Sometimes, fighting society’s systemic injustices can feel too far outside of your own control.
Rape culture is an example of this. It may not cross the minds of every person every day, but there is no reason why it shouldn’t. It is not that we should dwell constantly on that fear and hatred, but staying aware of your own actions, and how they may contribute to this toxic culture, can help to end it.
Photo: Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash
Enthusiastic Consent helps define rape culture by displaying it as a pyramid of behavior, ranging from normalization to degradation to assault. In order to be aware of how our own actions reinforce this culture, we must understand where certain behaviors stand on the pyramid.
“Normalization” defines any behavior that is often referred to as “harmless”, but in reality, allows and excuses behavior that is higher up on the pyramid. This includes rape jokes, locker room talk, and sexist attitudes.
“Degradation” defines behavior that aims to humiliate or shame victims, but is not as extreme in action as assault. This includes cat-calling, revenge porn, and stalking.
“Assault” defines behavior that directly violates a victim’s right to consent, and harms them beyond the point of degradation. This includes rape, drugging, and violence.
A clear understanding of this pyramid can help us be aware of our own actions, but how can we change our day-to-day actions to end a culture so systematically instilled?
1. Speak up.
When you witness behavior that you know is harmful, make it your responsibility to call that person out on it. Even if it is a friend (especially if it is a friend), correcting their words or actions can help prevent future incidents stemming from what may seem “harmless” at the time.
2. Don’t laugh at jokes that normalize rape culture.
Men can play their part by refusing to partake in “locker room” type banter. These jokes are perpetuated for a reason: other men laugh at them. These jokes validate abusers by giving them the idea that it is acceptable to degrade women for the sake of their own (or others’) entertainment.
3. Don’t slut-shame women.
Both men and women alike are guilty of slut-shaming. Women calling each other degrading names gives off the appearance that it is okay for men to do the same. It also allows for the continuation of acts such as victim-blaming and cat-calling. Judging each other for decisions made by consenting adults needs to be left in the past.
4. Understand consent.
There is often confusion on how to determine whether consent is apparent in sexual situations, but it is actually must simpler than many seem to think. If there is not a clear, enthusiastic “yes” from your partner, there is no consent. “Maybe”, “I don’t know,” and silence are all not examples of consent. Still, it is not enough to simply correct our own understand of consent; we must also be teachers. Parents, especially of young boys, have a responsibility to teach their children about the necessity of consent in future sexual situations. Not only does this let us make a change now, but make a change for generations to come.
5. Place blame on rapists, not victims
This goes back to slut-shaming, but is also so much more than that. Assault is never, never, never a victim's fault. It does not matter how much someone was drinking, what they were wearing, or where they were. Rape is the fault of the rapist. Still, many victims of assault are found to be at fault by others in their life when an incident occurs. By placing blame onto the perpetrator, we are correcting the way society sees these crimes.
6. Support organizations
From providing safe spaces for victims to preventing sex trafficking, many organizations are working relentlessly to fight against the perpetuation of rape culture. You can do your part by supporting them! By making donations, or simply sharing their messages on social media, your small actions play a much larger role. A few examples of amazing organizations include NSVRC, RAINN, and SAFER. You can also look into local domestic abuse shelters or anti-violence projects.
Caroline is an undergraduate student at Worcester State University. When she is not writing, she also runs a photography business specializing in portrait, wedding, and boudoir photography. She aims to use both writing and photography to empower women and encourage them to find their inner voice and confidence.