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Essence of Rape Culture: Is It Ethical to Blame the Victims

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With rape myth acceptance society allows the act of rape to be decriminalized. “Rape myths are a specific set of attitudes and beliefs that may contribute to ongoing sexual violence by shifting blame for sexual assault from perpetrators to victims.”(Iconis, 2008) Society does not comprehend what it means for a woman to be raped. Instead of empathizing with the victim, rape myths were concocted to put the blame on her. Tolerating this shift of blame to occur only builds the act of rape to grow sturdier, and makes the victim feel frailer. Believing in rape myths permits men to act on sexual impulses done without consent as long as they feel that they are in the right to do so. For example, if a man meets a woman at a bar and buys her multiple drinks and drugs one, then takes her to his house the man believes he has the right to have sex with her. As if the woman accepting each drink was a forum consent. If the woman rejects the man at this point, he will see it as too little too late, and will proceed to rape her. “Men may use rape myths to justify or deny men’s sexual violence and women may use them to deny personal vulnerability to rape.” (Peterson & Muehlenharad, 2004, as cited in Iconis, 2008). In the same example stated before, a woman hearing the story would interpret it as the victims fault for accepting the drinks to begin with. She would also believe the woman at the bar was asking to have sex by going over to his house. The woman judges the victims actions because she knows she would never act such a way, and because of that she believes the victim deserved to be raped and that she will never be raped. “The process of justifying or denying sexual violence or denying personal vulnerability often involves limiting which behaviors are considered to be rape and blaming rape victims for their own victimization” (Peterson & Muehlenharad, 2004, as cited in Iconis, 2008).

Victims are blamed for every action made before they were raped. They are judged by the shade of eye shadow and lipstick they had on, the sheerness or length of their clothes, the amount of alcohol consumed, the route they decided to walk down, the time of day or night they were out at, the location they went to, the list goes on and on. This is when rape culture plays a key role; by blaming the victims for their own assaults, all the while society is accepting sexual violence as the norm. “The media is where victim blaming tends to occur most frequently, since an especially popular trend in media is perpetuating myths which blame the victim” (Mukhopadhyay, 2008, as cited in Thacker, 2017). The media generally shapes the way society thinks about several issues including rape, and so has the power to demonstrate a situation in any context they please. “Vocabulary is important, and the media possesses a “language of rape” which describes rape as an act of pleasure, using words like “fondled” and “caressed” when describing sexual assault” (Benedict, 1993, as cited in Thacker, 2017). The miss use of language conveys an altered meaning to the viewer and the victim of sexual assault is made out to look as if they enjoyed being assaulted. When in fact, statistics given by RAINN on victims of sexual violence states: Approximately 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime. Exposure to the media is practically unavoidable and in essence so is the malpractice of the language of rape.

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“Men and women alike are exposed to the media’s ideas about rape from the time they are small children, and this exposure likely contributes to their own ideas about how and why rape occurs. Boys are especially vulnerable to these messages, because they are rarely depicted as victims and are presented with endless violent rapist male “role models” in the media” (Miedzian, 1993, as cited in Thacker, 2017). The effect the media has on the public is massive, which is why misjudge information is a huge conflict in rape culture. “Media coverage of real rape cases often questions what women did to provoke the attack” (Mukhopadhyay, 2008, as cited in Thacker, 2017), and effecting a corollary of the distinction between “good” women and “bad” women which occurs in the media; it is a gendered dichotomy which gives men the benefit of the doubt in the court of public opinion (Humphries, 2009, as cited in Thacker, 2017). Thacker states, “Good” women are the ones who are not promiscuous, who were not drunk at the time of the assault, and who followed all the “rules” to avoid being raped; conversely, “bad” women are the ones who violated one or more of the “avoiding sexual assault” guidelines that the rape culture has laid out for them. This implies that if the bad woman broke a rule, then essentially it is her fault for being sexually assaulted. However, rape culture expects the committer to act in such a deviant manner; it is ok for him to rape the woman who was asking for it. An analysis by RAINN on the statistics based on the criminal justice system found that perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals. “Constantly seeing and hearing about women being raped or threatened with rape also perpetrates another social harm: it desensitizes male viewers and facilitates rape” (Miedzian, 1993 as cited in Thacker, 2017). A man is not born a rapist, he is taught how to become one, how to be accepted as one, and how to live in society as one. Furthermore victim blaming does not stop in the media, it seeps into the social system and transforms itself into secondary victimization. “Secondary victimization is the unresponsive treatment rape victims receive from social system personnel. It is the victim-blaming behaviors and practices engaged in by community service providers, which further the rape event, resulting in additional stress and trauma for victims.” (Campbell & Raja, 1999) The effect that secondary victimization has on the victims that suffered at the hands of a rapist is almost as bad as the rape it self, they are forced to relive the sickening event while their integrity is being questioned by the people who are suppose to be helping the victim through this. A statistics given by RAINN on victims of sexual violence entails that 94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks following the rape; which means the victim is experiencing secondary victimization on top of psychological distress. “A large part of the justice system’s failure to handle rape cases effectively lies in this suspicion of the victim and her motivations.” (Thacker 2017) This only works in favor of the perpetrator, who is being protected at a level better than the rape victim is. “It is essentially as if the victim is on trial for accusing the perpetrator, rather than the perpetrator being on trial for committing sexual assault, and therefore the victim’s truthfulness is likely to be challenged” (Allison & Wrightsman, 1993 as cited in Thacker, 2017) With good reason a breakdown of RAINN statistics on the criminal justice system proclaims that out of 1000 sexual assault crimes, only two hundred and thirty are reported to the police. In other words three out of four go unreported. In the same breakdown, of the sexual violence crimes not reported to police from 2005-2010 13% believed the police would not do anything to help. Woman are afraid to speak up, they are afraid that they will not receive the support that should be given to them and instead will be blamed.

It is unacceptable to put the blame on the victim when the rapist is the cause of all the problems. In Jackson Katz 2012 TED talk he states that the general public usually asks questions about the victim such as: “What was she wearing at that party? What a stupid thing to do. Why was she drinking with those guys in that hotel room?” Katz discloses those questions as part of victim blaming, and explains that there are many reasons as to why people do it but one of the reasons is because our cognitive structure is programmed to blame victims. “This is all unconscious. Our whole cognitive structure is set up to ask questions about women and women's choices and what they're doing, thinking, wearing. And I'm not going to shout down people who ask questions about women. It's a legitimate thing to ask. But's let's be clear: Asking questions about Mary is not going to get us anywhere in terms of preventing violence.” (Katz, 2012) He shifts the questions being asked about the women and starts asking questions about the men, “What's going on with men? Why do so many adult men sexually abuse little girls and boys? Why is that a common problem in our society and all over the world today?” Katz continues to ask, “What's going on with men? Why do so many men rape women in our society and around the world? Why do so many men rape other men? What is going on with men? And then what is the role of the various institutions in our society that are helping to produce abusive men at pandemic rates?”

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Essence of Rape Culture: Is It Ethical to Blame the Victims. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from
“Essence of Rape Culture: Is It Ethical to Blame the Victims.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022,
Essence of Rape Culture: Is It Ethical to Blame the Victims. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 Dec. 2023].
Essence of Rape Culture: Is It Ethical to Blame the Victims [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2023 Dec 9]. Available from:
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