What is rape culture?


10 april 2020
Auteur(s): Ines Barji
Rape may be something we don't like to talk about but rape culture is ubiquitous in our society and it needs to be addressed.

by Ines Barji

Contributing Writer

Rape culture in today's society is about putting into words and giving facts about the overall feeling of helplessness and guilt of rape and sexual assault victims. When you want to debate on whether we should or should not separate the rapist from the artist, it is rape culture. If your baker was condemned by the justice system for a rape he committed you would probably not go back to his bakery. I get it, his bread might be the best in the whole area… well just become gluten-free for god’s sake! 

When Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer, Donna Rotunno, claims that she has never been raped because she “would never put [herself] in that position” and that she has always “made choices from college-age on where [she] never drank too much, [she] never went home with someone [she] didn’t know, [She] just never put [herself] in any vulnerable circumstances, ever.”, it is rape culture.

Blaming the victims for being victims of rape or sexual assault is rape culture.

When the famous French author Gabriel Matzneff writes entire books describing how he rapes under-aged girls and boys but no criminal investigation is started for decades because of the silence of the literary community, that is rape culture. When the American president is brought before court by two women in two different cases both relating to sex offences, but he still tries to claim presidential immunity or a lack of jurisdiction from the seized court, it is rape culture. Mr Trump refuses to face the accusations in court, but outside of the court he claims that they are all lying. 

Although rape culture is a relatively new expression, which has only been around since the second half of the 19th century, it describes a worldwide phenomenon. Indeed, it is fair and safe to say that sex and rape offences are minimised and normalized, that rape culture is happening, when according to the last surveys only less than 2% of American reported rape offences end with a felony conviction, supposing that all rape offences are denounced. That number goes down to 1% in Belgium, 1.7% in England and Wales, 8.6% in South-Africa and 0.39% in Bangladesh.

However, another focus point of rape culture is that “men cannot be rape victims”, and one of the best illustrations of that harmful myth is article 486 of the Moroccan penal code stating that “Rape is the act by which a man has sexual relations with a woman against her will”. The fight against rape culture is a fight against the erasure of the victim status of the victims of sex and rape offences and those victims can be found throughout the whole gender spectrum.

It should be clear today that men are not sex machines and that other genders are not sex toys.

Nonetheless, the picture today is not so dark. We are becoming more and more aware of how women and children, but also gender minorities such as transgender people, are treated in our divided societies where men do not have the same standing as everybody else. Thanks to an increasing number of loud activists, ordinary people and celebrities, today we have a chance to make the world a safer place for all of us: women, men, kids, and gender minorities. Some of those people are the famous Belgian singer Angèle, the American actress Indya Moore, the Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, the French actress Adèle Heanel and on some social media accounts. For example, on instagram you can find @preparez_vous_pour_la_bagarre for French speakers, @beirutbydyke for English and Arabic speakers or @tarajaneen for English speakers. 

These people are only the tip of the iceberg, most people are working in the shadow to challenge rape culture and sexism and they won’t ever be silenced no matter the number of actual and future Roman Polansky, Donald Trump, Gabriel Matzneff, Donna Rotunno, Harvey Weinstein and so on. They will challenge rape culture because they won’t be the silent accomplices of the unbearable status quo that is the patriarchy.