Rape culture on campuses a reality

Men must play an active role in the solution

Illustration: Bram Keast

Michael Lee, volunteer staff

Trigger warning: rape

With the help of the media, coverage of rape culture on university campuses is increasingly being brought to the fore. Rape culture is most certainly real and to simply sweep it under the rug does a great disservice to those who have been victims of sexual assault. Unfortunately, there are still those who think otherwise.

Earlier this month, Barbara Kay of the National Post and Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail offered their own critiques of the growing awareness, and fear, of rape culture.

In Kay’s article, “Rape culture and the delusions of the feminist mind,” she provides a blunt characterization of rape culture by stating, “The fact is that ‘rape culture’ is a form of popular mania like so many others before it. It does not exist. Or if it does, nobody has yet brought forward evidence of it.”

To Kay, then, the fear surrounding rape is one brought about by “ideology attached to a great deal of personal narrative regarding unwanted or regretted sex,” that, while “compelling,” is “unsupported by evidence.”

Kay does offer a brief moment of empathy by suggesting that no woman should ever be sexually assaulted. However, she suggests to young women to exercise a bit of caution: to “not drink to excess,” to be “prudent about the kinds of parties they attend,” and to be “selective about their sexual partners in general.” She seems to adhere to the notion that, while there is no real danger, one must still be cautious – to not panic but still be suspicious about that guy across the room at a party.

Does this not propagate the very over-heightened fear that Kay argues rape culture promotes? Should a woman not be able to navigate freely without fear? Instead of blaming women, perhaps a solution lies in changing the actions and perceptions of men.

Kay appears to place all of the responsibility on women while absolving any responsibility from men. This is what I believe to be the greatest misstep in altering our perceptions of rape culture. Rape is not solely a women’s problem or a feminists’ problem – it is also a men’s problem.

Wente’s article in the Globe and Mail—“Can she consent to sex after drinking?”—takes a slightly different approach compared to Kay’s piece. Wente argues that alcohol is the real issue at hand here. The Campus Sexual Assault Study, which she references, has shown that the vast majority of sexual assaults involve alcohol, but adds that not only do the vast majority of these women victims not believe they were raped, but two-thirds did not even think the incident serious enough to report to the authorities.

In an earlier article for the Globe and Mail titled “When rape culture and booze culture meet,” Wente offers some advice for young women to avoid what she refers to as “the perils of ‘rape culture’”: “Don’t get drunk.”

Advocating for women to not “get drunk” nor to “binge drink” is an entirely misguided approach to combating rape; although, the Campus Sexual Assault Study does suggest “combining sexual assault prevention education with alcohol and drug education programming.”

Collage by Katy MacKinnon

Collage by Katy MacKinnon

However, one point that Wente fails to consider is whether men should forgo alcohol as well. If “drunken men in groups often behave worse than drunken men on their own, because they’re full of bravado and egg each other on,” as she suggests in “When rape culture and booze culture meet,” should we then not similarly tell men to not get drunk?

Regardless of whether alcohol is involved or not, the fact still remains that men are raping women, and this is what needs to change. While educating people on responsible drinking will certainly lead to progress, the conversation must delve even deeper. We must also consider how we can alter the mindsets of men so that they do not rape in the first place.

Jackson Katz, an anti-sexism educator, touches on this very issue. In a 2012 TED Talk aptly named “Violence against women – it’s a men’s issue,” Katz offers a spirited and thought-provoking analysis whereby he questions society’s perceptions of rape.

Not only do we blame the victim, Katz argues, but we are also asking the wrong questions. Instead, we should be asking, “Why is domestic violence still a big problem in the United States and all over the world? [ . . . ] Why do so many men abuse—physically, emotionally, verbally, and other ways—the women and girls, and the men and boys, that they claim to love? What’s going on with men?”

These are the more salient questions that should be asked and once we are able to tackle these issues, we should see a dramatic shift towards the better.

I refuse to accept that men should not play a part in eliminating sexual assault. On the contrary, men should play just as active of a role as women. Men and women should fight together against this rape mentality.

Later in the talk, Katz says, “[It’s] not just understanding these issues as men’s issues, but they’re also leadership issues for men.” I agree that proper male—and female—leadership is the key in helping future generations fight back against the preventable tragedy of sexual assault.

