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Rape Culture Exists

Trust me, Kyle does see your responses./ Michael Chmielewski
Trust me, Kyle does see your responses./ Michael Chmielewski

People get angry at Kyle Leitch

Author: Neil Middlemiss

The Carillon recently published an article written by production manager Kyle Leitch (Vol. 57, Issue 3 (September 4), p. 16) calling for the end to using the term “rape culture.” The conclusion itself, dubious as it is, was not the only problem.

After giving a brief history of the coinage of the term “rape culture,” Kyle asks that one call someone out as a rapist rather than critiquing them for participating in rape culture. This is a misleading request. First, many people will gladly call a rapist a rapist. Rightly or wrongly, many people have no qualms about hurting the feelings of someone who has raped another human being. Second, is it possible to contribute to rape culture without raping someone? I think so, and I think this is precisely what Kyle’s friend seems to be claiming of Robin Thicke

Now Kyle introduces the weakest part of his argument: the false premise that any culture is valuable; that attaching the word ‘culture’ on to any other word eliminates negative connotations. This is a ludicrous assumption that extraordinarily few people will grant. How could he, in a serious tone, honestly suggest the prospect of a rape pavilion at Mosaic?

Building from this absurdity, he then takes an essentially Harperian point: all incidents are particular and there are no relevant sociological facts. Yet, this is even more ridiculous. Why must we assert that these are the actions of individual rapists when we see an ongoing pattern beyond particular individuals? Kyle himself seems to acknowledge that rape is “prevalent and, unfortunately, relatively normalized.” Relative to what, we’re not sure, but it is hard to understand how Kyle both accepts this point and denies the validity of the term “rape culture.”

Lastly, I ask: is he upset with the academics that use the term or with the Millenials and Gen Y’ers that use it? By the end of the article, you might think that his concern is with the term “rape culture” in general, but it begins with what appears to be a criticism of the usage of one particular group. Why get into the whole “value of culture” nonsense if this is a matter of misuse? If the academics can use “rape culture” correctly, why can’t we simply issue a corrective to Millenials that does not involve abandoning the term altogether?

The general effect is to diminish what I take to be a real problem worthy of the name given it. I don’t take much pleasure in issuing such an emphatic rebuttal of a fellow student of whom I know practically nothing. Yet, my motives are clear, given a final sobering thought: Kyle notes that there seems to be a recent resurgence of rape culture. What if it is not the underlying behaviours that have changed, but only the long-needed recognition of them? Imagine in such a case how tragically overdue the use of this term might be and, conversely, how dangerous it would be to expunge it from our vocabulary now on such dubious grounds.

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