Why are Women Victims of Rape Culture?

“Boys will be boys.” “Did you see what she was wearing? She deserved what she got.” These trivial, casual statements are heard every day. We frequently pass by a group of college students nonchalantly making these statements, our neighbourhood ‘aunties’ are often found quick to dismiss a girl’s account of sexual harassment because of the kind of clothes she was wearing, after all what you wear becomes an excuse for how you’re treated. This is what many citizens of this gigantic world still believe.

Rape culture is a term of great contention; people struggle to understand its definition and purpose. Does it even exist as a phenomenon? The answer is an emphatic ‘yes’. Rape culture is a reality women grapple with on a daily basis; it is a reality they have surrendered too, aware that wanting change is a pipe dream. How do we understand rape culture? Rape culture is essentially a set of beliefs, norms and ideas in the society that normalise rape and sexual harassment. The mechanics of this are complex and often ideological in nature as it stems from deep-rooted misogyny in the minds of people. There is a trivialisation of a woman’s experience of sexual assault and harassment when it is brushed off as an ‘over-reaction’ or an incident that was misinterpreted by the woman. Rape culture maintains a certain status quo in the society; it is a continuous reminder, telling women that their individual experiences of rape and abuse don’t account for much.

Rape culture functions on many levels. Primarily, it excuses the behaviour of men by validating it as something that is intrinsic to the nature of all men. They seem to have the divine right to treat women the way they want to without any fear of consequences. Society constructs the idea of masculinity in such a way that men don’t feel the need to be accountable for their actions, as a justification already exists. Media representations play a pivotal role in the propagation of rape culture, they normalise the harassment and mistreatment of women on a regular basis. Films and television shows use the trope of a man pursuing or wooing a woman despite her repeated displays of disinterest. She is portrayed as a conquest for the man, and he will stop at nothing to have her. These portrayals are romanticised to such an extreme that women consider it a norm if a man continually harasses them to pursue a romantic relationship when they’ve clearly said no. The concept of manhood and casual jokes in which a man is applauded for being sexually active while a woman is immediately labelled as immoral for the same, are examples of rape culture. It is often to so ingrained in our cultures and societies that we fail to even notice it. It is much like the functioning of patriarchy, omnipresent but mostly overlooked.

Victim blaming is another result of rape culture. Every time a woman openly discusses an experience of sexual harassment or rape, there are several critics waiting to dismiss her account. Most popularly, a woman’s ‘promiscuity’ is used as a valid justification for her abuse or harassment. If a woman is liberal about her sexuality she is automatically the cause for her own doom. A rape victim’s clothes are discussed shamelessly by the media with intense scrutiny. The length of her skirt, what kind of dress she was wearing, how deep her neckline was, are details that are gone over again and again becoming reasons as to why a woman deserves the intense trauma she was subjected too. The insensitive, inhumane dimension of rape culture is a testament to the status of women’s rights and safety in the society. The psychological and physical trauma a rape victim goes through is negated in the rape culture and it becomes more important to discuss how she was implicit in the crime against her and what she should do next to prevent such instances in the future. Discussions always revolve around what women should do to prevent rape rather than telling men that they shouldn’t rape. A woman’s body becomes a mere object in these conversations. Something, if not shielded is open to any kind of mishandling.

Rape culture is a manifestation of the stronghold of patriarchy. Its pervasive, all-encompassing nature is a result of generations of sexism and the ill-treatment of women. Gender roles are a significant contributor to the ideas of rape culture because they compartmentalise the functions of a man and woman in society. They condone certain kinds of behaviour while completely condemning others, often the women become victims of this condemnation while the men are allowed to remain free of guilt. In the #MeToo era, the concept of rape culture has been in the spotlight and men are being held responsible for their behaviour and acts of violence against women. Rape culture can be combated only when it is addressed in the mainstream. The media must actively try to be more responsible in their representations of men and women and their behaviour towards each other. A largescale mind-set change towards women and their rights needs to occur for rape culture to be dealt with.

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