rape culture

Brock Turner and North America’s Anti-Rape Culture

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BY: JAMES DI FIORE

It takes a lot to get almost everyone in our society on the same page. As a collective, North Americans argue about just about everything. Social media has become our gladiator arena where we live in a state of perpetual verbal combat, launching vicious attacks against one another, often just for the sake of attacking.

Politics, crime, social issues — virtually every last societal facet has been and will continue to be endlessly debated by a public still trying to find a communications toe hold on this thing called the Internet.

But sometimes a story can put us all back on the same page. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, as it did this week when Brock Allen Turner received just six months in prison for raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. The public’s reaction was both swift and universal — this was a heinous crime and the six-month sentence is an affront to both decency and justice.

But one silver lining, so far as there can even be a silver lining in a rape case, is that all of us in the gladiator arena put down our swords, united in our shared contempt.

We were not entertained.

A man everyone agreed was guilty of raping a young woman received a sentence that everyone agreed was a travesty of justice and insulting to the victim and society alike. We all agree the judge is incompetent. We all agree Turner’s father is an asshole and the obvious first domino in his son’s attitude towards women. We all agree on everything. In particular, we all agree the justice system needs an overhaul so it can produce judges who don’t hit rapists with kid gloves.

Now, before I switch gears, let me preface this by saying I really hate that I have to preface this. But I do. Trigger warning: I’m about to make sense.

There are people reading this who are dogmatic about the terminology associated with gender issues. At the top of this list is the term only a nihilist could love. It’s a term soaked in self-deprecation, satirizing society’s moral minority and attributing their crimes and attitudes to the rest of us. It’s called Rape Culture, and it is a condescending way of delivering an otherwise worthwhile message; sexual deviancy and sexual assault are especially heinous.

Men who commit these crimes are often given light sentences, a testament to how our criminal justice system can let down survivors. Paltry sentences, along with the similarly short sentences for crimes against children, are two of the darkest corners of our legal system as I can think of. Both groups of criminals are almost always habitual offenders, the short sentences acting as behavioural enablers, ultimately providing criminals with more opportunities to perpetrate violence against innocent victims.

And the public overwhelmingly agrees that all of these realities are inexcusable. We all agree something needs to be done to stiffen the punitive aspect of these crimes. We all agree rapists are evil. Saying there is a huge problem within the justice system is one thing, but our actual culture – meaning us, the people – is not a culture that enables rapists. The justice system is separate from the people.

The label ‘rape culture’ unfairly stigmatizes society. It levies not just a reaction to sexual violence, but also a collective responsibility for the violence, accusing us of contributing to the victimization of rape survivors. Even when we are marching together, as we did when we heard about Turner’s six-month sentence, we are still lectured about how rape culture permeates throughout society. It wasn’t the judge who sentenced Turner, it was rape culture.

Despite the universal condemnation for all the injustices in this story, we are goddamn well swimming in rape culture. We are absofuckinglutely drowning in the shit.

Only, that’s not true at all. In fact, the opposite is true. I have good news everyone — we are up to our balls in anti-rape culture. That’s right, while we all recognize the need to continuously improve all aspects of our flawed society, we can take solace in the empirical data that shows us two stark yet equally important realities.

First, roughly 6 per cent of men commit sexual crimes. While that is obviously much too high, it is also tangible evidence that the evil men who commit horrible acts of sexual violence is a small minority of men. Again, 6 per cent is still too high, but knowing that 94 per cent of men are not actively hurting women should be a relief if we are worried that our male family members and friends might be part of the problem.

Furthermore, and this is another silver lining in an otherwise god awful subject, sexual violence has plummeted over the past 23 years. If we were ever engulfed in rape culture, we have certainly evolved into a culture of anti-rape, proven both statistically and through our collective common sense.

Rape is a disgusting act that should be vilified and punished in the strongest terms possible. Be proud to know you live in a society that understands this, and while the gender warriors drown you in a hyperbolic narrative that demonizes an entire gender, just remember that rape culture is what they have used to brand their mission.

Rape culture isn’t a factual reality. It’s marketing. Almost all of us know right from wrong. We don’t need a hero cookie, but perhaps now is a good time to stop drinking the rape culture Kool-Aid.

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