How Prevalent is Rape Culture?

EDIT: After publishing this, I realized that with my focus on the comments section, I really managed to ignore the fact that the whole article I was pulling comments from was, itself, actually focused almost exclusively on the feelings of the rapists rather than the victim. So… yeah… not just a problem with the comments, but actually a huge issue with the way the verdict is being reported on by the media. And it’s not unique to the one article I was using, although CNN does seem to be at the centre of it. Kate Donovan sums up the problem well.

So I was having an argument on Facebook the other day about this article discussing how to combat rape culture by training men not to rape, and the guy I was arguing with was rejecting the idea that rape culture existed, or at least that it was widespread. After I provided a list of examples of victim blaming and rape culture he said the following:

[...] that’s another small group of people, I want to see where society as a whole condones rape. I can’t believe that the majority of people in the world are cool with rape, I just don’t think we’re generally bad people.

Which in a sense I get. If you haven’t been exposed to it, it’s hard to imagine that there are people out there who are generally happy to blame rape victims for their own rapes, or to excuse rapists. You don’t want to face it because it really sucks when you realize that it’s out there. But realizing the extent of the problem is an important step to solving the problem. So with that in mind, I want to present one little demonstration of rape culture and victim blaming at work.

You’ve probably heard about the Steubenville rape trial. If you haven’t, you should read more about it, but I don’t want to get into the details of the case here. What’s important for my purposes here is that it’s A) a recent news item that B) involves rape and C) is fairly high-profile.

So what I did was find an article about the recent verdict in the case. Literally any article. In fact, I went with the very first article that I stumbled across. I didn’t even read it. I just skipped to the comments to see how many examples of rape culture and victim blaming I could find. While trying to ignore anything that triggered my troll sensors, as well as trying not to take more than a few examples from any one username, I managed to screenshot 80 comments from 54 unique users before my browser crashed.

Obviously not the most scientifically-rigourous experiment, but that’s also not what I was trying to do. All I want is to give one little example of rape culture at work in one spot. What I do think makes this a powerful statement that demonstrates a wider problem is that I didn’t wade through a bunch of different articles until I found one with some horrifying comments. I didn’t have to. It was literally the very first article I found. And we’re not talking comments from some niche rape-apologist or MRA website. This is fucking CNN.

One last note before we begin, I should point out that there are also a lot of comments trying to fight rape culture and arguing against the apologists and victim-blamers in the comments. This does not defeat my point that there are still a lot of people who are quick to blame the victim. With a few hundred unique commenters in the couple thousand comments I read, I found more than 50. That is not an insignificant number.

So let’s begin. (Trigger warning for rape below the jump)

I sort of categorized these into 7 categories, but keep in mind that most of them could easily fit into multiple places.

“WHY WAS SHE EVEN DRINKING?”

This is a form of victim blaming that tries to justify what happened to the victim as having happened because she put herself in that situation. Putting aside the fact that most teenagers will engage in some form of alcohol consumption (this shouldn’t be a surprise, we even have movies which glorify this such as Superbad or Project X), this in no way justifies the actions of her rapists. She’s not at fault for being drunk, her rapists are at fault for raping her.

“WHERE WERE THE PARENTS?”

This type of victim blaming again ignores that most teenagers do engage in some sort of alcohol consumption in favour of wondering why the parents would have let the girl go out and get drunk as though A) they know for sure that her parents never did tell her about the dangers of alcohol, B) the girl would have listened, and C) again, being passed out somehow entitles rapists to violate you.

“WHY ARE THEY MAKING SUCH A BIG DEAL OUT OF THIS?”

This category contains such gems as “boys will be boys” and “teenagers are stupid”. In addition to directly dismissing the harm that the rapists have done, this type of victim blaming indirectly puts the responsibility on the girl to know better than to trust teenage males, who simply cannot help their nature. (No, seriously guys, how are you not insulted by this?)

“THAT WASN’T REALLY RAPE!”

Related to the previous category this also dismisses the harm done by the perpetrators and blames the victim for “overreacting”.

“BUT WHAT ABOUT THE RAPISTS?”

Again this category dismisses the experience of the victim and in its place asks you to sympathize with the rapists who have just had their lives ruined by their conviction. This category actually intersects with a lot of other comments, which is why there are only two examples here: most of them ended up elsewhere.

Assorted Idiots

This one really doesn’t require a whole lot of explanation. While a lot of the other categories contain examples on here are people who mean well and simply don’t realize the harm they’re doing, this category shows us that there really are some people out there who are just plain terrible people.

“SLUT!”

This one basically just consists of people saying how much the victim must have deserved it/wanted it/liked it, while also speculating about her sexual history as though it were relevant.

And finally, I have one special comment that I think actually manages to hit 6 of the 7 other categories all on its own:

030

So, yeah… Long story short, Rape Culture and Victim Blaming: things that actually do exist.

In case you need it after all that, here’s a video of cats:

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