Men’s participating is crucial to end rape culture

Clara Barros/ Contributing Writer

Angela Davis once said that, “in a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” We can say that the same applies to sexism: in rape culture, it’s not enough not to rape; we must be anti-rape.

Rape culture is a system of collective violence that normalizes and tolerates sexual assault, both implicitly and explicitly, mostly against women. In academia, it’s a sociological concept that designates a society in which rape is widespread, banalized and accepted.

Rape culture is a part of the broader system of patriarchy — the male-centered social, economic and political organization of our world, which has been around for about 5,000 years, according to several philosophers and sociologists.

Simone de Beauvoir, a French intellectual whose work changed the entire course of feminism, illustrates the idea of patriarchy in a simple way. The relationship between the sexes, she says, is not symmetrical like two electrical poles: the woman is the negative, while the man is the positive and the neuter at the same time — to the extent that we say “mankind” to refer to human beings.

Patriarchy and rape culture uphold that men always possess sexual access to a woman’s body, and there are several mechanisms through which this belief is maintained.

First, our society creates a fertile soil for violence by — consciously or not — encouraging boys to be dominant and girls to be passive, from their early childhood. Secondly, disrespect towards women is fuelled by the massive presence of sexism and objectification in movies, books, news, songs and more. Finally, the cycle is closed when the assaults are followed by victim-blaming and impunity for the assailants.

To have an idea of the pervasiveness of sexual violence in the U.S., we should note that a person is raped every 98 seconds, as per the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Ninety percent of adult victims are women. And, as college students, we should be especially concerned because female undergraduates ages 18-24 are three times more likely to experience an assault then the general female population, according to RAINN.

How do we change this? Feminists have proposed a wide range of strategies, but one thing is certain: this is a conversation that needs to be happening with and among men.

For Alicia Cruz, a sophomore majoring in theater, “something we have to discuss is that men — whether they consider themselves allies or feminists — objectively benefit from the system of patriarchy, socially, politically, economically.”

She highlights that men should not take this as a personal attack because this is not a moral judgement; rather, it’s the description of an objective power structure.

Once we recognize and understand the role each of us plays in that structure, we can more easily build empathy, solidarity and respect between men and women. This is the point where discussing the basic requirements of safe and respectful sexual encounters is fruitful.

Cruz draws attention to the importance of clarifying questions like “what is consent?,” “how do you get someone’s consent?,” “what is harassment?,” and even “why shouldn’t you harass women?”

Men should also take active roles in fighting against rape culture. There are many possible ways of contributing, including, but not limited to, identifying potential situations of assault, intervening when necessary, not being complicit with sexist behavior, calling out friends whenever they throw misogynistic jokes, paying attention to derogatory language, and more.

If we combine efforts, we can bring about change —our struggle today reflects on the generations of tomorrow. Not only can education and awareness eradicate sexual violence against women, but they can push us all towards a more respectful, humane understanding of sex.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Photo by Andy Tootell on Unsplash.

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