SexEd: The Culture We Live In

We are programmed from the first time we look in the mirror that our looks will either be the tool we must rely on, work in spite of or be our downfall. We are told by the time we get to middle school that our bodies are a weapon, a distraction, an object whose use is limited to the opinions of what others want to do to it or with it. We are then convinced by the time we reach “proper” age that our consent is nothing but a guideline and sometimes not even that.

            This is because, despite all the work of those set to empower others into feminism, we still live in a patriarchy that reminds us on a daily basis that we have yet to achieve true equality. This means so much more than equal pay or being able to walk down the street without a catcall. The patriarchal world we live in perpetuates rape culture at all levels of the age spectrum.  

            Yeah. That’s a lot of big words and a lot of upsetting assumption packed into one paragraph. And it’s not like we haven’t all heard it before. But what does “perpetuating rape culture” really mean? In addition to that, how can it be spotted and in some ways, reversed and corrected?

            Like many things, it starts with words formed from an idea, even a fleeting idea. It starts with the fact that people actually believe rape jokes to be funny. Now we all have different backgrounds, we come from different religions and social classes and a whole list of other things. No background or belief justifies making satire of someone being sexually violated.

            Yet it isn’t just our friends of friends commenting on this culture. It’s the media as well and I’m not just talking about magazines and commercials. The fact that some of the most popular shows for our generation feature rape as an entertainment tactic is helping build up the idea that this is normalized and isn’t a big deal because it’s just a part of life. Which is absolutely despicable on the part of writers, producers, directors and all others involved.

            Its even infiltrated classrooms and work environments. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, it comes to reason that the women are at fault. In middle school I had a classmate who was quite well endowed in the bust area. I also had friends who were not. Back then it was all about the V-neck in the sixth and seventh grade, so we were all wearing them. One day my classmate was talked to about how inappropriate her state of dress was. She was wearing what we were all wearing but because the shape of her body had a little more curve than most, she was made to feel embarrassed and penalized. As middle school girls we were often reminded to be careful how we dressed so we weren’t a distraction to the boys around us.

            Looking back this was our first lesson to living in this culture. Cover up because the people around you won’t be able to control themselves. They won’t be able to handle themselves. It’s your job to protect your body so others don’t disrespect it. This lesson was the preparation for our future. For being told that others have permission to take what isn’t there’s because they just couldn’t help themselves. It is this lesson our daughters will continue to grow up with because the way the world is going, rape culture isn’t just in magazines or the workplace. It’s everywhere, being encouraged by certain political leaders, acted upon by far too many and fought against by far too few.

            That is until you make the simple choice. To speak up when someone makes a rape joke. To speak out when the media encourages this culture. And to act against those childhood lessons that perpetuated rape culture in the first place.

 

            Speak up. Speak out. Speak now.