Rape Culture

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture
Rape Culture

I know there's alredy a quasi-rape culture or specific rape culture thread about the RCMP here, but I wanted to start a new thread about how our society implements, enforces and sustains rape culture. The prerequisite for posting in this thread is an understanding that rape culture exists.

This is a great response to two letters to CaptainAwkward.com about creeper men and the social networks which protect and enable them.

I’m not slithering around on the floor and hissing with my forked tongue when I say that the situations described in these two letters are pretty good examples of what Rape Culture is and why it is so insidious.

Step 1: A creepy dude does creepy, entitled shit and makes women feel unsafe.

Step 2: The women speak up about it to their partners.

Step 3: It gets written off as “not a big deal” or “he probably didn’t mean it” or “he’s not a bad guy, really.” Any discussion of the bad behavior must immediately be followed by a complete audit of his better qualities or the sad things he’s suffered in the name of “fairness.” Once the camera has moved in and seen him in closeup as a real, human, suffering person, how can you (the object, always an object, as in “objectified,” as in a disembodied set of tits or orifices, or a Trapper Keeper, or a favorite coffee mug or a pet cat) be so cruel as to want to hold him accountable for his actions?  Bitches, man.

Step 4: Everyone is worried about hurting creepy dude’s feelings or making it weird for creepy dude. Better yet, everyone is worried about how the other dudes in the friend group will feel if they are called out for enabling creepy dude. Women are worried that if they push the issue, that the entire friend group will side with creepy dude or that they’ll be blamed for causing “drama.”  Look at how LW #323 put it:  ”how can I approach this subject with my boyfriend, and make him understand a) how serious this is, and b) that he is not responsible for Ben’s reactions, without making him feel defensive?”

Wouldn’t want someone who covers up for and defends a proto-rapist to have to have SADFEELS, right? (LW, it’s not your fault you’re asking the question this way, it’s just that our culture sucks about this and your boyfriend and his friends have been giving you constant messages that Ben is to be coddled while you are to be shushed in the hopes that it will all blow over).

Step 5: Creepy dude creeps on with his creepy self. He’s learned that there are no real (i.e. “disapproval & pushback from dudes and dude society”) consequences to his actions. Women feel creeped out and unsafe.Some of them decide to take a firm stand against creeping and not come to parties anymore. They slowly slide out of the friend group. Some of the woman decide to just quietly put up with it, because they’ve learned that no one will really side with them and it’s easier to go along than to lose one’s entire community. The whole group works around this missing stair.

Possible Step 6: Creepy dude rapes someone. If he does, there’s a less than 50% chance that the woman will report it. Why?

Could it be that all the people who surround her have taught her that if she speaks up nothing will really come of it anyway? Could it be that she doesn’t trust her friends and the people who love her to have her back on this? I CAN’T IMAGINE WHY. They couldn’t even kick this dude off their weekly trivia team.

Could it be that the authorities, the police, and the court system will treat her like this is something she caused to happen? Worse, will the dude’s history of being creepy come up and, instead of being used as evidence of a pattern of behavior, be used as evidence that the victim tolerated his advances in the past?

So, yeah, I wanted to be very clear that these letters are part of a larger cultural paradigm that is a direct outgrowth of male privilege. Can women be creepy? Yes, for sure. They are human and capable of anything that humans are capable of. But when they are creepy, they don’t have an entire culture backing them up and explaining why their creepiness isn’t that bad.


Issues Pages: 

thread drift/Typo in the title/end thread drift

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Also this comment to the OP link is an amazing anecdote, complete with revelationary plot twist, about how women see rape culture and (heterosexual) men don't:

The Question

ETA. Thanks Caissa. Fixed.


it's difficult(read:offensive) to get behind one person's definition of rape culture when they open with such an extreme as this one starts out as.

we are to believe(the edict) that men across the board will acquiesce the overtures of the "pathetic aging divorcee" and sanction the rapes of our close female friends because we're well... we're men. Across the board... that's what value we place on women friend or otherwise; no other pressure is needed, the pathetic aging divorcee's influence is absolute. it's embedded in the Y chromosome

The discussion has none of the earmarks of the RCMP Rape Culture discussion which has demonstrable consequences for taking a stand against ie. threats to current or future economic stability, harrassment at work, and terrorism or any permutation that includes the threat of grievous bodily harm for you and/or additional soft targets.

