Unpacking ‘rape culture’

Learn more about how our attitudes and beliefs contribute to a rape culture. Sexual violence is not just an individual issue – it’s a whole society issue.

Watch Tony Porter talk about the way boys get caught in: The Man Box

Rape culture is a thing

What is it about our society that produces such high rates of sexual violence? Why are 97% of perpetrators of reported sexual assault male?[Stats Canada: Sexual Assault Statistics in Canada. See also 50% of transgender people experience sexual violence. Forge: Transgender Rates of Violence, 2012.] Studies have said that 10% of sex offenders are women.[Corrections Canada] Men are three times more likely to do violence to themselves in the form of suicide.[Stats Canada: Suicide Rates in Canada]  Men are also more likely to be assaulted or killed by another man.[Stats Canada: Gender difference in police reported crimes] 

The discussion about rape culture is a difficult one because it names the problem as men’s violence. The act of naming inspires those who work to end sexual violence.  Others feel uncomfortable, defensive and even hostile because it feels like blaming men. Some men may feel like victims themselves, under attack for being male. This divide sets up ‘us vs. them’ that is just another kind of violence. We need to be brave and yes, creative, to escape the centuries old binary trap of men vs. women. Blame traps us at the individual level. It is in all of our interests to figure out how to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of sexual violence. How did we get here?  Yes, rape culture is a thing.

Sexual violence is not just an individual issue

Individuals are accountable for their actions AND collectively, we need to accept that there are things about our society that produces the conditions for violence. It’s not just bad people doing bad things. The ideal of ‘good’ victims and ‘evil’ perpetrators is not based in reality and the complexities of life.

Real solutions are needed to ease the deep suffering and high costs of sexual violence that are so widespread. We are all impacted. Naming the problem is an important step. From there we are each called to reflect on our own attitudes and behaviours and the ways in which we have been shaped by the world around us. 

It’s the 21st century. Are we ready to imagine a world without sexual violence, and to be bold in taking small steps toward making it happen? Every step counts.

Rape culture names men’s violence but can we talk about it?

  • Rape culture as defined in the Ontario Sexual Violence & Harassment Action Plan – It’s Never Okay:

Rape culture is a culture in which dominant ideas, social practices, media images and social institutions implicitly or explicitly accept sexual assault by making them seem normal and by minimizing male sexual violence and blaming survivors for their own abuse. The beliefs and attitudes of a rape culture are rooted in the idea that women are inferior to men and are therefore less deserving of respect and dignity. 

How can men be oppressed when it’s men who are oppressive? The answer is that it is men who are oppressing themselves. Contrary to popular belief men are just as victimised by the darker side of gender as women; their battle is less well known because it is waged internally, behind closed doors. Hyper masculinity is the belief that in order to be a man you must in no way resemble a woman; being even remotely feminine strips you entirely of your masculinity. 

More men should learn the difference between masculinity and toxic masculinity by Ryan Douglass

Toxic masculinity is built on two fundamental pillars: sexual conquest and violence—qualities men regale as manly and virtuous. If sex and aggression are the measuring sticks of manhood, it’s no wonder rape education remains a conversation of what women should be doing to not get raped rather than what men should be doing, which is not raping. How can we hope to stop violent sexual behavior if violence and sexuality are still considered primary virtues of manhood? 

Further Reading & Resources