about rape, seriously? All of them raised their hands to the first question and less than five to the second. None was familiar with the reality of rape statistics. I didn’t as them how many watch violent porn regularly, but this is notable: One in 10 people between the ages of 14 and 21 in the United States has committed an act of sexual violence. Boys are more likely to be perpetrators, although the older girls get, the more likely they are to become perpetrators too. The teenagers with the highest propensity to sexually assault their peers are white kids from higher-income families, mostly boys with a higher likelihood of having watched pornography. A No More study released last year revealed that 73% of parents with children under the age of 18 have never talked to them about sexual assault or domestic violence. But they’ll buy them tickets to a blockbuster movie filled with rapes and jokes about them without a thought. Doesn’t matter if you’re a causation or correlation person — the fact is we are failing to address a rape prone culture with honest conversation and are rape apologists by default.

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As it stands, given the data we have, it is clear that girls and women are being raped in hugely disproportionate numbers globally — through early marriage, sexual slavery, incest, intimate partner violence, acquaintance or stranger rape — because girls and women have universally lower status and are comparatively powerless, fungible and commodified. We simply don’t know what societies would look like if we had gender balance in governance and cultural production. We do know however, that there would be less rape.

This is a significantly shortened excerpt. To read the full article, please visit The Huffington Post website http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/if-you-dont-like-rape-cul_b_5105062.html?utm_hp_ref=college&ir=College

Soraya Chemaly is a writer for The Huffington Post. She describes herself as a “Feminist, Writer, Satirist… not always in that order.”