by Ema K.
Throughout the last few decades, sexual assault survivors have finally begun sharing their stories, and we have seen a shift in American public opinion on the way we view rape. It’s time to have a conversation about how the press and media encourage rape culture.
First of all, what is rape culture? According to Marshall Education, rape culture is “an environment in which rape is prevalent and sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture”. This includes victim blaming (“what were you wearing?”), making explicit jokes, focusing on false accusations, the toxic attribution of femininity and masculinity, and giving unwanted attention to others (sexual harassment). These factors may seem insignificant, but they contribute to rape survivors being afraid to share their stories, making women believe they are at
fault for getting assaulted, and uplifting the myth that men can’t be victims of rape as well. Moreover, rape culture stems from the presence of patriarchy. The patriarchy is the system in a society where men are seen as superior to women and have certain advantages or privileges. According to one school of thought, when agriculture and nomadic life started to settle down, the power shifted to the men who had more physical strength to defend their families. Then, men started living with their families (producing a “social alliance” because of blood relations) and the property is passed down, which led to the gradual development of male superiority (“Origins of Sexism”). Unmistakably, the roots of the patriarchy advanced the development of rape culture.
The media defending rapists triggers a chain reaction of readers doing the same, further inflaming rape culture. According to the Hands Off Initiative, “A rape apologist is someone who makes any kind of justification for rape” (“How to Spot a Rape Apologist”). During the Steubenville, Ohio rape trial in 2012, a reporter was caught doing just that. The trial occurred because a 16-year-old girl accused two football players, aged 16 and 17, of rape. Eventually, the jury found them both guilty and they were both convicted. However, CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow who was reporting on it contended, “One of the young men...said to me, “My life is over. No one is going to want me now.” ...alcohol is a huge part of this” (“CNN Steubenville Rapists”). Harlow is clearly exhibiting sympathy towards the rapist, claiming that he was crying that his life is over and seems to be implying that alcohol is an excuse for rape. CNN is a highly influential news source. This means that what Harlow said was heard by thousands, and could have driven those people to give justification and sympathy toward a rapist. Evidently, the report has the power to create a domino effect on its audience and increasingly normalize rape culture.
In conclusion, the media is extremely influential and is fueling the maintenance of rape culture. It’s important to acknowledge this in order to make legislative and societal changes to eradicate the presence.
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Douglas, Anil Ananthaswamy and Kate. “The Origins of Sexism: How Men Came to Rule 12,000
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“Rape Culture.” Womens Center, www.marshall.edu/wcenter/sexual-assault/rape-culture/