Opposing a Culture of Rape


 “Perhaps we should begin to stop repeating the notion
that ‘criminals’ are the ones raping 1 in 5 women.  No,
it’s our husbands, boyfriends, acquaintances, relatives,
and friends and they rape because they are not taught
to see women as full autonomous human beings.”
Zerlina Maxwell

Two football players in Steubenville, Ohio are charged with rape. Their acts were photographed, videotaped and brazenly displayed on the internet. Without this public bragging, there would be no trial.

Rape is common because our culture promotes the notion that women are ‘playthings’ for men. Rape is criminal, of course. But rape is also cultural when we fail to teach boys and expect men to perceive women as human beings with their own minds and bodies, their own hopes and aspirations. This is the second of five ways we can teach men not to rape.

At the top of Maxwell’s list is teaching young men about legal consent: “Without it, sexual contact with someone is rape…whether you intended to rape or not.” Maxwell praises Jaclyn Friedman’s concept of “enthusiastic consent.” Mutuality, not sexual selfishness, is surely necessary.

Maxwell writes we can also “teach young men how to express healthy masculinity.” Instead of associating being male with violence, power and control, we need to teach the difference between being aggressive and assertive.

The fourth of Maxwell’s charges are that young men should learn that it takes “an act of extreme bravery” to report rape–so women and girls should be believed, not belittled.

Finally, teaching bystander intervention is essential. This involves more than situations of sexual assault. It also includes opposing a culture of rape with degrading depictions of women, sexist jokes and excuses for looking down on women.

My take: Let’s encourage young men to be serious, not casual, about sex.

Rev. Rix welcomes comments at quoflections@gmail.com. © 2013 Harry Rix. All rights reserved.

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