Rape culture is an environment or a culture in which rape and sexual violence is normalized due to the societal attitudes and actions about gender and sexuality. Such a culture extends from rape jokes, casual sexism, acceptance of toxic masculinity, victim blaming, and violent acts against womxn.
It places the onus of womxn’s safety on their behaviour, in terms of judging victims of sexual assault by their clothing and actions. Tolerance of behaviours of victimisation and victim blaming facilitates the environment for rape culture. Every day instances of casual sexism like moral policing womxn, sexist school dress codes for young girls or use of slurs, further the same.
Acts like stalking, molestation, sending unsolicited photographs of genitalia contribute to the degradation of womxn. Rape culture includes a removal of the autonomy that womxn have over their own bodies, by normalising acts of groping, sexual harassment and sexual coercion. Tolerance of aforementioned behaviours creates a culture where acts of explicit violence, like rape, honour killing, acid attack, and domestic violence, are excused. Viewing gender based violence as an instrument of oppression or a means of ‘teaching a lesson’ is a part as well as product of rape culture.
Rape culture in a society is fuelled by the media in terms of misogynist songs, objectification in popular culture, problematic lyrics, glamorisation of assault, slut shaming etc. General language surrounding rape or violence, in terms of how these terms are used and describer are also problematic. The premise of rape jokes lies in correlation of rape to defeat or even inconvenience, for instance individuals joking a team ‘raped’ another sports team to describe defeat, or saying the heat or amount of work ‘raped’ an individual. Not only does the use of rape for comic relief trivialise the trauma of victims but also normalises the idea of rape. Even the manner in which gender based violence is reported or narratives around it are debated, with the undertones of ideas of placing honour in a womxn’s vagina and victim blaming, fuels rape culture. The toxic notions around masculinity and entitlement add to the same.
The nature of such a culture in India has to be viewed through the lens of Intersectionality. Given that the Indian patriarchy is Brahmanical in nature and interacts with the systemic biases of society, similarly the rape culture in India also exists within the same setting. As communities which have been historically marginalised or discriminated against due to religion, caste, orientation, gender identity, disability, face acts of sexual violence as tools of oppression. Rape culture for said communities is placed within power dynamics and social hierarchies. Hence individuals are subjected to sexual violence as an act of oppression for their gender and as an instrument of persecution of their caste, tribal, or religious identities.
Featured Image Source: Marva M/Feminism In India