Rape culture pervades social, legal institutions

Ngoc Vo
Opinion Editor

As reported by the Tropolitan from the U.S. Department of Justice, only 5 percent of sexual crimes committed against college females are officially reported. This alarmingly low rate of crime reports is due to the prevalent rape culture in our society.
It is understandable how victims of sexual assault shy away from taking legal actions against their assailants when the victims face possible backlash.
Our society and popular media have often offered sympathy and excuses to convicted rapists, such as in the high school rape case in Steubenville, Ohio, from 2012.
Sexual violence against women is excused by the victim-blaming mentality. Such mentality manifests itself not only in rape justifications such as “she’s asking for it,” but also in the imposition of the responsibility to prevent rape on the victims.
From the same old self-defense classes to the latest innovation with date-rape-drug-detecting nail polish, an array of methods have been thrown at women to guard against unwanted violations of their bodies.     The argument is that one should have the full responsibility to protect oneself. This, I believe, is a backward argument.
We, as a structured civilization, have a legal system and social values to protect our individual rights. It is expected that humans are provided with a sense of security, the second most basic component in psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of need.
If an extreme, women-oriented protection measure sounds absurd when suggested to men, there is something worth rethinking in our culture.
The reality is that we live in a society where the hard-to-resist temptation to the act is a socially and, in some cases, legally acceptable justification for rape cases, yet not for any other kind of crime.
We live in a society in which a 17-year-old girl from Richmond, Virginia, was kicked out of her high school prom because the chaperoning fathers felt her dress, which was in compliance with the event’s fingertip-length dress code, would cause “impure thoughts.”
Men in situations like this have perpetually held women accountable for their reproductive organs while assuming control over women’s reproductive rights.
We have legal bodies in which the male majority decides on women’s problems and women’s rights. We also had an elected representative for Missouri serving last year who said in an anti-abortion campaign, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Todd Akin is one, among many, of the examples where rape culture pervades social and authoritative institutions through the male assertion of power. Men in various authoritative positions are applying their standards, their conditions and their beliefs to women.
During the 2013 filibuster of Wendy Davis, a Texas state senator, to block a proposal to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Rep. Leticia Van de Putte addressed how her previous motions were ignored.
“Mr. President, parliamentary inquiry: At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?” Van de Putte said.
Men occupied 77.4 percent of Texas Senate in 2013, according to the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Politics Project.
The time stamp on the Senate documents was falsified to make the bill appear to be passed before the midnight deadline, as reported by the Observer and the Texas Tribune staff. Such illegal effort illustrates how far the current male-majority legislatures go to restrict women’s rights.
Rape culture is further perpetuated in popular media with both the objectification of the female body as a sexualized commodity and with the modern romantic narratives of the good-guy myth, in which the idea of “winning the girl” is a heroic, respectable quest of overcoming female objections or resistance.
The excuse “boys will be boys” represents male entitlement. It is a widespread assumption that men can claim women’s time and space regardless of methods. Such social belief provided spree killer Elliot Rodger with a support platform for his misogynist hate, according to the Guardian.
Rape culture does not exclude men as victims. At the same time, the social stigma against men in their assaults is often that it is embarrassing to lose their position of power.
In our society, one of the worst insults directed toward men is attributing to them effeminate characteristics, or anything related to women. This raises the question of women’s place and value in our society, and of how rape culture normalizes violence, both physical and nonphysical, against them.

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