Rape culture is not merely a culture in which rapes happen or where rapes happen often. It’s where rape—its severity, its seriousness and the suffering that the victims of it go through—is trivialized.
To rape culture, rape is not serious; it’s something that happens to “special interest groups,” and living in fear of it as half the human population does is “ridiculous.” Rape is a mistake that happens; a product of miscommunication, not a lifetime spent blissfully unaware of any signals of discomfort or reluctance someone might throw out, because you don’t suffer from not recognizing those signals. It’s smaller and less significant than other crimes—well, at least he didn’t kill you, right?—and the victim is personally to blame for rape: if she hadn’t been in the wrong place, out so late, wearing that, drinking too much, if she hadn’t led him on, if she hadn’t talked to him, if she hadn’t gone out that night, if she’d just said “no” louder, it wouldn’t have happened, or it wouldn’t have been so bad.
So, when you trivialize a) survivors’ experiences of rape and b) the fact that rape occurs because of rapists raping, you are abetting rape culture.
And yes, you are causing more rape.
Guess what! You can cause something indirectly, which is a fancy way of saying, by not doing it yourself or forcing other people to do it! Ain’t that somethin’?
When a bunch of people jump on you for doing something, you’re not likely to do it again for a while—unless you’re a privileged asswipe, in which case you’re probably going to do it again just to show that you can’t be bossed around by silly things like compassion and appropriateness, neener-neener! But if you’re not, it’s going to get through your head pretty damn fast that it isn’t okay to act that way.
On the other hand, if a bunch of people laugh along with you and start telling jokes about how stupid it is that people would get upset at that kind of thing, a little something is going to happen called reinforcement, which is another fancy way of saying something: that you have been encouraged to do the same thing over and over again.
Fact is, most rapists are not abnormal psychopaths. They are actually normal, well-adjusted men who get along fairly well… and they act in sexually-predatory ways because, their entire lives, people and media have told them that it is okay to do this, that it’s sexy to do this, and that their victims like it even if they say they don’t. They’ve been told their entire lives that the experiences of rape victims aren’t that bad, and if they’re actually traumatized then it’s just laughable—a silly, irrational overreaction. They’ve been told their entire lives that rape really rape if the victim was dressed a certain way, or drinking, or acting a certain way, or if she went out of her way to talk to her attacker.
See, it’s not just one rape joke or one porn video that did this—it’s an entire world of them. He didn’t hear, “raping dickwolves” and think, Rape! What a great idea! I’ll go out and start doing it right now! and he didn’t watch one porn clip of men violently using a woman’s body like she was a fucking tissue and telling her they like to see women crying while they’re being fucked and think, Yeah—that’s hot. I’m going to go find a random target and do that shit to her whether she likes it or not.
Visualize an air molecule. Oxygen and nitrogen, if you’re good at it.
Can you breathe from that single air molecule? Take it and visualize an entire planet from it—billions upon billions of cubic meters. That’s rape culture: all the rape jokes, all the victim-blaming media appearances, all the douchebag defensiveness, all the porn videos in the world. That is rape culture: the idea of it, the power, the BDSM sexiness, the affirmation of masculinity, the billions of orgasms from all of those things—it’s all emphasized. What is downplayed, minimized, shoved under the rug, silenced, is the victims: their experiences, their trauma, their horror, their pain.
None of that shit exists in rape jokes for real: it’s not funny when you think about the real fucking experience of the people who have gone through that. None of it exists in porn for real: it’s not sexy if you look at someone and see a person, feeling those things. What happens as a product of empathy is seeing what was once a commodity as a person—you can’t laugh or come or eat dinner anymore. So you try your hardest not to feel that and to keep them in the box of “product” so you can keep on doing those things.
That’s rape culture.
This is rape culture: continuing to masturbate to the same things, to laugh at the same things and resolutely avoid looking at women as people who deserve at least the basic dignity of not being sold for quick kicks, because doing that would mean you wouldn’t be able to come anymore: you’d know. And once you know, you can’t un-know.
The rapists are just the ones learning from your behavior—your vitriolic insistence that women lie about rape, that the women in porn like it and anyway it’s free speech, like rape jokes. The rapists are taking advantage of that willful ignorance. ‘Cause it’s real easy to rape a whole lot of people when everyone else in the world is steadfastly looking away with their fingers in their ears. Or watching it happen, coming and laughing like it’s some big fucking joke, because they can’t see a person there either.
The oceans could be filled with blood and tears. But that’s fine—it’s not from people anyway.