Recently, The Libertarian Republic published an article from guest columnist Ashley Rae Goldenberg entitled “Do We Have a Rape Culture?”. In it, she mocks a picture of a woman wearing a bra and jeans with her back to the camera. On the picture, there is a quote referencing rape culture. Goldenberg criticizes the quote, the woman, and the concept of rape culture.
My name is Gina Luttrell. I am the person quoted in the picture, and I am the woman in the photograph.
I’m here to talk about rape culture.
It seems strange that Goldenberg asks, “Do we have a rape culture?”and then does not define it. In the interest of us all being on the same page, I’ll quote my good friend Wikipedia.
“Rape culture is a concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape.”
Note that the definition is not “a culture in which everyone says that rape is okay.”What we’re talking about here are phenomena that are subtle and implied. It’s like tone of voice and body posture—your explicit words may indicate one thing, but everything else about you might communicate something different.
So, yes, while everyone might say that rape is terrible, much in our culture implies otherwise.
Example: In March 2011, The New York Times ran an article about the sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl in Texas. The article, among other things, gave strange, irrelevant details about the victim: “She dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.” The implication here is that the victim was responsible for her rape because of her state of dress and demeanor.
Much commentary on rape follows this line, focusing around how the victim could have avoided the situation instead of on the fact that s/he never should have been raped in the first place. This is called “victim blaming,”and it is a particularly insidious, pervasive way to suggest that a rape is justified.
Victim blaming is a prevalent attitude that creates excuses for rape. It is part of rape culture.
To combat this kind of victim blaming, many protest by wearing less and declaring “Still not asking for it.”The point of this is not to titillate or shock—just the opposite. The point is that someone’s body is not an object, no matter how it is presented. People should be respected and treated well regardless of what they wear. This is the message of SlutWalks and of my picture.
This form of protest is proclaiming yourself to be unashamed of your body in a culture that tells us you ought to be. It is putting yourself out there, fearless, when everyone tells you to be afraid. It is to stand in defiance of rape culture, which whispers that you deserve to be objectified, disrespected, and violated because of how you choose to present yourself.
The solution to rape culture is not to hide in our homes or cover ourselves with frocks. The solution is to take power of our bodies and not let anyone dictate, through shame or fear, how we use them.
Reclaiming our bodies and our personhood as our own is how you defeat misogyny. Time to get on the bandwagon.