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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    New dialogue needed to end rape culture

    A college campus should be a safe space for everybody, but the reality can be — and has been — very different.

    In a 2012 report, the University of Arizona Police Department said it received reports of nine forcible sex crimes committed on campus between 2009 and 2011. Another five off-campus forcible sex crimes were reported to UAPD during that time period.

    RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, states that about 54 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, so the actual number of forcible sex crimes committed against university students is almost certainly higher.But rape culture is not beyond our control. It is hidden in plain sight, and we, especially men, have the means to end it.

    “Men in particular have little excuse not to use the privilege accorded to the them by a sexist society to push back against that sexism wherever they encounter it,” said Ginger Clausen, a graduate teaching assistant with the philosophy department.

    This requires a serious conversation about cultural attitudes toward sex and women, especially as they are revealed in college culture.

    According to FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, an activist group that seeks to end rape culture and promote consent, rape culture surrounds people with “images, language, laws, and other everyday phenomena” that perpetuate rape. From rape jokes to lazy and misguided word usage (e.g., “Dude, I was totally raped in that game last night,” rape is often treated lightly, with little regard for how such language affects others, especially victims of sexual violence.

    In addition, rape culture perpetuates the idea that women bring rape upon themselves, and that it is up to women to change their behavior so they can avoid being raped. For example, it’s rape culture at work when you hear, “She was asking for it!” Rape culture supposes both that it is a woman’s fault if she is raped and that men are incapable of exercising self-control and minimally decent behavior.

    This kind of thinking is entirely backwards, yet it’s pervasive in college environments. Consider, for example, our own campus: In April, Dean Saxton, then a junior studying classics and religious studies, began carrying a sign reading “YOU DESERVE RAPE.”

    But there is hope. After the sentencing of two high school football players for a rape that took place in Steubenville, Ohio, ThinkProgress reported on the steps that various institutions were taking to combat rape culture on campus. At the UA, in the aftermath of Saxton’s antics, the OASIS program held its annual Take Back the Night event, “an open forum for attendees to talk about their experiences dealing with sexual abuse.” Not only that, but students also gathered around Saxton to add their own voices to the conversation. Some students created their own signs to counter Saxton’s, such as Gregor Orbino, then a political science junior, whose sign read: “Nobody deserves rape!”

    The conversation is ramping up. It’s a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.

    “Rape culture is not just a women’s problem: we must all take a stand against harmful behavior,” Clausen said.

    In our conversation about rape and sexual violence, we should not be trying to teach women how to not get raped, but instead teaching men not to rape. The idea may seem simple, but it is lost on many, especially Saxton. For this shift in culture to occur, we must collectively assert, once and for all, that rape is inexcusable, and that victims of sexual violence are not to blame for what happened to them.

    Victims of sexual assault are never, ever “asking for it.” Men should become more active in the conversation, not to the point of running the dialogue, but simply by acknowledging that rape culture affects men as well as women.

    Men have to acknowledge rape culture because it portrays men as barbaric and unable to control themselves. It plays on the idea that men are not at fault for taking advantage of a woman who is unable to give consent, and that objectifying women is commonplace and acceptable.

    Ending rape culture requires an inclusive dialogue, and with a new school year upon us, promoting the physical and emotional safety of our student body is critical.

    Carson Suggs is a senior studying English. Follow him at Twitter.com/@crsnsggs.

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