It’s imperative men and boys are educated about rape culture

Sarah James:

The first time I was introduced to the term “rape culture”, I thought it simply referred to the high number of rape attacks which take place across the world daily.

It was only when I attended a transformation workshop on the issue that I began to fully understand what it means to live and interact with this culture.

Rape culture is the belief that women are asking to be raped if they wear revealing clothes, walk alone at night or are intoxicated in public. It is ingrained in the questions which tend to follow a rape: “What was she wearing? Was she drunk?” The blame is shifted from the perpetrator to the victim.

Rape culture is also the belief that men have access to women’s bodies for their own sexual benefit – where women are seen as objects, not individuals. While this is usually associated with women and society’s perception of women, men and boys can be victims of rape too. Same-sex rape is an issue not examined closely enough.

Many people are also unaware that women can be raped by women and men by men.

Rape culture has been ingrained in society for decades – women have long been indoctrinated into believing that to be raped is just the “way things are”. I remember my mother telling me as a child to “sit properly” and “close my legs”, because the sight of a little girl’s underwear might provoke a man.

It is a scary thought that this perversion of young girls has become the norm in today’s society.

I also remember sitting in a Grade 7 Life Orientation lesson and the teacher telling us that wearing so-called revealing clothes – shirts which expose too much cleavage and skirts which show lots of leg – tend to make boys “think in a certain way”.

She insisted that it was merely because boys’ brains are “wired differently” to girls’ brains. This is the essence of the rape culture problem; we are indoctrinated to believe that men have a much higher sex drive than women, and as a result, can’t help themselves in seeking sex.

Much publicity and attention is given to teaching women to protect themselves against rape instead of teaching men not to become perpetrators of it.

Nearly every article and talk regarding women’s safety gives similar advice: don’t walk alone, don’t walk at night, dress modestly, know that being drunk, particularly in public, is asking to be raped.

Why does my gender prevent me from being free to do these things?

The transformation workshop I attended comprised women only, and the question arose as to why such talks did not involve men. It is imperative that men and boys are educated about what rape culture is and to respect women’s bodies, so they do not become perpetrators of rape.

I do not blame my mother and Life Orientation teacher for teaching me these things; they too have been indoctrinated by the rape culture. They thought it best to educate us as young women about avoiding rape because that is what society led us to believe – that it is more important to make women aware of how to avoid being raped than to educate men to prevent rape altogether.

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