We shouldn't normalise rape

November 14, 2017

Let’s talk about 'Rape Culture'. The multiple cases of sexual assault and misconduct allegations that have been making the headlines over the last few years and with the rise of movements like Life in Leggings, which started here in the Caribbean, and the Me Too movement that recently has gained much traction in the US, it is clear that there is something fundamentally problematic with the way adults are interacting with each other. 

While much of the accusations are about how men have violated women, a few of them also show men violating men and boys as well. Some of the more recently allegations show that there was a dirty secret kept in Hollywood about some of its more powerful players and how they have a habit of very abhorrent behaviour. 

Over the past few weeks alone, names like Oscar Winner Kevin Spacey, mega producer Harvey Weinstein, award-winning comedian Louis CK and others have made headlines over decades of sexual misconduct. 

In observing the details of the accusations and even the response of the accused, there is a constant theme that I’ve noticed — this is something that has been going on for decades and people knew about it. 

Rape normalised

This brings me to the issue of Rape Culture — a sociological concept used to describe a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalised due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. In other words, Rape Culture defines certain sexual behaviour that are considered acceptable in society. 

Even though most of these accusations that we are currently seeing in the news are taking place in the United States, there are clear indicators that Rape Culture is evident in Jamaican society as well. 

Jamaican culture has always had different rules for men and women when it comes to sexuality, but what are some of the things that show that Rape culture exists in our society?

- Women are seen as possessions — Even in 2017, women are considered as the property of their male partners. This is evident in the debate about marital rape. The idea that once she gets the ring, she gives up all right to her body. 

- Fourteen-year-old girls who are raped by adult men are accused of being 'force ripe' and blamed for the heinous act that happened. 

- Powerful men who are accused of sexual misconduct or assault are given the benefit of the doubt and the victim is blamed for their part in the act. 

- There are people who believe that girls and women “allow themselves to be assaulted” based on where they were or what they were wearing. 

- So many sexual assault prevention education programmes are focused on women need to do to prevent being raped instead of perpetrators being told not to rape.

At the end of the day, sexual assault, rape and other sexual misconduct are not acceptable and should be treated accordingly. As a society, we need to do more to protect victims and bring perpetrators to justice. 

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