9 Comments on "Rape culture on campuses a reality"

  1. This “rebuttal” encapsulates the phenomenon I critiqued: the tendency to insist a phenomenon exists and to criticize those who say there is no evidence for it (and who have moreover marshalled evidence themselves to support their statement), and then ignore the evidence presented, while failing to give counter evidence, except to insist it exists. Firm belief is not evidence. Furthermore adducing Jackson Katz in support of that belief convinces anyone who knows the statistics on domestic violence that this writer is not up to speed on reality there either. Most domestic violence is bilateral and 25% of domestic violence is women assaulting men with no provocation. There is no rape culture. And although domestic violence is a problem, it is one that affects both mean and women in close to equal proportions. This eloquent writer needs to beef up his research to match his style.

    • Jared Faber | March 19, 2014 at 1:24 pm |

      Excellent reply, Barbara. When I began reading this article I was genuinely hoping to hear a fact-based rebuttal to your original piece with specific responses to the statics you presented. But the article did nothing of the kind. Your editorial stands unrebutted in my opinion.

  2. Katz is a traitorous feminist flunky who has no business talking to men about or for men.

  3. Even RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) says that the concept of “rape culture” is bogus (link below). RAINN says “In the last few years, there has been an unfortunate trend towards blaming “rape culture” for the extensive problem of sexual violence on campuses. While it is helpful to point out the systemic barriers to addressing the problem, it is important to not lose sight of a simple fact: Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime,” said the letter to the task force from RAINN’s president, Scott Berkowitz, and vice president for public policy, Rebecca O’Connor. RAINN also says that “research that suggests that more than 90% of college rapes are committed by about 3% of college men” (reliable research about female perpetrators is harder to come by). So, like I have been saying all along, there is no such thing as “rape culture”…even RAINN acknowledges that.

    • “Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime”

      these conscious decisions are influenced by cultural factors!

    • Auntie Alias | March 19, 2014 at 5:28 pm |

      cory, If you read more carefully, you’ll notice RAINN didn’t dismiss the existence of rape culture; they claim it’s not the cause of rape.

      Rape culture aids and abets the perpetrators of rape. Rapists operate on the knowledge that chances are slim they’ll ever have to pay for their crimes. Society tends to blame victims instead of rapists, police often disbelieve victims, and the justice system gives out slaps on the wrist in the rare cases that rapists are convicted.

      A half million Canadian women a year are sexually assaulted and only a small percentage of perpetrators are held accountable. If that’s not the result of rape culture, how do you account for it?

  4. I’m really disappointed with these comments. Implying that woman are lying or are themselves to blame about being raped?
    The fact is rape culture DOES exist. I see this complete disregard for woman’s rights not only on campus, but everywhere. To say that rape culture does not exist is ludicrous . The degradation I have experienced on the bus, parking lots, even standing in line at the Tim Hortons at UMSU.
    We’re growing up in a society that educates “boys will be boys” and “woman are to blame for leading men on”! I for one will not be assimilated into a culture that believes that.

  5. Shouldn’t we be asking what the difference is between rape culture and the culture of the bully?

  6. Auntie Alias | March 20, 2014 at 12:53 am |

    Good article, Michael.

    I’m not sure Barbara Kay even understands what rape culture is. The article you referred to and the one she wrote after that both suggest she thinks it’s strictly the prevalence of sexual violence. That’s why she’s demanding evidence of it. There are statistics that support its prevalence but that’s hardly the point.

    Victim-blaming is the starkest evidence of rape culture. It comes from the public, the police, and the courts. In a case close to home, recall the firestorm that erupted after Justice Robert Dewar made his notorious remarks about a rape victim during sentencing. I debated that case online with a lot of people, including two lawyers, and I was pretty much alone in my view that he was dead wrong and the sentence he imposed was unjust. He and every person who defended him and who attacked the victim were perpetuating rape culture.

    Rape apologists focus on victims and ignore their rapists. It’s a pattern that keeps repeating in the media and it reinforces the idea that rape is okay and that victims must have done something to deserve it. Or worse, that the victims are lying. That one is gaining traction thanks to the misogynist men’s rights movement who are big fans of Kay. That ought to be a clue that her point of view is problematic.

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