The Mr Glass discussion is better but still omits the chief complaint men would have in such cases that is that other men (the kind that are willing to risk *insert joke for length of rape sentences* is the same kind of man willing to go beyond that should you step in front of his daggers)

women are really good at volunteering men for their own benefit but rather poor at volunteering their man for the benefit of other women. There is still value in hearing Mrs Glass recount the tale after the fact when her husband is 100% safe, perhaps it is to inspire some young and dumb turks to smash themselves upon the altar of sacrifice before they have a partner who gives them explicit instructions to the contrary with no room to negotiate.


Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Hi ryanw,

Rape culture is mild, severe, insidious and overt. It's the culture that both allows rapists to get away with rape, say judicially or from police investigation; and preserves an environment which makes rape an inevitability. It's anything which makes heterosexual men feel that they are entitled to sex with a woman, that such a prospect should be likely and deserved, and that any challenge to that conviction should be ridiculed, minimized, attacked or ignored. It is many things.

However, those things that it is will not be debated in this thread. This thread is a documentation or an index of rape culture, not a discussion space for whether or not it exists. You can read the opening thread for many female perspectives which uphold the fact that it exists in the way described above, as well as many attacks and challenges (from men) to that reality resembling your post and their refutations. I suggest that if you disagree with the above definition of rape culture that you either refrain from posting in this thread or do some reading and listening until you are able to contribute positively.

Maysie Maysie's picture

Maysie Maysie's picture


rah rah rah

now all the women are saved; because not talking about it is the first step...

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

ryanw, clearly this thread is not for you. Don't post in it again.


I've known a couple of these yahoos. Part of the problem is that guys who behave like this are damaged individuals with major emotional problems if not outright mental illnesses, and other guys treat them with kid gloves out of pity. For instance, one guy I know who behaves inappropriately gets a pass because he's blind. Another guy is a great guy when he's sober, but he gets stupid when he's drunk and has groped women or made digressive comments. 

I work with a guy who preyed upon two women who quit their jobs to get away from him. But no repercussions, even though I work for the provincial government which has spent millions of dollars bringing in Workplace Discrimination and Harrassement measures (which are toothless). 

Interesting topic. Even progressive guys have blind spots about these kinds of guys. Though I think to be completely honest we have to acknowledge that some women are part of the problem. We all know women who are attracted to assholes, helping provide them with protective colouration. 


Sineed wrote:
I think to be completely honest we have to acknowledge that some women are part of the problem. We all know women who are attracted to assholes, helping provide them with protective colouration. 

i don't think this is accurate. let alone an honest depiction of what the factors may be with women who are with what you call assholes. 

i call rapists rapists. not yahoos or assholes.


But we're not necessarily talking about rapists.  The opening post is talking not just about a situation where a guy sexually assaulted a woman in his peer group (who is a rapist), but about the "creepy guy" (who isn't a rapist) who makes inappropriate jokes to women, and isn't sanctioned for doing so by the men in the social group.

And unfortunately, you will occasionally find women in a social group sticking up for, and making excuses for, men who do this sort of thing.  That's the thing about rape culture - as a systemic and cultural thing, most men, and many women, buy into it unconsciously without even realizing it.

West Coast Greeny

I'm happy to say I told one of my moderately-closeish friends off after stating something along the lines of "I can see why some people hit women" he apoligized, hasn't said anything like that again and as far as I know, hasn't said or done anything stupid since. We've fallen out of touch since then, regardless.

I'm ... fairly sure I didn't act quite as appropriately at the last coffee shop I worked at. There was one creepy man who, in addition making the a ridiculous racist statement or two ...

"I'm visiting Halifax, what do you think of that city"
"There's alot of Black people there"
"... I ... what? ... why does that matter?" 

... would hit on baristas in a very inappropriate manner. Most of us there had a hard time boundary setting (leading to other problems). Although I wasn't a shift manager or store manager, I was one of two guy baristas there. I never quite managed to say anything ... at all ..., although we'd all bitterly complain about the guy after work once or twice. I did say, "we should probably do something about the guy" but also said (with an intonation of contempt) "he's a lonely, sad, bitter old man". And there were always two key thoughts drifting though my mind which kept me from doing anything.

"He's not a real threat" Which I don't think he was, but that's not the point.
"He's a pathetic, sad, old, lonely man." I did actually pity the guy.

Up to the time I quit, nothing serious was really done about him. 

