For a moment, think about the six most important women in your life. One of six women throughout their lifetime will be raped. That could be one of the six most important women in your life. Rape and sexual harassment are issues which are growing in our society and we are only accomplices to rape if we are not part of the solution. Why do some people think rape is okay? Here’s why. The media. The media projects this idea that a woman’s consent does not matter. You can see this most obviously in pop songs.
Take the song ‘Blurred Lines’ for instance. It’s a well-known, catchy song. I even got it stuck in my head whilst writing this. However, you’ve probably never considered that it’s a song about rape. In an article titled ‘From the Mouths of Rapists’ several rape victims came forward to share what their attacker had said to them. Some quotes prove to sound like lyrics from Thicke’s song. He sings “I know you want it” multiple times throughout the song, this is a phrase that many rape victims hear their attackers say to defend their actions. After, he goes onto sing “but you’re a good girl” which suggests that a ‘good girl’ won’t show her mutual desire. For these ‘good girls’, saying nothing suggests consent and no actually means yes.
It’s not a new argument to suggest that many components of rape culture are installed in seemingly enjoyable elements of pop culture like songs, films, television shows etc. Robin Thicke’s song proved to be an example to many of how we not only tolerate rape culture – but how we also consider it as ‘sexy’.
Rape culture is when lyrics of Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ reflect the words of actual rapists and is still the number one song in the country for twelve weeks. Compared to Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ Justin Bieber’s hit single ‘What Do You Mean?’ has not been as controversial. The idea that women do not actually know what they want and are notably bad at communicating is common in society.
In the song, Bieber asks his partner “What do you mean? / When you nod your head, yes, but you want to say no/ What do you mean?”. Although the song is about a woman who can’t make up her mind about Bieber, their relationship and sexual intimacy, the woman in the music video isn’t portrayed that way. It’s worth noting that in the music video he is frightening her in the name of love – also a part of rape culture. Bieber is portrayed as the ’good guy’ throughout the song by attempting to unriddle what the woman means. The music video alongside the lyrics works in a way that hides what the lyrics really mean, this contradicts what we are shown in the video. Sexualizing a woman’s inability to make a decision is a critical way in how rape culture works.
Last year when I was out for lunch during a school day, there was a large group of boys in front of me and my friends. We could overhear them laughing and making crude comments. At one point, one of the boys said, “let’s stop walking so we can look at the girls’ bums behind us”. My friends and I were beyond humiliated and tried to stay where we were. They just stopped walking and forced us to walk in front of them, we pushed through and started walking faster so we could just get our lunch and not have to deal with them. A short time later, we could hear them shouting at us to lift our skirts up. We were in public. There was a teacher behind us who didn’t say a word. The following day at lunch, we saw them again and crossed the road, hoping they wouldn’t see us. I, as a fifteen-year-old girl, should not have to be scared of boys harassing me in any scenario.
Earlier I mentioned an article in which rape victims bravely came forward to share what their rapists had said to them before, during and after their attack. A contributing factor to rape culture is victim blaming. Victim blaming, by definition, is a belittling act where the victim of a crime, accident or abusive mistreatment is held accountable or partially responsible for the wrongful conduct committed against them. In this article, victim blaming can be shown through quotations such as:
“You can’t have a drink with someone and not expect this not to happen.”
“It wasn’t rape. You were being such a tease.”
Everybody knows that if a woman dances with a man it means she wants to sleep with him, correct? And if she wears a tight dress or a short skirt, correct? And if she smiles at someone, she wants it, correct? Absolutely not. A dance, smile or an outfit is not an invitation and definitely doesn’t indicate consent. This idea is commonly believed by rapists.
People will say “But they’re just pop songs, they don’t mean anything”. Actually, they do. The more songs like this that continue to be released, the more normalised rape will become. Imagine growing up listening to these songs and thinking that someone’s consent does not matter or that rushing somebody to decide about sexual intimacy is okay. This will happen if we continue the way we are now and don’t fight to put a stop to rape culture.
Small but effective ways to stop rape culture can be to not laugh at rape jokes and if someone makes one, criticize them. Teach your peers, friends and family about the importance of consent, resist slut shaming and victim blaming. Don’t be a bystander.
Rape culture is real and is a growing problem. It can be shown through seemingly innocent songs such as ‘Blurred Lines’ or ‘What do you mean?’ and through more recent news like the #MeToo movement. The solution here is simple. We must stop telling victims how to conduct themselves so that they can avoid rape. It is about teaching future generations to respect one another and stop glorifying the act of rape. More people are being outraged by rape culture due to the internet, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Rape culture can end but in order for that to happen, we must be better.