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Confront the reality of rape culture

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Article: Sonia Stanger – Contributor

By now, you’ve probably heard about the pro-rape chants that took place during frosh events at not one, but two Canadian universities this month. While many media outlets made the disappointing decision to report on these disgusting displays as “sex chants,” some, including the Carillon, rightfully indicated that this is a prime example of the fact that we live in a rape culture. Rape culture refers to a culture where sexual violence is normalized. But, rape culture is not just a theory for Canadian women; it’s a reality.

Last week, as I was walking down the hall, a male student asked whether I could point him towards the library. I was headed that way, so I said I would show him. He proceeded to tell me that I looked “great” that day. I thanked him. He touched my arm and told me how smart I was. I was uncomfortable, so I moved away, but thanked him again, trying to change the subject. He planted his hand on my shoulder, again invading my personal space, and turned the conversation back to my appearance. By this time, alarm bells were going off, but we had reached my class. I began to explain to him that the library was just up ahead when he grabbed my hand and kissed it, holding it tightly in his own. I wrenched my hand away, pointed to a sign for the library, and fled, feeling violated and embarrassed.

Later, I told a friend what had happened, unsure whether to laugh it off or feel righteous anger. The next day I received a text from her telling me that the exact same thing had happened to her sister, who also felt deeply violated. I can’t stop thinking about how this has happened to basically every woman I know. I can’t stop thinking about how we are made to feel like these occurrences are trivial, and harmless.

It’s no coincidence that Blurred Lines is the hit of the summer and that the rape chants happened and that one in four Canadian women will be sexually assaulted in her life. These are all cogs in the machine of rape culture. Rape culture is not just present when non-consensual sex occurs, but in every piece of our culture that normalizes and trivializes that lack of consent. It was present when the only action taken against the leaders of the rape chant at SMU was mandatory sensitivity training, and when a journalist lamented how those leaders’ careers will be impacted. Rape culture was present when that male student felt entitled to comment on my appearance and invade my personal space, and it was present when I was the one to feel ashamed for it. And rape culture is reinforced every time we treat something like this as an isolated incident.

That is why it’s not enough to simply pat ourselves on the back and repeat to ourselves that “this doesn’t happen here.” Two weeks ago, a woman was sexually assaulted near the University of Saskatchewan campus. It does happen here, and it is up to every single person to examine our culture under a microscope to see how we can stop it from happening, and how we can dismantle rape culture.

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One comment

  1. Well said. Thank you for sharing and calling this out. At first I was annoyed when I started noticing how pervasive rape culture is and how that awareness was getting in the way of me mindlessly enjoying whatever I was watching or listening too, but now I’m just angry. Angry that we live in a world where it permeates everything and angry that it infringes on a person’s right to feel comfortable and safe.