In a blatant exemplification of moral superiority, many prefer to think of rape culture as being relegated to the developing world. With women making up the majority of the post secondary population, holding key positions of political power, and finally creeping their way into the boardroom, how could something as vile as rape culture exist on this side of the Atlantic?
Many people tend to conflate the notion of rape culture and rampant misogyny. India, for example, suffers from a pathological preference for sons. Giving birth to boys is seen as winning the reproductive lottery whereas daughters are merely a financial and moral burden. This predilection for male progeny has resulted in a highly skewed gender ratio, sex trafficking, female infanticide, sex selective abortions and forced marriages. As such, India's entrenched cultural misogyny has led to an endemic of violence against women, whereby a woman is raped every twenty-two minutes and dowry related deaths occur every hour.
Rape culture, however, can be loosely defined as a culture wherein the dominant attitudes towards rape facilitate, tolerate, and excuse rapists while placing the blame and the onus of rape prevention onto the victims.
The pervasiveness of rape culture in North America has been demonstrated time and time again in recent past. The most recent revelation of our laissez-faire attitude towards sexualized violence against women took place last week on the campus of St. Mary's University in Halifax during Frosh activities. A chant led by 80 student leaders in front of an approximate audience of 300 first year students lauded non-consensual sex with underage girls.
Eighty student organizers thought there was nothing wrong with openly promoting sexual assault against a minor and chanting: Y is for your sister, O is for oh so tight, U is for underage, N is for no consent, G is for grab that ass. Perhaps even more disconcerting is the fact that this chant has been a staple of St. Mary's frosh activities for the last several years.
Sexualized violence against women is one of the world's most common human rights offenses, and yet from New Delhi to Nova Scotia there is an alarming sentiment that persists: good girls do not get raped. Consequently, the flawed logic train seems to stop at the conclusion that if one is the victim of sexual assault, it is probably because the victim brought it on.
If a homosexual man were the victim of a hate crime, would national media outlets concentrate on what he was wearing or what he was doing to have brought on the attack? Thankfully, no. Yet, the discussion inevitably shifts to what a woman was wearing or how she was acting when she accuses someone of rape. With distressing methodological consistency, the media continually feels the need to question the veracity of a rape allegation and bring into question the alleged victim's level of intoxication, sexual history, and general perceived promiscuity.
When a young girl gets gang raped at a party and national columnists feel it necessary to ask why she was at the party to begin with (Barbara Amiel in Maclean's), or focus on how flirty and drunk a young girl was, insinuating that she had consented to her alleged gang rape (Christie Blatchford in Postmedia), or when you have dozens of media outlets portraying the Steubenville rapists as promising young boys with broken futures, there is a problem in the way our society in general, and our media in particular, depicts rapists and rape victims.
The highly publicized alleged gang rape of Rehtaeh Parsons has brought about an onslaught of victim blaming, highlighting the need for a wider discussion as to what constitutes consent to sexual activity. Not saying no doesn't mean yes, and if someone is too intoxicated to consent to sexual activity, no consent can be obtained. If sexual activity occurs in the absence of consent, a crime is committed. This isn't merely my opinion; this is based on our country's judicial precedent and legislation.
Consent isn't being flirty, drunk, or wearing makeup - despite what Christie Blatchford and Barbara Amiel may think. Consent is a definitive yes, plain and simple. Perhaps it's about time to take that message to the masses. First stop: St. Mary's University.
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