What Rape Culture Means To Me

By Nivedita Shrestha

I don’t exactly remember when or how I came to hear of the term ‘rape culture’ for the first time. It was somewhere along the path of my ‘awakening’ as a feminist that I must have stumbled across it. But I do remember that I’d immediately dismissed it thinking of it as something made up. You see, Google defines rape culture as “An environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.” It was out of my understanding how anyone could ever normalize or trivialize something so grave. But boy was I wrong.

If we look closely enough, we can find rape culture in almost everything we see. It is something we’ve been taught since we were little girls. We were taught to sit with our knees closed. We were taught to speak softly to draw less attention. We were taught to dress modestly. Some of us were sent to learn karate, jujitsu and various other martial arts to keep ourselves safe. In every step of our lives, girls are provided with lessons on how to avoid getting raped instead of teaching boys how to not rape in the first place.

Nobody says men shouldn’t drink; it’s all about how women should dress differently, walk differently, drink differently. And this is rape culture in its purest form; victim-blaming a woman for being too drunk, then defending a man by saying his actions were influenced by alcohol, because boys will be boys, won’t they?

The most common and infuriating example of rape culture is that when you hear incidences of females getting sexually assaulted, there is always that one person who asks, “What was she wearing?”

It is as if he or she is deciding whether the assault should or should not have taken place based on how she looked. If you say that a woman wearing revealing clothes deserves to be sexually assaulted, you are saying that a woman’s body is inherently deserving of rape; that women have to make sure their body is hidden to not deserve to be raped.

We’ve been taught that a woman’s body is what causes men to sin. We’ve been told if a woman shows too much of her skin, men will do stupid things. Let’s make things clear: nothing makes you do stupid things. If you do stupid things it is because you choose to do stupid things. Moreover, promoting behavioral changes in women to prevent rape is like saying ‘make sure the other girl gets raped’. You see, there will always be someone less sober, with fewer clothes, walking in a darker lane, and I want her safe just as much as I want myself safe.

But women can never be careful enough, can we? If we’re not wearing anti-rape nail polish, we’re asking for it. If we get drunk, we’re asking for it. If our skirts are too short, we’re asking for it. If we pass out at a party, we’re asking for it. If we’re not hyper-vigilant every single second of every single day, we are asking for it. Even if we are hyper-vigilant, we’re still asking for it. The fact that we exist is asking for it.

Now I know men get raped too. But how many times have you seen people asking “What was he wearing” or saying “He was asking for it” when you hear such incidences. In case of men, rape culture is entirely different. Sexual assaults on men are greatly demeaned by claiming how he should have enjoyed it instead of complaining about it, and this is more likely to be said by another man.

To sum up, rape is not a mistake; it is not a trap you get lured to. It is a choice and it is a crime. If it occurred because of how drunk she was, sober women wouldn’t get raped, but they do. If it was because of her revealing clothes, girls who dress modestly wouldn’t get raped, but they do. If it were about her sexual appeal, little girls and elderly women wouldn’t get raped, but they do. There is not a reason which could ever defend such a horrid crime. The only reason why people get raped is because someone rapes them. Rape isn’t about uncontrollable sexual urges. It’s not about calling the other person sexy; it’s saying ‘I defeated you, I dominated you, humiliated you.’ That is what rape is about. That is why it should scare us and that is why it should disgust us.