For/To what will you or must you re/act? – Rape in our Culture

I recently visited my brother in Medical School at UVA.  On Saturday night, we went out to a bar with his mature, med school friends.   I soon found out that his friends were not so mature, knowledgeable, or even civilized.  Or, at least one of them was not.  At the bar, his friend bought a round of beers and made cheers to “sexual rape.”  I kid you not.  As I did not want to be there anyway and was shying away in the corner, I said nothing.  I later referred to the man by the wrong name, but did not feel an ounce sorry as he disgusted me with his previous comment.  I believe it was supposed to be a joke and may have related to other gossip between his friends. Visiting for only two nights, I didn’t say anything to the friend.  I did not want to be the buzz kill that Professor Lundeen refers to in class (though with my home friends, I often find myself in that position). It had me thinking about whether or not I should have said something to his supposed light-hearted comment.  In reading bell hook’s article, “Seduced by Violence and More,” I was reminded of the perceptions of rape and violence in our culture.  He was desensitized to its importance and viewed it as something so extreme that it could be joked about, whereas I was deeply offended.  Should my “oppositional gaze” that bell hooks wrote about in a different article, been to stand up against this disgusting act?  Or unfortunately, does that perpetuate the heterosexual eroticism even more as it has to be made a big deal in order to stop, ostracizing me instead of him?

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2 Responses to For/To what will you or must you re/act? – Rape in our Culture

  1. I wish I could say that I find this anecdote particularly surprising, but really, it isn’t. Modern western culture is essentially one in which rape is treated with stunning nonchalance.

    This was particularly apparent in the recent news stories surrounding the famous VJ Day photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square. Everyone has seen this photograph. It’s been a symbol of patriotism and victory. Until recently, no one knew who the sailor and the nurse were, but no one doubted the kiss was consensual. Why would they? We’ve been culturally trained to read photographs such as this as romance—male dominance and perhaps over enthusiasm, but certainly not as sexual assault, which it was. The nurse, whose name we now know to be Greta, did not known the drunken sailor. He came up, grabbed her, held her, and kissed her, all without her consent. She did not want to be kissed. The vast majority of the news stories surrounding this new information do not seem outraged. They do not condemn George’s behavior, nor do they acknowledge Greta’s plight as sexual assault.

    We live in culture where it is acceptable to say, “Man, I got raped by that test.” We’re downright cavalier about rape, sexual violence, and issues of consent. It’s no wonder that victims of rape often don’t know whether they have been raped and do not report the incidents.

    Clearly, these examples indicate that we need to take rape more seriously on a cultural level. I think this does mean standing up to each and every statement belittling rape, even if that’s small-scale change. Changing culture is a more difficult task, but education is a start, as are awareness projects such as Project Unbreakable.

    Sources:
    http://cratesandribbons.com/2012/09/30/the-kissing-sailor-or-the-selective-blindness-of-rape-culture-vj-day-times-square/
    http://projectunbreakable.tumblr.com/

  2. ellianar says:

    Reading your story made me really think about what I would have done in this situation. I’d like to think that I would have called the guy out for his comment, but I’m not sure that I would have done so. I think it’s difficult to stand up for ourselves when we are put in an uncomfortable situation like the one that you were in, but I also think that as college-age women, we must. I was reading an article in Salon about a young woman who was raped by an acquaintance at Amherst. The school officials told her that pressing charges against her rapist would be useless and that she may just be confusing rape with a bad hook up. The article went on to state that one in four female undergraduates will be sexually assaulted in college. To me, this shows that there is a pervasive culture on college campuses across America that encourages men to treat rape and sexual harassment as something to be joked about. In turn, this allows school officials and peers to not take accusations of rape seriously. This epidemic is not something that will just go away if we ignore it; we (as in all college students) need to actively confront those people that think that sexual violence is something funny. I think it’s definitely difficult to do so, but I think that by forcing even one person to face the consequences of their speech, we can work to change this light treatment of rape.
    http://www.salon.com/2012/10/19/damning_light_shone_on_rape_at_amherst/

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