As much as rape culture is an uncomfortable topic to discuss, especially among teenagers, imagine what it must be like for the actual victim. But, it’s absolutely important that we do so. The statistics can’t be tossed aside and ignored, but they can be taught: Ages 12-34 are the highest risk years for rape and sexual assault. One out of ten men, and one out of six women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, and in America alone, a woman is raped every 2 minutes.
“Rape culture,” by definition, includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, laws, words and imagery, that make violence against men and women, and sexual coercion seem normalized or even trivialized. Rather than viewing the problem as something to change, people think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are,” or even as the victims fault.
Teenagers are an influential generation, and are next in line to have a direct impact on society. Educating them on what is and what is not okay, even just to joke about, is crucial for a more informed generation.
Derogatory language is perhaps what keeps rape culture alive more than anything else, and everyone is familiar with at least a few of these words; words meant to point out someone who is considered weak, or someone who doesn’t participate, or someone who isn’t as strong. Many of these words are incredibly derogatory towards both women and men, and are used as a form of belittlement. This offensive dialogue often occurs between men, and some don’t realize that what they’re saying is offensive, but merely a form of habit. This, however, is not a justifiable excuse.
Most teenagers are familiar with these words. Some of them have already picked up the lousy habit of using them in everyday conversation through cat calling, verbal threats or jokes of rape, and verbal slurs related to gender. An effective maneuver for showing teens why the word they use is wrong is by creating a bulletin board and posting the word(s) up with a marker in big capital letters, and what the word means on a separate paper under it. Let them study both the word and the intent behind the word for a moment. It is possible, with a basic understanding, they may realize how offensive that word actually is, even as a “joke.”
There are significant gender gaps in competitive extracurriculars, especially sports. Between men and women, there are 1.5 million fewer women than men who participate in sports at least once a month. But this isn’t a male versus female issue; it’s a stigma associated around men and the toxic masculinity that is often promoted with men in sports. For example, in professional sports, fans often backup athletes who are charged with rape by calling their victims “career-destroyers.”
Participation in afterschool sports is how many teens spend their off hours. Ensuring equality and fair opportunity, the spotlight has illuminated more women participating in sports, more women working in sports at every level, and driving commercial media coverage of women participating in sports. The claim that women can’t perform at the same level of men due to size, intelligence, and passiveness contributes largely to rape culture, and has proven false.
Directing the Focus
Many schools implement a sort of sexual assault prevention education program that focuses on teaching teens early on in highschool rather than waiting until college, where many cases prove it to be too late for both the attacker and the victim. Many schools have considered putting the onus on a single gender (teaching women self defence), but later recognized it as a kind of victim blaming.
It is crucial either as a parent or as a mentor to educate young adults on the prevalence of rape culture; why it’s important, who it affects, and the consequences involved. Show them examples of the rape culture plaguing the media, the workforce, and religion. Teach them how rape culture has permeated our society at individual, one-on-one levels, as well as in institutionalized, structured ways. Taking the necessary steps to educate teenagers on the horrors of rape culture may contribute to less attackers, and fewer victims.