Posted in Interesting News & Commentary

Third Wave Feminism: Rape Culture


To better facilitate connections between student interests and McCain’s collections, we are providing our student workers, via the library’s blog and social media accounts, with a platform to explore and share areas they would like to highlight. The following entry is the third in a series by Rachel, a first year student at Agnes Scott.


I decided to do a blog post on rape culture given the current social climate where we are seeing a lot of women coming forward accusing men in positions of power or fame of sexual assault or sexual misconduct.

Rape Culture is defined by the WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre as “a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women.” Some common forms of rape culture include rape jokes, victim shaming, slut shaming, and flat-out denial of rape as a problem within society. The term rape culture was first used in the 1970s during the Second Wave Feminist Movement (The Encyclopedia of Rape). Rape culture is a prevalent problem not only in the United States but all around the world. From here in the states where women who come forward accusing someone of rape are told “You asked for it” to parts of the Middle East where incredibly young women are forced to marry their attackers as a way to expunge his record (CBS News–Sherry Johnson).

One major example of rape culture can be seen in the aforementioned example of “You ASKING FOR ITasked for it.” Along with asking for it there is also the argument rapists sometimes use of “They didn’t say no.” One point that is brought up by Kate Harding in her book Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture–and What We Can Do About It is that rapists understand “No” in its various forms. Harding notes that in studies men and women understood indirect ways of saying no. She list a number of examples, including: “I’d love to but I already have plans.” Another common response is “Sweet of you to offer but I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it.” Or, “Oh geez, maybe another time?” So if men and women alike both understand these indirect refusals, why is the, “They didn’t say no,” defense still so heavily used and accepted? Maybe it is because mainstream media and pop culture tell women they are liars if they come forward and that their “NO’s” are going to be lost in the “Blurred Lines” of consent (That’s right, I’m looking at you, Mr. Thicke.) Also, maybe it can be seen in the approximately only 35% of rapes that are reported. Or maybe it’s in the less than 50% of rapists who will ever do jail time (Washington Post).

Rape Culture is highly visible in the gauntlet of questions and accusations women have to go through when they report a rape -“You were drinking. What did you expect,” “What were you wearing,” and “Why were you out alone that late at night?” Let me say right here, right now that none of these are reasons for rape. They expected a hangover after drinking, they were wearing what they wanted, and they were out that late at night because maybe they just wanted to go for a walk.

Sources for Rape Culture at McCain Library:

Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture–and What We Can Do About It
Kate Harding

Beyond Blurred Lines: Rape Culture in Popular Media
Nickie D. Phillips

Transforming a Rape Culture
Edited by Emilie Buchwald, Pamela R. Fletcher, Martha Roth

Rape Culture (Video)
Made by Margaret Lazarus and Renner Wunderlich

More Sources on Rape Culture:

25 Everyday Examples of Rape Culture
Everyday Feminism

A Gentleman’s Guide to Rape Culture
Huff Post

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