Halloween wasn’t the spookiest thing this October. A recent spotlight has been cast on the rape culture that plagues our country and campus. The normalized attitudes regarding rape and sexual assault/harassment of any kind proved its adverse effects for the female population long ago. Yet still, considerable portions of the country believe rape culture to be nonexistent. In the past few years, more and more women are standing up to resist the preconceived notions about rape that are so tightly woven into American culture; yet still Kavanaugh is sworn into the highest courts, 21 CU students are roofied at a frat party, and a man who has publicly bragged about sexually assaulting women is the leader of our country.
The nomination of Brett Kavanagh as Supreme Court justice quickly transitioned into an excessively polarized event, pitting liberals and conservatives against each other once again. Except for this time, people weren’t arguing about policies or candidates. Instead, the contention revolved around whether a man nominated to the highest courts in America should be held accountable for a ‘small mistake’ he made in high school (Kampf-Lassin). This partisan debate was not only absurd but also laid the foundations for believing a woman who says she was raped to come from partisanship, not morals. Sexual assault isn’t political: it’s personal.
Leaving many Americans in a state of anger, frustration, and hopelessness after Kavanaugh was cleared by the panel and FBI, messages and signs saying, “we believe women” and “I stand with Dr. Ford” appeared around the CU Boulder campus and across the U.S. Small acts of solidarity to fight against the normalized attitudes many Americans have toward rape. The ideology that “boys will be boys” has infected the minds of many males and even females in this modern patriarchal system, creating a dangerous social and political climate for women. While many are still outraged by his nomination, it seems that his alma mater is celebrating (Kelly). Georgetown Preparatory School, a prestigious Catholic high school, is filled to the brim with privileged males who hailed Kavanaugh as a “conquering hero” (Kelly) post-nomination to the Supreme Court. Here lays the most undeniable problem: boys are being taught by role models who promote rape culture instead of teaching respect and consent. The Georgetown Prep boys are idolizing a man who sexually assaulted someone and blatantly got away with it. This principle is teaching males in our country that they can ‘make a mistake’ without repercussions. What’s to stop them if there are no consequences?
On a more local level, the CU campus has experienced its own not-so-subtle forms of rape culture. On Thursday, October 18th, 21 girls were allegedly drugged at a house party thrown by the fraternity Sig Pi. While the frat claims they had nothing to do with the wine bags and open bottles full of Xanax, whoever was responsible needs to face the consequences. This isn’t a singular event either, druggings happen often at University Hill, mostly unreported. These boys feel so entitled to sex that they think slipping a pill into someone’s drink (or entire bottles or wine bags) is just another fun Friday night, while women are being taught that it’s their fault and they should be scared.
According to the CU Sexual Misconduct Survey, over a quarter of the female population on campus said they have experienced some form of unwanted sexual misconduct (Sexual Misconduct Survey). However, 92 percent of incidents go unreported primarily for reasons such as not thinking it was serious enough or they blamed themselves (Kuta). The current social and political climate of our nation has strategically glossed over the fact that rape culture is teaching men AND women that sexual assault is okay or normal, and if an event does occur, it’s probably the girl’s fault. The prevalence of sexual assault on the CU campus can be seen through the extremely high survey response rate of 41 percent (approximately 12,000 students) (Kuta). Analyzing the number of students who responded suggests a predominance of sexual assaults on our campus and the lack of reports implies a strong rape culture still looming over CU. Currently, CU is one of 100 higher education institutions under investigation for their inadequacy in dealing with the reported issues (Kuta), which may indicate the small number of actual reported cases.
Acceptance and normalization of sexual assault don’t just come from historical bases but is readily promoted by our own president. As a supporter of Kavanaugh, among other extremely crude comments regarding women, Trump has proved his disrespect for females and his indifference towards creating a safer climate for women in America. Many agree that a world where true equality exists, and rape culture is something of the past would be ideal. However, the road to eradicating rape culture is not clear-cut. One method from a famous TED talk called “We Should All Be Feminists” suggests that it starts with how children are raised (Adichie).
Adichie illustrates that the way a person views that world around them starts with their upbringing. If both genders were taught not to correlate money with masculinity or cooking with femininity, “then…in a hundred years, boys will no longer have the pressure of having to prove this masculinity” (Adichie) and girls would no longer be taught to shrink themselves to accommodate the fragile egos of men manufactures by binary gender restrictions. While Adichie’s solutions are focused on gender quality and not fixing rape culture, the same principle can be applied to the education of youth to eliminate rape culture from society one day. It starts with education from both parents as well as media, mentors, and political figures. The role models in our country must be teaching positive values around eradicating rape culture before any real change can occur.
Because gender prejudice is proving more common in the recent political climate, understanding the effects of rape culture for both genders is crucial in furthering the progress of equality.
Kampf-Lassin, Miles. “Brett Kavanaugh Is Rape Culture Personified.” In These Times, inthesetimes.com/article/21475/brett-kavanaugh-rape-culture-christine-blasey-ford-sexual-assault.
Kelly, Kate. “Back at Georgetown Prep, Kavanaugh Is Hailed as a Hero.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 29 Oct. 2018,
“Summary: Sexual Misconduct Survey.” Student Success, 14 July 2016
Kuta, Sarah. “CU-Boulder Sees 41 Percent Response Rate to Sexual Misconduct Survey.” Boulder Daily Camera, 23 Nov. 2015
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “Transcript of ‘We Should All Be Feminists.’” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading