Monday, April 13 2020
Since the SAAM theme this year is about consent, I thought it would be interesting to talk about what we can do to create a culture of consent in a world that is inundated by rape culture. First, let’s define consent culture and rape culture. A culture of consent normalizes the action of asking for consent and respecting whatever responses are given. Rape culture is when rape and other forms of sexual violence are common, pervasive, normalized, viewed as inevitable, and are trivialized by authority figures, the media, and by the majority of members of the society.
Now that we know what both of those terms mean, what do they look like in real life? Rape culture is something that influences almost every aspect of a woman’s life, unfortunately. Research shows that 1 in 5 women have experienced a completed or attempted rape in their lifetime. Think of you and four of your friends; statistically, one of you in your friend group either has been or will be raped. Now, think about one of the last, big rape trials that was on the news. How was that victim treated? Were they asked if they had been drinking? How about what they were wearing? And then think of the perpetrator; what kinds of things were brought up about them? Remember the Brock Turner trial? He was portrayed as a young man from a good family, an athlete, who didn’t deserve to have his future destroyed. The judge only gave him a six-month sentence after he sexually assaulted an unconscious woman. Remember that consent is not the absence of “no”, an unconscious person is never able to give consent.
Does rape culture influence other cultural aspects, like music or advertising? Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” and Justin Beiber’s “What Do You Mean” are great examples of how music is influenced by rape culture. With lyrics like, “What do you mean? When you nod your head yes, But you wanna say no, What do you mean?” I think that it’s pretty clear what she means. And to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, no... you don’t know she wants it unless she says yes. The lines aren’t blurred, if a “yes” isn’t present, there isn’t consent. All around us we see advertisements, from music albums to beer companies to perfume ads, that have scantily clad women, or women in compromising situations because sex sells in a rape culture society.
How can we change from a rape culture to a consent culture? One of the most important things that we can do is stop victim blaming. Stop asking if the person who was raped had been drinking, or if they had been where they shouldn’t have been. Instead of blame, believe and reassure them that it was not their fault. As a society, we have to change the mindset of teaching someone how to avoid being raped, to teaching people not to rape. Creating a culture of consent is key! Another way we can change the culture is to not financially support any company/artist/musician/media that portrays women as sex objects. Money talks, and if we stop buying these products that disparage women, we can force them to change tactics.
It’s up to us to help change the culture. Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Let’s do our part to make society a safe place for all of us.