The Theories Behind Rape Culture By: Valarmorghulis

In her book, Transforming a Rape Culture, Emilie Buchwald describes Rape Culture as “a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women,” as a “continuum of threated violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself” (Buchwald). Buchwald’s definition raises an important point; rape culture is everywhere. It is in the statements we make, the stories we read, the news we hear, and the actions that occur as a result of this cultural phenomenon. Why is this the case? And why, often times, is the victim of these words and actions, blamed for what occurs? Rape culture exists and is prominent due to a lack of education on the topic of rape and a willingness to overlook the serious consequences these actions have. Gendered Worlds examines three theories to explain why rape and rape culture exists: Evolutionary Theory, Individual Psychology and Inequality (Aulette and Wittner). Evolutionary Theory states that rape happens due to men’s need to procreate and that their drives must be met at all costs (Aulette and Wittner). This theory states that “it’s only natural” for rape to happen and suggests that “women should neither flirt nor wear provocative clothing” (Thornhill and Palmer in Aulette and Wittner). This theory is problematic when examining why rape happens and adds to the rape culture through the idea of victim blaming. Victim Blaming is when the victim/survivor is blamed for the abuse or negative actions they have been subjected to (Bancroft). Victim blaming often makes it harder for the person to come forward when they are experiencing abuse in any form because they are worried that they will be accused of causing the abuse (Bancroft). An example of these negative behaviors was prevalent in the Steubenville Rape Case. During and after the trial, the media and citizens often took the side of the young football players rather than the girl who was victimized (Strasser and Culp-Ressler). There were headlines such as CNN discussing how the boys were “promising students,” ABC News making excuses for the rapists, NBC News discussing the boys “promising football careers,” and perhaps the most disturbing, The Associated Press and USA today stressing that the victim was drunk (Strasser and Culp-Ressler). These headlines and stories bring to light the horrible reality of media and society glorifying the actions of the rapists and accusing the victim because she was “drunk.” Society chose to focus on the fact that the girl was intoxicated, rather than the fact that the boys raped her. This can also be related to Ashley Judd’s twitter activism. Judd states, “The themes are predictable: I brought it on myself. I deserved it. I’m whiny. I’m no fun. I can’t take a joke. There are more serious issues in the world. The Internet space isn’t real, and doesn’t deserve validity and attention as a place where people are abused and suffer. Grow thicker skin, sweetheart. I’m famous. It’s part of my job description. The themes embedded in this particular incident reflect the universal ways we talk about girls and women. When they are violated, we ask, why was she wearing that? What was she doing in that neighbourhood? What time was it? Had she been drinking?” (Alter). Evolutionary theory creates the problematic idea of victim blaming which contributes to the rape culture phenomenon. This paradigm is prominent because people refuse to accept the damaging affects of this culture, and educate themselves, choosing to teach how to prevent rape, rather than teaching people not to rape. Individual Psychology looks at rape from the perspective of the disturbed and convicted rapists, it also suggests that men who rape were sexually abused as children (Aulette and Wittner). However there are several limitations to this approach. Firstly, they do not look at the social context of rape and just see then as deviant people, second, it only examines men’s sexual violence, even though girls and boys are sexually abused, and finally, the theory only looks at convicted rapists, which is mainly poor men or men of colour, and not wealthy white men, who may offend but are practically “immune” to criminal charges (Aulette and Wittner). This theory is problematic because it does not apply to all people and states that you must be mentally ill or disturbed to rape. It ignores the consequences of labeling all rapists as deviant, rather than recognizing and educating people on the multiple other situations that it could occur in. The third theory, Power Inequality, argues that power differences between men and women produce gender domination and subordination, leading to men’s entitlement and rape through naturalizing them (Aulette and Wittner). Naturalizing means that systems of inequality are constructed by society to the point of people seeing them as the natural way of order (Aulette and Wittner). The idea being that it has become natural through history for society to see men as the dominant and women as the submissive. This theory also looks at the intersectionality—crossing of inequalities that complicate gender differences—of rape (Aulette and Wittner). This means that this theory examines the chances or prevalence of rape in different classes, races, and genders. This theory shows a larger knowledge of the varying causes and effects of rape and rape culture. In conclusion, rape culture is a prevalent issue in our society today. If education on the issue was brought to light, more people might feel comfortable coming forward to report sexual violence, whether it is comments, offensive media or rape itself. There needs to be a larger dialogue on a very serous topic.

Works Cited

Alter, Charlotte. ‘Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse And Rape’. N.p., 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

Bancroft, Lundy. ‘Avoiding Victim Blaming « Center For Relationship Abuse Awareness’ N.p., 2015. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

Buchwald, Emilie, Pamela R Fletcher, and Martha Roth. Transforming A Rape Culture. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 1993. Print.

Root Aulette, Judy, and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Strasser, Annie-Rose, and Tara Culp-Ressler. ‘How The Media Took Sides In The Steubenville Rape Case’. ThinkProgress. N.p., 2013. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.


3 thoughts on “The Theories Behind Rape Culture By: Valarmorghulis

  1. I enjoyed this blog post, I do believe that rape culture is not taken seriously, even by institutions such as schools and that itself is problematic. The people that are supposed to be protecting us do not even see rape as an issue sometimes and it is awful to think that our culture has changed and grown for the better in many ways, but there is still vicrim blaming and people saying that “she was asking for it”. I also think that there are cases when men are also raped and they have a much more difficult time coming forward with this because of the emphasis on male dominance and that itself is an issue as well.


  2. You make such a good point that with what little education there is about rape, that its about preventing and not about not raping period. I think by teaching to prevent only enhances victim blaming because on top of the possible allegation that they where “asking for it”, people may also say that they didn’t take the right precautions to have prevented it. Basically, you didn’t ask for it, but you didn’t do a good enough job of making sure it didn’t happen to you. Another thing i think is a very significant issue when it comes to rape culture is when it is falsely accused. There was just a case just last month where a women falsely accused two soldiers of raping her because she was trying to cover up the fact that she cheated on her boyfriend in a “drunken cocaine fuelled threesome” (Duell). I am in no way defending people who rape, but when it is this sort of thing happens it really sets the depletion of rape in society back. When people falsely claim to have been raped, they are not only hurting those being falsely accused, but has a dreadful effect on changing rape culture and the publics confidence in believing the victim over the the alleged rapist (Duell).

    Works cited

    Duell, Mark. “Woman Jailed for Falsely Accusing Two Soldiers of Trying to Rape Her.” Daily Mail. 26 Mar. 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. .


  3. The media plays a huge part in deciding what side of a story we get to see. Predominantly we see images of “the poor guy who’s career is now ruined because of accusations” and “false rape cases”. Very seldom does the media cover anything on the absolutely shattering experience of being rapped and how this impacts the victim’s life forever. I think that the way that the stories are presented can move rapists into the victim role. Men cannot help their hyper-sexed selves and anything less than this makes them less masculine. There has been this idea that men are always wanting sex, but is that really true? If you really think about it, these ideas are tied up in dating life too. Predominantly, we tend to think that men want an one night stand, women want the relationship, any anything outside of this is seen as deviant. I think in addition to education our social understandings of men and women have to change. Men do not want sex all of the time and can control themselves and women do not always want a relationship.


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