As a feminist pro-life organization, we believe that abortion is in many (if not most) cases a symptom of societal failures to accommodate women. Abortion is interconnected with other problems women face, including sexual assault.
So far, I think many pro-life and pro-choice people would agree. But pro-life and pro-choice circles often have different vocabularies for discussing these issues, making it harder to find common ground. So last week, we asked our facebook fans:
What do you think people mean when they use the phrase “rape culture”?
Here are a few of your answers (hyperlinks added by the editor):
Marie R. – Probably varies in different cultures, but it includes basically the principle that sexual intercourse and its consequences are only the responsibility of the woman, the idea that it is a woman’s fault if she gets raped because she “provoked” her rapist (not dressed appropriately, drunk, flirtatious etc…), or even, in more severe cases, that a woman’s consent or absence thereof is irrelevant to the man’s right to have sex with her. And, more subtle but unfortunately frequent, the idea that a child conceived through rape must be eliminated, leading to the assumption that if the victim keeps her child, it wasn’t “really” rape (consenting to the child’s life being interpreted as consenting to the intercourse). Also the assumption that a woman who reports being raped must be lying, because a small minority of women who have done it are assumed to represent the others.
Anthony T. – When I hear the term rape culture I think of a society that is more prone to blame survivors of sexual assault rather than believe and support them. I also tend to associate the phrase with a lack of justice, such as rapist parental rights.
Heidi K. – A culture that makes it easy for non-consensual sex to occur, to be minimized as not that big a deal, and that focuses on “rape” as a violent act by a stranger who comes out of nowhere to attack rather than understanding it as non-consensual intercourse, which might look very (very!) different. And suggesting that these elements are entrenched in parts of American society, from college party culture to porn to Game of Thrones, is not at all absurd.
Mindy W. – Rape culture should be used in reference to institutionally approved/aided/abetted rape as a tool/punishment/reward—much like that seen within our prisons. But it is instead used by people to make due process and crime investigations look like we’re oppressing rape victims. If you don’t believe a rape happened just by the accusation—you support a rape culture because somehow you believe that people are innocent until proven guilty. If you believe that an individual’s protection is ultimately the responsibility of the individual, you support rape culture, because you don’t support overarching legal authority to change society as a whole. We don’t live in a rape culture because we have laws against it, societal consequences for even those merely accused—not convicted—of rape. The phrase is emotional blackmail against society to enact changes in law that would completely remove the right to due process on part of the alleged rapist.
Cari B. – I was raped when I was 16 by my 27-year-old boss. I didn’t report it. I didn’t tell anyone but my best friend. I just quit my job and chided myself for being so stupid as to let him take me home. I felt I should have known better. So I suppose, a rape culture would be one in which a sixteen year old girl gets raped and assumes it was her fault because she hadn’t done enough to protect herself.
Elizabeth R. – Men expect to get what they want when they want it and are surprised if a girl says ‘no.’ Or don’t even know what NO means any more. That’s rape culture.
Jamie E. – That women can be cat called, degraded, raped, beaten, yet somehow they brought it on themselves.