I acknowledge every woman I meet on the street, or in an elevator, or in a stairway, or wherever, in a way that indicates she’s safe. I want her to feel just as comfortable as if I weren’t there. I accept that any woman I encounter in public doesn’t know me, and thus, all she sees is a man — one who is suddenly near her. I have to keep in mind her sense of space and that my presence might make her feel vulnerable. That’s the key factor — vulnerability.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t spend much of my life feeling vulnerable. I’ve come to learn that women spend most of their social lives with ever-present, unavoidable feelings of vulnerability. Stop and think about that. Imagine always feeling like you could be at risk, like you were living with glass skin.
As modern men we must seek out danger. We choose adventures and extreme sports in order to feel like we’re in jeopardy. We make games of our vulnerability. That’s how differently men see the world from women. (Obviously, stated with full acknowledgment that there’s a vibrant community of extreme athletes that are women, who regularly risk their safety as well. However, women don’t need to engage in adrenalin sports to feel at-risk.)
A woman must consider where she is going, what time of day it is, what time she will arrive at her destination and what time she will leave her destination, what day of the week is it, if she will be left alone at any point … the considerations go on and on because they are far more numerous than you or I can imagine. Honestly, I can’t conceive of having to think that much about what I need to do to protect myself at any given moment in my life. I relish the freedom of getting up and going, day or night, rain or shine, Westside or downtown. As men we can enjoy this particular extreme luxury of movement and freedom of choice. In order to understand rape culture, remember this is a freedom that at least half the population doesn’t enjoy.
Rape prevention is about the fact that a man must understand that saying “no” doesn’t mean “yes,” that when a woman is too drunk/drugged to respond that doesn’t mean “yes,” that being in a relationship doesn’t mean “yes.” Rather than focus on how women can avoid rape, or how rape culture makes an innocent man feel suspect, our focus should be: how do we, as men, stop rapes from occurring, and how do we dismantle the structures that dismiss it and change the attitudes that tolerate it?
Since you are a part of it, you ought to know what rape culture is.
Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.
Now that you know what it is, what can you do about rape culture?
Avoid using language that objectifies or degrades women
If a friend says she has been raped, take her seriously and be supportive
Speak out if you hear someone else making an offensive joke or trivializing rape
Think critically about the media’s messages about women, men, relationships, and violence
Be respectful of others’ physical space even in casual situations
Always communicate with sexual partners and do not assume consent
Define your own manhood or womanhood. Do not let stereotypes shape your actions