Sunday, 11 May 2014

Festering an Unclean Culture

I don't really like the term "Rape Culture". That's not to say that I disagree with it. In the long run, I kind of do, I believe that the concept is right in a couple of key respects, which deserve attention. While, perhaps, Rape Culture itself needs to be re-understood and rebranded, I don't think that rape culture is by and large wrong.
Rather, my issue with the term is that it's aggressive. For people that don't know what it means, it can be seen as accusatory and confrontational.
If I go up to someone that doesn't know what it means and say "you're promoting rape culture", if they're a caring human being, they'll think "but, I'm not a rapist and I think that rape is wrong!" so they'll probably disagree, they'll think that I'm the crazy feminist for calling them a rapist.
But I'm not calling you a rapist that's not what it means at all; at least, that's not what I understand it to mean, and that's not what it should mean. So today, I want to explain what rape culture is, and perhaps even redefine it so that we can think about it in terms which even non-feminists can understand and agree with. Because when I say that there is a widespread rape culture, I am not saying that everyone is a rapist. I'm saying that some of our attitudes and practices promote an unfair and unhealthy mindset towards women and sex.
So, I don't like calling this "rape culture" I prefer a much less controversial term and meaning. I consider a more accurate term to be Complicit Culture. The Word of the Day is: COMPLICIT

Complicit /kəmplisət/ adj. Choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having complicity.

So, What is Rape Culture?
Basically, Rape Culture is the concept that certain attitudes and practices of a society - especially those which are sexist and promote inequality -  can normalize, excuse, tolerate & even condone rape and sexual violence.
When I say "certain attitudes" I am talking about sexual objectification, victim-blaming; misandry/misogyny; rape trivialization & desensitization towards sexual assault.

Now, do we live in such a culture? Well, I obviously think we do. There are countless instances of people blaming the victim; there are a ridiculous number of men that think women exist solely to have sex with them (and other gender identities, guided by lust alone); there are too many people that don’t understand why date rape is the rapist’s fault & I don't even want to get into the people that engage in slut-shaming. We are a culture that too often allows rape to happen or allows victims to suffer, helpless and hopeless.

However, I also understand the criticisms of Rape Culture, and accept them. One of the key criticisms [one brought to light by RAINN] is that, since the term "Rape Culture" implies that a certain culture can cause Rape to happen, then it takes the onus of guilt off the criminal and instead turns it on society - blaming society when the truth is that we should be blaming the rapist, who made their choice to do wrong.
This criticism is pretty much right on the money; but, I none the less feel that it is short-sighted. I am honestly of the belief that serial killers are raised, not born - that is, I believe that a lot of violent criminals are caused by nurture, not nature - it's not true of everyone, but as I mentioned way . . . back in my "Trigger Warning" blog post [that's not just a clever title, that post includes the following trigger warnings: Spree-killers; School shootings]; I believe that there are certain "recipes" for creating violent criminals. And in the case of Rapists, there are some factors, identified by the World Health Organization which can lead to sexual violence: male sexual entitlement; "family honour"/purity myths; anger; disempowerment & even being the victim of sexual abuse.

But does this mean that rapists are innocent? They are merely victims of society - or to quote Thomas More:
  “For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves [rapists] and then punish them.”
― Utopia by Thomas More
Well, no. Because, as I said, although short-sighted RAINN does have a point. I believe that there is a point of choice. Just as there do exist pre-sexual paedophiles, that are attracted to children, but do not touch them, because they realize the damage it would cause [or, just don't want to get caught]; rapists are still making a choice, at the end of the day. And because Free Will exists, even if we are encouraging the development of monsters and violent, sexual criminals; they are still the one at fault. It just requires a bit of open-mindedness to understand that you're allowed to blame more than one person, sometimes more than one person is at fault.

But, I believe we should feel somewhat complicit in these crimes. This should not be a case of deferred blame, but instead shared blame. We're not Criminals, but we are Complicit in these crimes, by allowing them to exist. Rape Culture, like Bacteria Cell Cultures in petri dishes, will fester and grow if we allow them to, and it's not just rape that we allow in this culture. . .
See, one of my favourite criticisms of Rape Culture is one suggested by Gloria Jean "bell hooks" Watkins, although the woman herself seems a bit over-the-top, I don't have a counterargument for her criticism, because I agree with it.

