The Sexism Behind Rape Culture

Wikipedia describes rape culture as: "... a culture in which rape and other sexual violence (usually against women and gender diverse peoples) are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence." Rape culture is something that affects every woman, and is typically a term that suggests the normalisation of rape and sexual assault in our society. Rape is terrifying, degrading and is causing many women and girls to limit their behaviour. 

There’s a chance you’ve heard some of the following phrases, or something similar, used to justify the rape of a woman: “She asked for it...,” “Boys will be boys...” “If she dresses like a s**t she’ll get treated like one.” In our society, too often rape victims are forced to bear the burden of their attacks on their own due to victim-blaming. Statistics show that over 90% of rape victims are women and 98-9% of rapists are men, yet women are the ones responsible for preventing rape. For example, having to take self-defence classes, dressing in such a way that does not appear ‘too provocative,’ feeling the need to guard your drink on a night out for fear that it might be spiked. Unfortunately, in many cases, female victims are humiliated, blamed, and labelled ‘loose,’ particularly in university/college settings. In these settings, young women who speak out about their attacks are often ostracised by their peers, and the feeling of shame and embarrassment can be more stressful than the rape itself.

While women are being told that their behaviour/way of dressing should be limited in order to avoid being raped, rape culture suggests that sexual assaults by men are being trivialised, i.e. ‘boys will be boys.’ Another issue that contributes to the sexism behind rape is the fact that manhood is generally stereotyped as sexually-aggressive and dominant, while womanhood is sexually-passive and submissive. Therefore, this enforcement of compulsory heterosexuality assists in validating the rapists’ actions and suggests that perhaps women ‘owe’ sex to men.

As a society, there are small steps we can take in order to combat rape culture:

·  Rape jokes are insensitive and are contributing to the normalisation of sexual assault and sexism against women. If you hear someone making an offensive joke about rape or trivialising it, then you have every right to speak out!

·  If a friend/family member has been raped it is important to be supportive and take them seriously.

·  Do not feel hindered or limited by gender stereotypes. Rape culture can cause women to feel defined by societal ideals and standards of gender. You should feel free to express yourself.

·  Start to think critically about the messages delivered by the media about gender, sex, promiscuity, relationships, and violence.

·  Make sure that you are communicating effectively with your sexual partners in order to ensure that all sexual activity is consented.


Rape is a difficult and sensitive subject, and if you or someone you know needs support in dealing with this then visit or call 0808 802 9999. 


Edited by Georgina Varley