“Rape Culture” is a term used to describe the victim blaming attitudes, perpetrator excusing values, and media-driven undertones prevalent in our culture. Very often, the rape culture mentality is unintentional, subliminal, and covert, thereby making it even more harmful since it isn’t easily recognizable. For instance, an article came out in Ensign (LDS magazine) prompting women to dress modestly. One particular statement in the article really fired up a lot of people from around the nation. It reads:
“the dress of women has a powerful impact on the minds and passions of men, if it’s too low, too high, too tight it might prompt improper thoughts in the mind of a young man striving to be pure.”
If the statement seems innocent to you, then consider what it is implying. That statement essentially implies women are in charge of a man’s sexuality, i.e. if a woman wears a short skirt and gets raped, then, well… she probably should have worn jeans and it wouldn’t have happened. The subtlety of the statement is, in fact, a blame shift for sexual assault. The victim gets blamed, rather than the “sexually hypnotized” perpetrator.
Certainly, the person writing the article didn’t intend for this to be the message. In fact, it truly pains me to say this, but women dressing more modestly probably isn’t a bad idea. Here’s the thing: An attractive woman wearing a short skirt is going to draw attention from a man, but with that said, implying a short skirt overrides a man’s cognitive capacity to avoid ravaging a woman without her consent is both dangerous for women and insulting to men.
My friend Matt satirically responded to my buddy Justin’s Facebook post on this exact issue, stating:
“Time to dumb down this seemingly intelligent thread: ME SEE SEXIFIED WOMAN ME BEAT CLUB AGAINST GROUND UNTIL SHE COME OVER FOR GUD TIME! IF THAT NOT WORK ME SCREAM LOUD AND TAKE WHAT I WANT”
Is that all men are? Mindless sex drones, savagely attacking women who might wear skimpy clothes? What about women’s plight in all this? Is it healthy for women to be taught they bring it on themselves by the way they dress? But on the opposite end, should woman be taught they really can’t do much to prevent sexual assault?
Part two of Tactical Sexual Assault Prevention will focus on what is happening inside the mind of a perpetrator of sexual abuse. Part two will argue it is ineffective to tell women how to dress as a means for warding off sexual assault, and is similarly ineffective to tell a woman there isn’t much she can do to prevent rape.
The concept of informing women there are some things they can do to prevent unwanted sexual encounters is controversial because a lot of my colleagues believe that any approach designed to teach people strategies to avoid rape comes across as “rape culture, victim blaming propaganda.”
I think I have the foundation for an effective approach, which I will outline in Part II.