You've likely heard the term. Maybe you even understand what it means. Maybe you're not sure. To clear it up, I thought this entry at wikipedia did a pretty good job:
"rape culture is a concept that links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society, and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape. Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape. Rape culture has been used to model behavior within social groups, including prison rape and conflict areas where war rape is used as psychological warfare. Entire countries have also been alleged to be rape cultures."
I've written about this before and you can read it here, if you like. But today I want to focus on something specific and that is, how do we combat it? How do we as a culture fight back against it and change things? There is actually a way to do this and it's not as complicated as one might believe. It does however take a lifetime of commitment.
Before I go there though, I would like to point out several things that actually feed the rape culture in our society. The #1 culprit of course is pornography, and specifically online porn since it's so rapidly available. After that, we've got music (lyrics and videos), video games, tv shows, movies, and magazines. Even online "news" sites. Yes FOX news, you're just as guilty as the rest with your Features and Faces section on your site. Literally everywhere you look these days, women (or more specifically, women's parts) are being paraded around like the eye-candy everyone wants us to believe we (they?) are. Well, everyone that stands to gain something from it, anyway. Huh. Now that I think about it, someone who benefits financially from the solicitation of others for sexual gratification is called... a pimp. Yep, everyone who engages in this kind of exploitation for financial gain, is essentially a flesh peddler. Probably one of the lowest classes of human beings in the history of the world, right there with child rapists, cannibals and serial killers. The female form as presented in these streams of media are spoken of, photographed and spoken to as if we're simply objects placed on Earth for the pleasure of others. We're not human beings worthy of respect. We're not mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, wives... we're just cleavage, nipples, full, pouty lips and crotches. We're like a box of tools, inanimate objects to be used at one's leisure for whatever one desires.
So the other day when I noticed on FB that one of my favorite talk radio shows was going to do a segment on this specific topic, I left a comment on the thread and listened intently. I suggested there that young men and women waiting for marriage to share that physical closeness would be a good step in the right direction to lessen the impact of our rape culture but honestly it was a massive over-simplification and I know that. I just wanted to get people thinking. Maybe I achieved that, maybe not. People don't like to think too much these days. If it's more than 140 characters, people tune out, flip the channel and go drooling off in the direction of the shiny.
While this is definitely a multi-faceted problem with genuine, tangible answers and solutions from many angles, the area I'd like to focus on, is men. Men's ideas, attitudes, language and emotions. Before they are these men though, they are boys. They are our little boys and we have a serious, world-changing job to do in raising them.
I've heard it said and read it many times in various form, that combating the rape culture doesn't begin with teaching women how not to get raped, it begins with teaching men why it's wrong. Granted, most men know it's wrong, and even the ones exploiting women know it's wrong, they just don't care. Then there is the gray area that is fed by the impersonal, trivializing of sex and sexuality in our culture. The gray is fed a FEAST on a regular basis, so it's our job as parents to make sure that gray area is reduced or eliminated, it at all possible.
Because I am a Christian I come at this from a Biblical world-view, but these are principles that any parent worth their salt should be instilling in their little future-men from the moment they're born.
• TEACH OUR BOYS TO RESPECT HUMAN BEINGS "Respect women" doesn't have to be singled out here, because if they're taught from an early age that every human being deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, that's what they'll grow up with and hopefully what will be embedded in their heart towards both women, and other men. It doesn't matter what other people do, or how other boys talk about girls and women, what matters is how they approach the subject. What matters is them taking the high road and being respectful. They will become known for it, and they will in turn earn respect back.
• TEACH OUR BOYS TO RESPECT THEMSELVES - By this I mean teach them to discern the difference between reality and the lies the media sells and don't buy into the trash just because it's everywhere. When young men and young women come into adulthood fixated on the fake images they've been fed all their lives as a realistic picture of what men and women should look like or should act like, it's already an uphill battle. I read a quote once that had so much truth to it it stung. It said "it's much easier to raise a strong child than to repair a damaged adult". While raising children is never easy, some people end up spending countless years, money, time and emotions trying to undo the damage they came into adulthood with. It's heartbreaking.
• TEACH OUR BOYS TO KNOW THEY HAVE AN ADVOCATE - Which simply means making sure they know and understand they can come to you and talk about anything. And by anything I mean everything. Kids have questions, teenagers are curious, and they need a level-headed, responsible person in their lives they can go to for straight answers. Talk to your boys, not at them. Ask them questions, open up the dialog and keep it going by listening to what they say. They NEED that, and as their parent it will only serve to strengthen that bond between you and strengthen them as well. They're not going to tell you everything or ask you everything but they'll be in a much better place if that communication is open and they've come to rely on it.
• TEACH OUR BOYS THAT PHYSICAL INTIMACY IS A MAGICAL BOND - No I do not mean giving them more information than they need but I do mean you should be honest with them. Of course coming from a Christian worldview I believe the ideal and Biblical setting for intimacy is with your spouse, but even unmarried couples who are in a long-term monogamous relationship will testify that this bond they share only with their spouse is special, treasured and something they could never have and would never want, with "just anyone". In our day, sex is treated like popcorn. It's good, it's easy, cheap, and you can have it whenever, and pretty much wherever. If our boys grow up thinking like this, it makes sex cheap for them. It makes women cheap to them. It makes pictures of women's parts, crude jokes about women, sleazy videos of women and sexist attitudes towards women, normal. Acceptable, tolerated, ignored and excused because after all, it doesn't really matter, women aren't special, they aren't special and sex is just like popcorn. It only begins to matter once they do find that someone special and then realize how much damage and how much baggage they bring into that relationship. Encourage your boys to grow up to be men of honor, that save themselves to share their most private expression of love for that one special lady.
• FATHERS, TEACH YOUR SONS WHAT A MAN OF HONOR LOOKS LIKE - You've probably heard it a hundred times in your life, and it's still true every single time. The greatest gift a man can give to his daughter, is to treat his wife with the utmost respect - as this will be the dominant character trait she seeks in a possible future spouse. The exact same applies to your sons - as they will seek to emulate this trait as they grow up and look for that one special lady to cherish. It also applies to mothers, and how their sons and daughters view what a good woman lives like. Another tired old cliche' "children live what they learn" is also just as true, no matter how many times it's said. If you as a parent LIVE your life in the way you want you child to grow up, they will carry that example into adulthood and it will become part of who they are as a person. Of course this doesn't mean you have to be "on" all the time or that you're going to walking around wearing THIS WHAT THE WORLD'S BEST DAD LOOKS LIKE t-shirt every day (and please don't, because if you do you'll embarrass them, and they'll think you're a dork) because you're going to blow it, and blow it often. We all do, because we're human beings. It does however mean that if you're always conscious of the fact that you are your son's #1 example of what manhood and fatherhood is, you will want to be and strive to be the best man/husband/dad on the planet.
This is a subject that is so heavy on my heart that I cannot even adequately explain it. While this post was certainly not meant to be a comprehensive cure-all in how to wipe-out the rape culture once and for all (oh, if only!), it was meant to reinforce how vitally important it is for parents to be raising AWESOME men, who will be the face of the next generation. Honorable men, honest men, respectful men. Men who will change the world, and make us all proud. It may all sound idealist and/or unrealistic but I assure you it's neither. It's what good parenting is all about.
It all begins in the cradle, but it's never too late to start.