Normally, I like to pride myself on appearing level-headed in the course of an intense discussion. I would like to consider myself capable of remaining calm and rational during an argument while, internally, I am a maelstrom of passion.
But a few nights ago, as I discussed the intersectionality of rape culture and party culture with a rising Notre Dame sophomore, I could not maintain even a facade of serenity.
I was livid because this boy, who attends an esteemed university, who has been imbued with Catholic social teachings of justice and respect, who has dreams of becoming a skilled physician, spouted victim-blaming mentality inherent to rape culture without a second thought.
For those unfamiliar with the term “Rape culture,” it is a term “coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s … designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence” (as stated by Women Against Violence Against Women).
I have been affronted by this objectifying, violent, destructive culture three times within this past weekend, and can no longer remain mute. A male acquaintance categorized my decision to wear a crop top and shorts on a humid, ninety-degree summer evening as seduction. Another joked that by my choice of dress, I was “asking” to be slapped on the ass. My Notre Dame friend told me that I’m “too smart to be raped.”
As Elie Wiesel once said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” So let me be perfectly clear: These three incidents, however trivial they may appear, are indications of an absolutely unacceptable culture.
An individual’s choice of clothing is a reflection of their style, not an invitation to be objectified. Joking about rape is never funny. Being raped is not an indication of the victim’s lack of wisdom—it is an indication of the perpetrator’s destructive lust for power and control through sex.
In saying all these things, it may seem that I have an intrinsic distrust and dislike of all men. It may seem that I fail to acknowledge the occurrence of sexual assault against men, and fail to acknowledge that we as a society have made progress. On the contrary, I love and admire the wonderful men in my life—my family members, my boyfriend, my guy friends, my male teachers, kind strangers, etc. I hate the culture that can propel people into ignorance and/or violence. I believe sexual violence against any gender and any sexual orientation is profoundly wrong. I acknowledge and am so thankful for the measures to eradicate rape culture, such as mandated “Sexual Violence Prevention” programs for college students that clearly outline consent and when it can and cannot be given.
With that being said, we need to keep working. We need to continue to shut down any sexist jokes, misogynistic remarks, homophobic comments, and especially any situations in which a vulnerable individual is in imminent danger of being assaulted. We need to stop blaming the victim--stop asking, “How much did you have to drink? What were you wearing?” and start asking “Are you ok? What can I do to support you right now?” We need to be allies to one another.
We need to replace rape culture with a culture of respect and dignity. We need to allow each person to cultivate a safe, healthy sexuality if and when that individual is ready.
So please, take a side. Do not be neutral. Do not remain silent. Say "No" to rape culture.