Most of us are aware of what victim-blaming is and would never say "She deserved it" on a public forum, but among friends, we might ask, “What was she doing there?” or “How drunk was she?”
Jaquelyn White, emerita professor of psychology and senior research scientist at the Center for Women’s Health and Wellness at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, explains why we do this: “It’s hard to accept that men we think we know, who seem like nice guys, could do something so horrific as rape, so society tries to come up with excuses.” It then becomes easy to blame the victim when “women are already devalued across the board.”
Instead of delving into deeply rooted societal issues, it’s easier to say, “She was fair game” rather than dethrone the captain of the football team. (“He couldn’t have!”)
When we don’t educate our kids about sex.
When older figures aren't educating us about sex, younger people are seeking answers through Google and finding porn. If we don’t have open, healthy discussions with our children about sex and consent, they’ll think that pornography — which often promotes violent behavior — is what sex is supposed to be like.
Not all porn is bad, explains Dr. Walter DeKeseredy, director of the Research Center on Violence and professor of sociology at West Virginia University. “[But most] pornography involves one-sided sexuality, in which the man dominates and degrades the woman."
When we pressure boys and men to “be men.”
Our culture's obsession with hyper-masculinity is an issue. From a young age, boys are taught to be dominant, and if their masculinity is threatened in any way (say, if someone says “no” to them), they’re supposed to get angry.
As Bowman explains, hyper-masculinity also expects that men want sex at all times and have the ability to go out and get it whenever they please.
Too often, male friends pressure one another to “close the deal,” and if they come back empty-handed, they're looked down upon, maybe even called a “pussy” or a “bitch.”
Furthermore, according to DeKeseredy, research has shown that these types of all-male groups “encourage, justify, and support the abuse of women.”
When we teach girls to always be polite and apologize.
In stark contrast to men, women are taught from a young age to apologize for who they are. If they want to present a counterpoint, they’re told to start with, “I’m sorry, but I think …” so as to be polite. Men, on the other hand, are told to put their foot down and take a firm stance. In fact, two studies by the University of Waterloo in Ontario and published in the journal Psychological Science back in 2010 found that while men are just as willing as women to apologize, they had a higher threshold for what they felt they needed to apologize for.
The 15-year-old girl who accused St. Paul’s Owen Labrie of rape said in her testimony that she didn’t put up a struggle because she wanted to be “as polite as possible.” And no, that’s not her fault. Society expects women just to take it — or else, we’re “teases,” “ballbusters,” or “bitches.”
Clearly, rape culture is a multifaceted issue, but if we become more aware of how we're all contributing to the problem, and change the way we've been trained to think, we're headed in the right direction.
If you're seeking more information about sexual assault and/or rape culture, here are some helpful links: