The role of pop culture in perpetuating “rape culture”

By Katryna Perera 16, Hawk Staff

We all know that rape or any type of sexual violence is a serious crime. However, we as a society have begun to perceive sexual aggression and violence as something inevitable—something that will always be present and unstoppable. With this mindset, our once innocent culture has now been transformed into a rape culture.

A society that has a rape culture is one that not only believes in and accepts sexual violence as a daily part of life, but also supports and encourages sexual aggression. The gravity of these cruel acts is undervalued, and people of such societies regard sexual violence as something as inevitable as death.

The notion of a rape culture materialized with the feminist movement in 1960s and 70s. Members of the movement wanted to bring attention to crimes of rape and sexual violence—crimes that before this time were ignored and thought of as disgraceful. The feminist movement strove to bring light to these offenses and provide victims with a chance to speak out without being shunned.

However, it seems their plan backfired a bit, for so much attention was brought to the subject that eventually it became a regular topic of discussion and developed into the accepted issue it is today.

So the question is: What continues to fuel this rape culture today? To answer this question, I point the finger at one of the most influential factors in our life today: pop culture.

We are constantly surrounded by pop culture. Music, movies, television, books—it’s what keeps us going, what entertains us. But the sad thing is that it’s also making us ignorant and blatantly unaware of the rape culture surrounding us. Numerous examples confirm this point, but a few are paramount.

“Modern Family” actress Sofia Vergara interviewed in 2009 on the daily talk show, “The View,” when the discussion turned to her 20-year-old son. The hostesses of “The View” could not believe how Vergara had a son so old while she herself was still so young.  One of the hostesses went on to ask Vergara, “So what, did you have [your son] at 12?” To which Vergara jokingly replied, “Thirteen. I was raped.”

The 2013 summer musical hit “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke also contributes to our rape culture through lyrics such as: “Now he was close, tried to domesticate you” and “I know you want it.” The suggestive nature of sexual submissiveness and domination is undoubtedly apparent.

For the final example we turn to New York Times bestseller “Fifty Shades of Grey.” This book completely screams rape culture. Main character Anastasia Steele relinquishes her free will in order to be the sexual play toy and submissive doll of sex-addicted billionaire Christian Grey—who not only just has sex with Steele but also completely controls her with bondage, threats, and punishments.

What is most frightening about this piece of pop culture in particular is that numerous women who read the book wish that they could be Anastasia Steele! The fact that these women believe it is appropriate for one to be sexually dominated by another person is a perfect portrayal of how society has come to accept sexual aggressiveness—people think these acts are OK.

These examples are just a few of the many references to rape and sexual violence made in popular media today. Our pop culture is saturated with ideas stemming from rape culture, and through constant exposure, we have come to believe that those acts are something that just happen and will continue to happen forever.

We do not have that right. We have come to the conclusion that we can joke about these things, because after all, it’s something that seems to happen every day. But what we don’t realize is that every time we make a comment or joke about rape or abuse or any other form of sexual violence, someone is getting hurt, and their dignity is being tarnished.

Our culture has become so numb to sex crimes that both victims and survivors are afraid to speak out.  But it makes sense—how can they speak out in a society that accepts rape as easily as old age?

Victims and survivors of sexual violence have every right to feel uncomfortable toward the society in which they live, and we have a responsibility to change the way we view and respond to these brutal and sadistic acts.

We can start with the producers of our pop culture—the musicians, writers, actors, and directors. They need to be more aware of what they are writing, singing, and portraying, and more importantly they need to become more aware of their audience.

It does not help that the majority of pop culture is received by the younger generation of today. They are more easily influenced.  A middle school student who hears a song with references to sexual violence in it won’t understand the immorality of it. Instead, he or she will believe it is something cool since “insert popular musician’s name here” is singing about it.

Reevaluating media is step number one. Step number two begins with us, as individuals. We can take action if we realize the seriousness of sexual violence, adopt measures against it, bring more awareness to it, and discontinue our comments and jokes about the phenomenon.

Rape, sexual violence, and aggression are wrong, and if we want to bring to an end to the rape culture in which we live, then we must dispel the prevailing atmosphere of enablement.


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