I never knew exactly what "rape culture" was before reading this thread. It's a loaded phrase, but it should be, considering the seriousness of the subject. I feel like a better person for having read it. Thank you. :)

Maysie Maysie's picture

It's Trigger Warning Week


Old, white, powerful men know what rape is, much better, it seems, than rape victims. They are lining up to inform us that women - the discussion has centred around women and their lies even though 9% of rape victims are men* - do not need “to be asked prior to each insertion”. Thanks for that, George, not that it’s just you. There’s an army of commentators who also believe that “that’s not real rape” is both a valid, useful defence of a specific political asylum seeker and objective truth. Women lie, they say. Women lie about rape, about sexual assault, they do it because they’re stupid or wicked or attention-seeking or deluded. The fact that the rate of fraud in rape cases remains as low as the rate of fraud in any other criminal allegation - between two and four per cent - does not impact. Women lie, and they do it to ruin men in positions of power. We shall henceforth call this ‘The Reddit Defence.’


As a culture, we still refuse collectively to accept that most rapes are committed by ordinary men, men who have friends and families, men who may even have done great or admirable things with their lives. We refuse to accept that nice guys rape, and they do it often. Part of the reason we haven’t accepted it is that it’s a fucking painful thing to contemplate - far easier to keep on believing that only evil men rape, only violent, psychotic men lurking in alleyways with pantomime-villain moustaches and knives, than to consider that rape might be something that ordinary men do. Men who might be our friends or colleagues or people we look up to. We don’t want that to be the case. Hell, I don’t want that to be the case. So, we all pretend it isn’t.


I've seen a very powerful commercial on TV lately.

A bunch of women are at a baby shower with "It's a Girl!" signs around.  The new mom opens a gift and finds a whistle on a lanyard.  She looks at it with a bewildered smile, and then one of her guests says, "It's a rape whistle."  And then, as the room falls uncomfortably silent, the print on the screen gives the stats about the number of girls and women who will be sexually assaulted.

So, first of all, it is definitely attention-grabbing.  I like that about it.

However...in the vast majority of situations of sexual assault, a rape whistle wouldn't be any help at all, because most sexual assault happens to women by men they know, in their own homes or familiar surroundings.  Not after being attacked outside on a dark street by a monster hiding in the bushes.

So my criticism of the ad is that the rape whistle reinforces the idea that rape is something that happens to women by attackers they don't know in the public realm (where a rape whistle would be effective).  It would be great to get beyond that inaccurate impression of sexual assault.

Steve N

Catchfire wrote:

Also this comment to the OP link is an amazing anecdote, complete with revelationary plot twist, about how women see rape culture and (heterosexual) men don't:

The Question

ETA. Thanks Caissa. Fixed.

This was an amazing story, thanks for presenting it. I read through the comments after the story on that page and I just wanted to note something.

Unlike Dr. Glass, I suspected Awkward would be waiting when they got back; that's why I didn't get "The Question", I was already there. I think the bigger question is, "Why didn't Dr. Glass step up to the plate long before that?" It was completely obvious to me how Luminous was being harassed long before the dark hallway.

But I might not have stepped up to the plate, and I asked myself why. It's because a part of me also feels that Luminious has the right to speak for herself first. If a guy just takes Awkward aside and tells him off, he's being patronizing.

I have a 15 year old daughter who is luminous, and one day I was to meet her at the mall. As I came in the door, I saw her waiting and a creepy guy trying to talk to her. My first impulse was to toss him down the escalator, but I held back. My daughter smiled, held her own, and sent him off all by herself. So this is the thing, I had to let her do it. If I didn't, I wasn't letting her be assertive and I wasn't letting her find her own power. What I had to support the decision, was that I knew how assertive she was; I knew to give her a chance. Now if he hadn't gone off, I would have tossed him down the escalator, but I feel I did the right thing in letting her be in control of her own space. I'm glad the control of her own space is a habit she's become comfortable with.

So the thing is, for me, my tendancy is to wait for the woman to ask for help, because I don't want assume she can't deal with it herself. In the story of Luminous, it was pretty obvious that she was in trouble from the get go, but life isn't always that obvious. Socially it's a fine line to walk, between standing up for someone who needs you, and sticking your nose in when they don't. In the story, Dr. Glass could have stepped up earlier, but the leader of the workshop was in a position to see, and she certainly did see, and had a responsibility to step up long before that.