Rape Culture: An Australian’s Perspective
As a man, reading anything about 'Rape Culture' is uncomfortable. As a husband and father of three daughters, reading any article that downplays the prevalence of a culture of rape is terrifying. So, it was with some reservation that I read Caroline Kitchens' article from time.com (http://time.com/30545/its-time-to-end-rape-culture-hysteria/), claiming there is a rape culture 'hysteria'. Granted, this article refers only to the US context and mainly to College culture, but I think there are some larger ideas that require some unpacking.
First, there are countless cases of women being raped (by one or more men) in crowded places such as concerts, where nobody batted an eyelid, or raised a finger to help her. Having been a security guard and crowd controller at various events, I could tell of some close calls that I encountered; women who mouthed "help me" to me as they were terrified of the men around them and of drinks spiked. I can tell of the men, evicted from the premises through one door, gaining re-entry to events via a word on a "less uptight" security guard's ear.
Second, there is undeniably a culture of accepting that "boys will be boys." The reactions of the parents of boys who have been caught out are all too often astonishing. "He didn't mean any harm." "He was only having his bit of fun." "Just sowing his wild oats," they say.
Don't excuse the behaviour. That's how these "boys" get to the point of committing such a gross act of assault. They are fully aware that the consequences will rarely be dire, if there are any at all. Because the truth is that nobody has any idea how many women are actually raped, we can only guess at figures that suggest Australian figures of one-in-three women are rape victims and one-in-five girls are victims of sexual assault.
Why are these figures so low? They are low because the women all too often know their attackers, and if the woman knows the man, then the man also knows the woman. He knows her phone number. He knows where she lives. He knows her family and friends, or IS a family member or 'friend'. Fear, I believe, is the major factor in women not reporting rapes.
What of the false accusations that Kitchens uses as proof that women make stories up to hurt men? I am sure that every year there are one or two cases where a 'victim' lies. Does this excuse the thousands proven true? Does this belittle in any way the fear of all the other women who are legitimately victims? Of course not. Do we, as a society, stop listening to claims of house break-ins because of the one or two who falsify their insurance claims, break their own bathroom windows to cover leaving a back door unlocked or arrange to be "out" when their mate "visits"? That would be ludicrous, and so is using the odd unsubstantiated claim of rape against a former lover as a reason to deny justice to the many, or to deny that a culture exists where rape is part and parcel of the practice of that culture.
Kitchens, in a YouTube video of the same name as her article (http://youtu.b/NFn63DBn_KA) claims that the research that first arrived at the high numbers of victims was flawed on two counts. First, that 72% did not believe they had been raped and, second, that 40% later had sex with their attackers. Given there are victims who do not understand consent, or that a husband can be guilty of raping his wife, I can understand that in the 1980's, before widespread sex-education in schools, this number would be high. As for the 40% figure! having sex with an attacker after they rape you does not mean that on a previous (or subsequent) occasion the sex was consensual.
Kitchens also takes aim at anyone who entertains the idea that "any man who enjoys looking at a woman in a swimsuit" is responsible. Including a defence of Robin Thicke, whose "song," "Blurred Lines" has made him a particular target for many, Kitchens, who works for a conservative think tank, seems set feminists for the "Rape Culture" label, following the liberal line of self-responsibility to its tragic end.
Finally, Kitchens quotes from a RAINN submission to the White House: "Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime."
Whilst I agree that the single act of rape is the act of a man or men against (usually) a woman or women, a culture in Police forces that sees victims interrogated as to their clothing (including how short their dresses were and how much cleavage was showing), drinking habits, dating and sexual habits, does nothing to give confidence to the victim that their claim will be dealt with in the appropriate manner. Courts that allow men (convicted pedophiles) to photograph naked five year old girls without penalty do nothing to break down the hegemonic attitudes of men towards , or to tell the broader society that the behaviour will not be tolerated.
A society that tells my daughters to be careful how much they drink, what they wear and with
whom they choose to spend their time, so that it doesn't have to make any attempt at changing the behaviours of the men, has an issue to deal with, and that issue has a name: Rape Culture.