10 Signs Rape Culture is a Myth

To begin, this is not a listicle (an article in the form of a list). It is, however, a response to a response-listicle about a listicle (someone made a listicle in response to a listicle, and I am responding to the response-listicle).

This is an examination of claims made by Meagan Boisse on December 3rd, for Concordia University’s The Link newspaper. In response to a MTLBlog article, Boisse’s lead is as follows:

The issue is not whether the article is a piece of irreverent fluff—the issue is that it’s a dangerous endorsement of rape culture.

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So right off the bat, Boisse is ditching the one shared-thought we had; that an article titled “10 Signs She’s DTF That Very Same Night” is irreverent fluff. Instead, she is going to argue that this irreverent fluff is an endorsement of what some feminists refer to as “rape culture.”

Boisse takes for granted that every reader knows what rape culture is, presumably because of how much attention has been brought to this term in recent years. However, a definition only strengthens our understanding of the issue.

Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence. –Women Against Violence Against Women

Rape culture sounds horrible. Blaming the victim of a sexual assault? Normalizing sexual violence? Clearly, if rape culture exists, it is something we must expose and combat.

Boisse has identified MTLBlog’s article as promoting rape culture, which would mean that it blames victims of sexual assault, and/or that it normalizes sexual violence. A quick skim reveals that the article has nothing to do with victim blaming. Instead, the author, Irina Terehova, lists situations which may suggest that a woman is interested in having sexual intercourse, without explicitly saying so.

A break-down of Terehova’s points, followed by Boisse’s responses, would only result in some very awkward sentences and analyses of what is ultimately humor that went directly over Boisse’s head. However, to give you an idea, Terehova’s first “point” is:

1. She “casually” touches you.

She’s laughing and tapping you on the shoulder, or your leg, like “Oh, you’re so funny, stop!” She’s flirting with you, and means she’s definitely attracted to you. Any sort of “casual” or “accidental” physical contact on a date is always a good sign she wouldn’t mind touching more, if you get what I’m saying.

This reads like something I would stumble upon after googling “how to get a girlfriend” when I was 8 years old. It’s written for single men who need a few pointers on first-dates. The information contained is quite basic: if a date is comfortable with physical touching, that is a sign that she likes you. Nothing here comes close to a promotion of victim blaming, or a normalization of sexual assault.

How did Boisse react to point #1?

1. She casually touches you
She accidentally brushed her arm against yours. Now I know what you’re thinking, this must be her body’s way of letting you know she wants sex, right?! Wrong.

Just because a woman touches your hand does not mean she wants to touch other parts of your body.

Sarcasm. Noun. “The use of irony to mock or convey contempt.” Boisse is mocking what she assumes is how some men think. For the sake of clarity, I believe it’s safe to assume that Boisse does not think that all men think or behave in this way. She singles out a specific kind of man she fears will be affected by Terehova’s article:

Even more damaging is the fact that it was written by a woman. This scares me because some mouth-breathing knuckle dragger might take that as meaning it holds innate validity.

So Boisse is addressing lower-intelligence men, by singling them out with sarcasm and insults, and warning them that articles like Terehova’s are normalizing rape and putting blame on the victims. Even if one of these “knuckle draggers” recognizes that he is being addressed, I doubt sarcastic insults are the best way to get him on your side.

But… what about the fact that nothing in Terehova’s article even remotely promotes or even represents rape culture. The article is linked above, and I welcome anyone to quote a piece of it in the comments and to explain how it could:

  • Encourage people to blame the victims of rape.
  • Normalize sexual violence.

Not a single line in the listicle does any such thing. In fact, Terehova’s article highlights something worthy of an actual discussion: failures of communication between men and women. Perhaps Boisse is a rare exception to the rule of man-woman dating communication falling short:

You’ll know if she wants sex because she will say so.

Explicitly. Enthusiastically. Coherently. Repeatedly.

Neither of us can speak for all men, or all women, but from personal experience and even from what I commonly hear girls and guys gossiping about, communication at the genesis of dating is extremely unclear. In fact, a woman “explicitly, enthusiastically, coherently, repeatedly” asking for sex is not only extremely rare, but generally gets labeled as “slutty” or “promiscuous” behavior.

And it is at this point, two response-articles later, that we have hit a hammer on some kind of nail. Communication between men and women in dating is not only unclear, but controlled by exterior prejudices (she is a slut for being so open, he is desperate for texting her too soon, etc.). We must work on understanding these abhorrent factors, and combating them.

If there was no stigma about women being open about their feelings or desires, then the idea of victim blaming would quite literally become impossible to argue for or against, because the argument that a lack of communication caused an issue would be moot. Cases of rape would be more clearly defined, more preventable and understood by society, and inter-gender relations would necessarily benefit from the additional honesty and openness.

Terehova’s listicle brought up a surprisingly interesting point about male-female communication in the dating world. Hopefully Boisse can realize this, and lower her “rape culture” flag. Until you find someone who is actually promoting the normalization of sexual assault, or victim blaming, you should keep that term on hold.

One final point to note is a statistic that Boisse casually dropped, without a source, at the end of her article.

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I will now appeal to my own source and favorite feminist, Christina Sommers:

The 1-in-5 claim is based on a 2007 internet survey with vaguely worded questions, a low response rate, and a non-representative sample. Other studies with similar findings have used the same faulty methods. But the real number, according to the BJS, is 1 in 53; too many, but a long way from one in five. Does that mean that sexual assault is not a problem on campus? Of course not. Too many college women are victimized, and too often they suffer in silence. But it is not an epidemic and it is not a culture. Exaggeration and hysteria shed no light and produce no solutions, and actually diminish the real problem. -The Factual Feminist (Christina Sommers)

It’s always important to attach sources to extreme claims, so people have easy-access to the information you are claiming to be true! Here is an article examining the 1-in-5 claim, chucked full of sources which shine light on the issue.

As Dr. Sommers said, no matter what the number is, it’s too high, but listicles freaking out about “rape culture,” which attempt to demean some men, are not helping the cause. There’s no point fighting a battle against a non-existent concept.

 

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