Rape culture exists, and it's everywhere. We like to believe we're not contributing to its perpetuation, but we've all had a hand in sustaining rape culture at one point or another.
I'd like to point out that although this article refers to females as victims and males as perpetrators, that certainly isn't always the case. A large number of males and those who don't identify as either gender are subject to assault and harassment. This is simply a list of common language, ideas, and actions that contribute to the fact that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted on a college campus.
1. Using or implying the phrase, "Boys will be boys."
Today it seems that we've strayed away from the actual phrase "boys will be boys." But that doesn't mean we've stopped making excuses for those guilty of sexual harassment. Recently, a high school boy's hockey team was passing by a group of my friends. At least three of my friends were slapped and/or groped in passing. When one of them told the coach of this team what had happened, you know what his response was? He said, "I'm sorry that happened." And then, with a shrug of his shoulders, he added, "You know, they're just a bunch of stupid sophomore boys..." I'll agree with him that they're stupid. But he's also suggesting that unsolicited sexual contact is to be expected from high school boys and there's really nothing we can do about it.
Well, we can do something about it. And we can start by refusing to make excuses.
2. Forcing children to hug/kiss relatives.
Here's the scene: You've just arrived at a restaurant where you happen to run into a friend. This friend introduces you to a someone you only met once before. You hold out your hand to shake hands, and instead, this vague acquaintance grasps the sides of your upper arms, pulls you toward them and plants a sloppy kiss on the side of your face. How would you feel about that? Disgusted? Like your space has been invaded? Like you need to go home and take a shower? Yeah, me too.
So, why do we force children to receive unwanted hugs and kisses? Not only is this disturbing to the children, but it is also demonstrating to them that consent isn't important.
3. Blaming assault and harassment on the victim.
It's as old as time, this claim that women who dress or act a certain way are "asking" for sexual assault. Even if you don't necessarily use the word "asking," you might still be perpetuating this general idea.
Schools enforce dress codes, but these dress codes don't usually apply to males. School manuals describe spaghetti straps and short skirts as "distracting" to male counterparts, which is a way of excusing perverted boys and teachers and putting more blame on females. If my shoulder is so distracting to you that you can't focus on anything else, that's your problem, bro.
Similarly, the first question that many women are asked after an assault is, "Were you drunk?" Or, "How many drinks did you have?" Whether a woman had zero drinks or fifteen drinks, it is not her fault. Let's stop nonsensically blaming and punishing people for being victims.
4. Teaching girls that they should always be nice.
If your daughter gets into a dangerous situation with a violent person, you better hope she's not nice. The gender stereotypes and assumptions are so engrained in our society, that girls learn from a young age that they shouldn't cause a scene, shouldn't anger people or make anyone feel bad -- that they should be agreeable and smile through it all.
It also turns into a coping mechanism. Many women say that they didn't yell for help or fight back during an assault because they were afraid of making the perpetrator angry and provoking more violence. We should be teaching girls to call out boys who pull at their bra straps or smack their butts as they walk down the hall. We should be teaching boys to call out other boys, and we should be punishing them for this type of behavior rather than allowing sexual harassment to occur at the tip of our noses without consequence.
5. Telling girls that boys are mean to them because "they like you."
This sets up a whole slew of issues for women. We've been told to take violence and harassment from males as a compliment since we came out of the womb. So naturally, when we become adults, we're stuck in this mindset that violent behaviors are normal and acceptable and that they should be received as an expression of love. Yikes.
As adults, we're responsible for our actions. We're responsible for changing the way we talk about assault, who we blame, and how we teach kids. We can set an example and shape the next generations. But if we choose not to, we can expect statistics to remain stagnant. We can expect that when we send our daughters off to college, she will have a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted. We can expect that if it happens, she will be ridiculed, blamed, called a liar. That's the sad truth of it. And it's up to us to decide whether or not that's something we're willing to accept.