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Fighting Rape Culture: A Proposal for Action

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) December 5, 2014: Rape is a dark subject. It is usually not discussed widely. But the term "date rape" has entered our vocabulary. We read various reports about widespread rape on college and universities campuses, and in the military. We even read about an alleged rape culture on campuses.

How many American men have raped women? Of American men who have raped women, how many of the rapists are one-time rapists and how many are repeat rapists -- or serial? Of American men who have raped women, how many have been involved in gang rapes of women -- once or repeatedly?

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How many American women have been raped once by a male rapist? More than once by the same male rapist? At different times but by a different male rapist each time? Gang raped once by male rapists? Gang raped more than once by the same male rapists? Gang raped more than once but by different male rapists each time?

In the present essay I focus on heterosexual rape involving young women who are 18 and older. But I am aware of heterosexual rape of girls, and I am also aware of same-sex rape involving victims of different ages.

These questions and others need to be raised in connection with Sabrina Rubin Erdely's the graphic article "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA" that was published in ROLLING STONE magazine dated November 19, 2014. (UVA -- University of Virginia.)

Erdely vividly recounts the alleged brutal gang rape of a first-year woman at the University of Virginia at a frat party in 2012, and the aftermath in that woman's life. Because Erdely's vivid article was published in a widely read venue, administrators at the University of Virginia and lawmakers in the state of Virginia and many other people have expressed outrage about the alleged gang rape.

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Unfortunately, the alleged gang rape is only one incident involving rape culture on college and university campuses in the United States. Teenagers are well-known for being influenced by peer pressure. Teenage gangs tend accentuate peer pressure in ways that are anti-social, not pro-social. College fraternities may also accentuate peer pressure in ways that are anti-social -- for example, by encouraging rape culture.

Evidently, the term "rape culture" refers to a culture in which men feel entitled to rape women -- as though men have a right to rape women. Conversely, the term evidently suggests that women do NOT have the right to say "No" to having sex on demand with a man who demands it -- or with a gang of men who demand to have sex with her.

In the dystopian novel BRAVE NEW WORLD (1935), Aldous Huxley portrayed a heterosexual culture in which no woman said "No" to having sex with any man who wanted to have sex with her. Women and men also participated regularly in group sex orgies.

To be sure, Huxley satirized numerous other aspects of our Western scientific and technological culture.

But Huxley was satirizing the trend of sex on demand for men who demand it from women who are culturally conditioned never to say "No" to sex in order to be thought-provoking. He was not imagining this fictional world in order to invite men and women to fantasize about such a world of sexual indulgence.

Of course Huxley portrays consensual sex. But rape culture on American college and university campuses is not about consensual sex. It is about men who cannot take "No" for an answer from a woman. Moreover, rape culture on American campuses is about culturally conditioning women not to say "No" to men who demand to have sex with them. In short, women do not have the right to say "No."

Moreover, rape culture on American campuses is about culturally conditioning women to understand that they will seldom succeed if they bring rape charges against a male rapists, or male rapists in the case of gang rape. Furthermore, rape culture on American campuses is about culturally conditioning women to fear that they may suffer recriminations or reprisals if they say anything about the rape.

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Now, in recent years, some feminists have tried to get us in American culture today to stop shaming women for their sexual activity. They have popularized the expression "slut shaming." They want us in American culture today to stop slut shaming and recalibrate our attitudes about women and sexuality. They want us to be less puritanical in our expectations and attitudes and views about women and sexuality. They want us to be more pro-sexual in our expectation and attitudes and views about women and sexuality.

But, by definition, rape involves non-consensual sex. A woman who has been raped by a man usually experiences shame about what has happened to her. Moreover, many women who have been raped by men fear telling even their women friends about it because the friends may feel repulsed by hearing about what has happened.

Thus our puritanical cultural heritage has encouraged a multi-directional slut shaming that can lead women who have been raped and their women friends to feel shame about what has happened in the rape.

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www.d.umn.edu/~tfarrell
Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

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