The criticism is that "Rape Culture" is too narrow a concept. Because although she believes that Rape Culture exists, she also believes our culture encourages all manner of sexual violence; as well as racial violence; criminal violence & religious violence and prejudice.
As I said, she's a bit over the top, but I see what she's saying. But I don't have time to cover racial violence in this post as well, perhaps that can be another post.
But, this is why I prefer calling this a Complicit Culture, instead of a Rape Culture. Because it's talking about a culture which is complicit in the consequences of that culture. And most importantly, the thing I wanted to address, is victim blaming.
We too often think that victims are complicit in their own suffering.

In the examples of rape, as I said, so many people slut-shame, and they blame women for having sex forced upon them. It's bad enough that they've started making PSAs to combat these ridiculous mindsets. Although I'm upset that we've gotten to this point, I still applaud the Scotland Rape Crisis Centre for making this informative and darkly ironic public service announcement.
I don't even understand how people can justify these thoughts, first of all, by blaming a victim for being raped, you are yourself victimizing them, which makes you a disgusting human being to begin with. But more importantly, isn't this the rapist's fault? I covered this above, even if they've grown up with a terrible understanding of women's rights, consensual sex & empathy, it's the rapist that chooses to attack people.
These people just don't seem to understand that the World sucks. This isn't a just world where the only people that get hurt are those that deserve it; sometimes innocent people get hurt. And it's not like rapists are a fact of life that we need to just accept. If we were talking about, say, a lion, then I would understand. Because we can't stop lions from being lions, so if you know there are lions around and choose not to protect yourself, then you're kind of dumb. But rapists aren't lions, they're people - horrible though they may be - that choose to commit these heinous crimes.
If you want to stop people from being victims, I don't believe the best course is to stop victims from being victimized; I believe we should stop rapists from raping people. One of these ways is to catch these predators, but a better way is to stop them from prospering in the first place.

But how can we do it? So many people have been fighting against sexism, for feminism & equality - so many people have been fighting for justice for so long. How can we stop this Complicit Culture?

Well, I suggest that we teach young boys not to be sexist, teach them how to treat women kindly. While we're at it, teach the girls as well, despite the precedence, men do get raped, there's no reason to ignore their plight - or the plight of those sexually assaulted because of their sexuality or gender identity. We should teach everyone about basic social niceties of romantic and sexual interaction. In fact, I even have an idea about that . . .
Why is it that when we give people "Sexual Education" we only teach people how to put on a condom, we teach them about genitals, sexual development, pregnancy & childbirth? We teach kids how to put their genitals together, but why don't we teach them about respect, relationships, equality, intimacy or courting?
Why can't we teach kids "No means No"? Why can't we tell boys and girls about emotional and physical abuse? Why not teach people respect for others and themselves? Teach kids about patience, and the proper way to court a partner and discover consensual intimacy?
Why is it that something so important to our lives as sexual development and relationships, are ignored? Is this really such an outlandish idea, turning Sexual Education into something more than the mechanics of adolescence, hormones and coitus?

I don't know . . . this isn't necessarily the solution, and hell, maybe there isn't a magic bullet that can solve this mess. I don't have all the ideas, as I said, I'm a narrator, not a dictator. But I can say that we need to address these issues; because, the only way to annihilate the views, attitudes & actions that make up this Complicit Culture is by finding them and replacing them with a the mindset of a much more accepting culture.
I suggest dealing with the youth, because they are the individuals that will comprise this culture in the future. But for now, we should continue to deal with these issues in small measures.

Celebrate equality; decry intolerance, victim blaming and slut-shaming; punish rapists and violent criminals; expose sexism for what it is & encourage people to live the way that we want our society to be.
Even if you don't believe that we live in a Rape Culture and think that I'm wrong about my theories on a Complicit Culture, these are things we should all be doing anyway, so there's no harm in critics doing as I suggest.

Until next time, I'm the Absurd Word Nerd; blaming the blamers & shaming the shamers - because there's no excuse for inequality.

1 comment:

  1. If we could implement this idea on a national scale, then maybe complicity culture would not be so much of a problem. If we could encourage boys to be gentlemen and girls to be ladies about sexual relationships, to not blame the victim or encourage entitlement issues. We have to find a good target audience to spread these views, and encourage less complicity


Feel free to make suggestions, ask questions & comment . . .
I would love to read your words.