The Consent Workshop 10 Things We Can Do to Weaken Rape Culture
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We live in a time where most things, including social justice, are very accessible through the internet. Social media specifically, amplifies the voices of social justice warriors and spectators alike. With every passing day, a cause is named and framed within theory, raising yet another dimension of awareness (See: fatphobia, transphobia, misogynoir, ableism). While it may appear that we are becoming better people with the rise of consciousness, somehow, we remain unresolved about sexual consent and what is sexually inappropriate behavior. We still accommodate rape culture in such a casual, normalized way. Rape culture is any attitudes or beliefs that overlook, trivialize and/or normalize sexual assault, rape, and even “general violence”, according to Shannon Ridgeway of

With all the progress we have made as a society, how is rape culture still omnipresent? Why is it that nested under every social media post of sexual violence, is an alarming number of apologia and/or victim blaming responses? Are people simply unaware of how their attitudes may contribute to rape culture? Does patriarchy impede people’s ability to empathize with victims instead of abusers? It is simply exhausting.

Ultimately by normalizing and passively approaching sexual violence, we allow rape culture to prosper. Anything from hostile blaming to the undermining of sexual violence, is rape culture. You may have been complicit in the nurturing of rape culture, but here are 10 things you can effectively apply to diminish rape culture.

1. Never blame the victim. No matter how tempting it may be to assume that a victim contributed in some type of way to the sexual crime against them, the perpetrator is always to blame. Bypassing consent and forcing oneself on another, is the rapist’s problem, not the victim’s. Transferring that blame to the victim is taking away from the real problem, i.e. the rape acted out by the rapist.

Not only with physical acts, but remote actions such as revenge porn constitute sexual violence. So next time you want to ask why a person sent nudes to someone else, ask why the receiver violated their privacy instead.

2. Everyone must treat rape cases with urgency. Fear, shame and systemic rape culture in form of lack of support for victims, make it difficult for them to report sexual abuse. So, whenever a victim chooses to come out, it’s neither too late nor too early. In recent examples such as with Cosby and Weinstein, we witnessed the delay of justice because of the effort (including time), invested into protecting these powerful men. Such that when the victims eventually came out, they were severely doubted. Also, legal justice could be more serious about sexual crime. For example, there should not be a statute of limitations on taking legal actions against rape due to all the odds stacked against victims.

3. Know that rape is NOT a women’s-only issue but even more so, men’s. According to statistics by RAINN, 95% of reported rape cases are women as victims and committed by men. Since men mostly do the sexual crimes, they have to be the major stakeholders and members of the rape culture conversation. Rather than remind women to dress more modest (which has been proven ineffective), men should be taught not to rape. Men should learn about entitlement from a young age, especially towards other’s bodies. Telling victims to “say no to rape” is a form of gaslighting and victim blaming in itself. Only rapists can say no to rape in a way that prevents rape.

4. Change the language of reporting rape. In Jackson Katz’ TEDTalk, he mentioned that cases should be reported more as “John raped Kate” as opposed to “Kate was raped”. The former is more deliberate in making the subject come forward as opposed to the latter, which puts the victim as the subject. Focusing on the rapist creates salience around the real problem- rape and the rapist.

5. Do not patronize rape culture media which includes but not only; audiovisuals of actual rape or sexual violence incidents, unauthorized nudes, revenge porn, rape music, rape comedy, objectification of people including children, etc. These approaches mock victims, desensitize us and trivialize the problem that is rape culture.

6. Kill the culture of silence that shrouds rape. Talk about rape clearly to remove the stigma for victims. Spell it out R-A-P-E, not r*pe. Also, when educating young children about consent and body autonomy, allow for full expression. For instance, talk in clear terms by naming body parts, describing possible scenarios (to the best of a child’s understanding) and assuring them of their safety when they decide to speak out. Create safe spaces to house conversations against rape culture. The silent culture we have cultivated as a society, is injustice to all victims as it only provides a hiding place for the perpetrators.

8. Empower victims and their supporters. Remember that for a victim, justice can certainly follow forgiveness, and that is if they choose to forgive. Do not pressure victims to forgive. One of the most foul sentiments out there is that the victim’s forgiveness means that they should allow their abuser go scot-free. No. Sexual violence is a crime and should be punished. And in cases where legal justice fails, social justice can prevail on behalf of victims. This is a good opportunity to use the cancel culture, as well as name-and-shame methods. Do not give abusers any space to hide. A recent example of this is #MuteRKelly movement to remove the artist’s likeness and work from all spaces.

9. Learn, reinforce and normalize body autonomy and sex positivity in all genders. Both can act as pre-emptive inoculation against the sexual shame that patriarchy and religion have assigned to particularly women’s bodies. Since women and LGBT identified people’s bodies are most at risk of sexual violation, it is imperative to empower them collectively and institutionally with the reality that their bodies are their own expressions of their agency, and should never be usurped or controlled. Meanwhile, cis men can benefit from this idea as they unlearn the double standards that create sexual inequality and therefore, violence. Since studies show that rape is an act driven by power, it will be useful to the main group of victims to regain that power mentally, in order to weaken rape culture.

10. Ultimately, remember that consent is the backbone of resolving the issue of sexual violence. It needs to belabored into our consciousness that consent must be “freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific” (Planned Parenthood). Anything else is unacceptable.

While this is not all encompassing, it is a pragmatic and personal place to start the elimination of rape culture. Like most long standing problems, rape culture is one that is ingrained into our existence. inequality in the form of patriarchy is the seat of rape culture. Religion supports rape culture. Culture hosts rape culture. These powerful institutions indoctrinate us such that we automatically cultivate it without realizing. Rape culture is insidious. The only way we can prevent further harm is to deliberately and emphatically create consent culture. This way, we individually and collectively become safe spaces for survivors, and hostile spaces for rape culture.

By: Eniola Hu.

Images: Chase Carter/Flickr