I am going to start this post by including a trigger warning; this post involves many references to rape itself, rape culture and victim shaming. I will be talking about some statistics about rape in Ireland and USA. I will be outlining some of the problems of rape culture too. Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive guide by any means. For instance, I deal mainly with victims of rape who are female and I don’t really go in to what is and isn’t consent, but you can find a great post about that here.
In my previous post, about the Steubenville rape case, I briefly mentioned what is known as rape culture. It is a term I stumbled upon around a year ago while reading various blogs about misogyny and the likes. I must admit, it was very eye-opening to me in a way that was quite uncomfortable.
Full disclosure: I used to engage in this behaviour quite frequently. I didn’t perpetuate rape culture by going out and raping anyone, but when I was younger, I told rape jokes with my friends and thought nothing of it. I am not proud of this, but I feel like it is important for me to point out that it is very possible to be a part of the problem without realising it, and even more important that you can stop yourself from being part of the problem any longer.
Rape culture is essentially the naturalisation of sexual violence, be it through the casual portrayal of coercive sexual behaviour on TV to a simple “joke” told between two friends. All of these things, no matter how small or big, combine to perpetuate a culture in which rape is either seen as the norm, or people’s view of what and what doesn’t constitute rape is completely wrong.
One of the main parts of rape culture that is constantly pushed, especially in TV, is the Stranger Rape Myth; whereby we are led to believe that rape is only ever committed by strangers who are clearly rapists. It is presented as being a simple “strange man attacks a woman under the cover of night, takes her down an alleyway and then rapes her”, but it is rarely that simple.
Statistically speaking, the majority of rape victims knew their rapist before the attack. According to the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, 90% of those who sought their help knew their attacker in some form before the attack took place. That is NINE OUT OF TEN rape victims. One third of all victims were attacked by a family member, while another third were attacked by people they would classify as “friends, acquaintances or neighbours”.
Most of the statistics available about rape are relating to the US, but their pop culture so strongly influences ours that I think it’s fair to say that if they have a rape culture problem, then so do we here in Ireland.
Over in the US, a woman is twice as likely to be raped as she is to get breast cancer. In fact, that is a conservative estimate. Figures vary from whether one in every three or one in every four women in our society has been sexually assaulted in some way. Even if the number was one in ten, we should find such figures intolerable.
As far as the figures for Ireland go, one out of every five women are believed to have been sexually assaulted in their lives, while the figure is one in ten for men. Think about that for a second. Think of your circle of friends. Now think of how many of them you have been sexually assaulted in some shape or form. I’d be willing to bet that you are aware of less than a quarter of the cases of sexual assault in your group of friends.
The highest estimate I have seen for the amount of rape accusations that turn out to be false is 8%. In fact, the actual figure for this is likely to be closer to 2%, which contradicts another myth; the one of “the girl who cried rape”.
Rape is something that we are so afraid to talk about even though it has happened to so many people close to us. I know a number of people very close to me who have been the victims of sexual assault, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are more who just haven’t told me yet. Based purely on the statistics, it would be foolish of me to think otherwise.
The reason that there are so many people in your life that you might consider to be close friends who have been raped but never told you is because of the stigma that we, as a society, attach to being raped. I honestly cannot get my head around why we have done this, but it is there.
Our culture is one of victim blaming when it comes to rape. Too often you hear people saying things like the victim “dressed older than her age” when talking about an eleven year-old who was raped. Sometimes they go a step further than just implying it, and come out and say that the victim was “asking for it” by wearing “sexually suggestive” clothing.
By doing this, we are putting the blame on the victim instead of the perpetrator. By telling a girl to wear something different to avoid being raped, all we are essentially saying is to make sure that they rape someone else. We are not getting to the root of the problem, which is that men are taught that women’s bodies are possessions or trophies which need to be obtained in order to fulfill a vague sense of manliness.
This is why we get the birth of what is known as the “friend zone”. The friend zone is a part of rape culture that had become quite prevalent in pop culture. It is usually put forward by Nice Guys™ as an excuse for why a girl could possibly choose someone else over them.
What the Nice Guy™ believes is that if he is nice to a girl and actually treats her with respect, then that girl should want to have sex with him. Actually, the concept goes a step further by allowing the Nice Guy™ to feel entitled to sex with the girl of his choice simply because he has treated her with some sort of basic human decency for an extended period of time.
The friend zone myth is dangerous and insulting because it perpetuates the idea of women as a prize or a reward for being “nice”. It dehumanises women in a way that is more subtle than cat-calling, and this is why so many people fall for it. I fell for it too, when I was younger.
One of my favourite bloggers (Tumblr’s twentysomethinghussy, who unfortunately has cancelled her account) had a great piece titled “Why they weren’t actually all that nice” about her experiences with the Nice Guy™ phenomenon and why it is highly insulting, creepy and even dangerous to treat someone like this, especially someone you claim to care about deeply. Although you can no longer read it, she summed it up as:
“I did not reject you because you were “too nice”. I rejected you because you would not take no for an answer and didn’t care about what I wanted.”
Again, I’ll end this post with some tweets from some Nice Guys™:
Yes, the only way out of the friend zone is rape. Well done.
Because someone who calls women “hoes” is clearly a nice/good guy
Because if she turned down your sexual advances the first time, you obviously weren’t being aggressive/creepy enough
I think this sums it up pretty well. Perfect example of someone who couldn’t care less about what the woman they are apparently being so nice to actually wants…
EDIT: Wow, thanks to Heben Nigatu, Jessica Testa and Ryan Broderick for quoting me on Buzzfeed. I thought about deleting some of the comments below, but I decided to leave them there since they are pretty much exactly what I was talking about in the piece.
I have also updated this post to remove the links that are no longer active