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The concept of rape culture links nonconsensual sex with the cultural fabric of a society. Using rape as descriptive of culture suggests a pattern of learned behavior created, organized, and transmitted from generation to generation as a part of the expectations associated with being male and being female. Rape culture is not an either-or phenomenon but exists in varying degrees, from the institutionalization of rape to its perfunctory punishment as crime. In the most strident form of rape culture women are the property of men who deny them respect and the right to control their own bodies.
A cultural explanation of rape moves causation from a micro to a macro level. Rape is not just the problem of an individual victim or of a sick perpetrator but a socially and culturally produced problem to be addressed at the societal level. A rape culture is a product of behaviors and attitudes as well as of the institutions supporting those behaviors and attitudes. Rape culture is generated and maintained by a social structure of gender inequality that allows and enables men, as arbiters of power, to exploit and abuse women — consciously and unconsciously. In a rape culture women are socialized to assume responsibility for controlling the ”naturally aggressive” behavior of men in interpersonal relations and by restricting their own movements and behavior. A rape culture is a culture in which young girls internalize fear and role-restrictions simply because they are female.
The major criticism of the concept of rape culture and of the feminist theory from which it emanates is its monolithic implication that ultimately all women are victimized by all men.
- Brownmiller, S. (1975) Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. Fawcett Columbine, New York.
- Buchwald, E., Fletcher, P. R., & Roth, M. (1993). Transforming A Rape Culture. Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis, MN.
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