Rape culture is “the culture in which rape and sexual violence against women are common and in which prevalent attitudes,norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or tolerate sexual violence against women.”

Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming and sexual objectification. (I snagged that from Wikipedia– thanks wikipedia!) This ties into slut shaming because often, when a woman is raped, people will often say things like “well she shouldn’t have dressed like a slut,” or “well maybe she shouldn’t have gotten so drunk,” or “well she shouldn’t have been walking where she was.” Blaming the victim doesn’t get us anywhere. We’re a culture that teaches “don’t get raped,” instead of “don’t rape.” It doesn’t matter your gender, if you are raped or sexually assaulted, it is NEVER your fault. It’s actually considered rape if you have any kind of sex while under the influence, by the way. The law assumes that since you are under the influence, you aren’t able to fully, willingly give consent. Also, if you are originally willing to have sex and then withdraw consent, it’s still rape. Once “No” is said, it instantly becomes rape. 

But it’s found in more than just our attitudes. One of the communications classes at my college did a presentation on rape culture and included songs such as “E.T.” by Katy Perry (citing Kanye’s rap section) and even “The Bed Intruder Song.” I’ll be the first to admit that I love both of those songs, so I was pretty shocked when they used both of those songs as examples. I remember one of my friends was shocked when she realized that “In My Head” by Jason Derulo has a line where he says “In my head, you’ll be screaming NO.” “He’s singing about rape! I can’t listen to that song the same way anymore!” she exclaimed to me, and after I gave the song a listen I realized that she was right.

Rape culture does have yet another prevalence though, in how we teach girls to find their self worth. If you’re a girl who rocks cropped tops and short shorts because you’re confident in them, that’s awesome. If you’re a girl who rocks high heels and red lips because you’re confident, that’s great! But if you’re dressing to attract a partner and cover up an insecurity, the insecurity needs to be addressed, not covered up. We’ve been taught that we should be wanted by men, but the reality is that we have a lot more to live for than finding a guy. A lot of the girls who I grew up with started having sex and dressing the way they would because they were insecure and wanted to stop the insecurity, but instead of becoming empowered they just became more insecure. Interestingly enough, we glamorize and shame “the slut lifestyle” simultaneously. We teach girls that if they can get the attention of every man in a 5-mile radius by dressing and acting a certain way, they’re sexy, but when they do it they are then called sluts and mocked. Look, you don’t need to wear the most revealing clothes or have sex with a bunch of guys to be great.

This leads me to slut shaming.

First off, you might be wondering what exactly “slut shaming” is. Slut-shaming is calling a woman a slut, whore, or some other derogatory term referring to her sexuality. Often it is because a) the woman in question is not dressed how we want them to be– their lips are too red, they’re wearing too much glitter, their skirt is too short, or maybe their heels are too high (or it could be a combination); or b) because they’re independent, they like casual sex, or maybe their humor isn’t necessarily PG-13. This all stems from our society’s skewed, narrow view about women’s sexuality.  If a girl likes sex, that doesn’t mean she’s going to be STD riddled (but we really ought to stop stigmatizing STD’s and just treat them/find a cure for them and prevent them as much as possible) and totally reckless. I was watching the Jerry Springer show with my dad the other day (quality television, I know) and one man was on who said it wasn’t an issue that he cheated on his girl, but if his girl cheated on him she’d be a slut and that’s different. People even publish articles on how to be sexy but not slutty, which just pushes the idea along that women can be sluts. But let’s face it, fellas there isn’t something that hits nearly as hard as calling a girl a slut or a whore. We can call you a man-whore but that’s not nearly as offensive as we have made calling a girl a slut be.

So what?

Well, honestly, there’s absolutely no reason we should be ripping on other girls because of our perceived notions of their sexuality. You like sex? Great! Practice safe sex and it’s all good. You don’t like sex? Great, don’t have it! But don’t judge other people who do. And that goes for the girls who like sex too, just because you like it doesn’t mean that you have to hate on girls who don’t have sex by calling them prudes. Words like slut, tease, and prude are just words that are meant to stifle women and place them in a lower-class status. Ladies, when we call another girl a slut or a whore, WE’RE becoming our own worst enemies.

I realized that slut-shaming runs rampant in high schools, when yesterday I heard one girl call another girl a whore (behind her back) because the “whore” dated her older brother. Really? I remember girls being called sluts as young as 5th grade, when most girls haven’t even hit puberty yet or are just starting. Honestly? This is an idea we’ve been shoving down children’s throats, and it’s something that EVERYONE needs to stop. You may not agree with how a girl dresses, or how a girl acts, but be straight up and say “I don’t think she dresses appropriately” or “I don’t think her actions fit the situation,” instead of jumping to conclusions and judging someone’s presumed preferences when they’re simply that, preferences. If someone’s having an affair, you disapprove of their actions given the situation. It doesn’t make them a slut or a whore. I’m not saying cheating is good, I think it’s awful. But it’s not the issue that they’re HAVING sex, it’s WHO they’re having sex with. That’s just being irresponsible and rude (to put it mildly).

As of late, slut-shaming is becoming a more public issue, and a variety of places across the United States (I can’t speak to an international level) are now hosting “slut walks,” where women (and men!) march in protest to slut-shaming and the culture that comes along with it, especially the idea that rape is the victim’s fault. This stemmed from a Toronto police officer’s comment that “If you don’t want to get raped, don’t dress like a slut.”

So what’s my point?

We need to be more respectful of everyone’s sex preferences. It doesn’t matter if someone is having sex or not, or how frequently they have sex. Instead of stigmatizing sex, we should be accepting and make sure we’re responsible about it, by using appropriate protection and having open communication with partners so that other problems don’t come up. We need to stop teaching women that being wanted by men will make their lives better. And most importantly, stop judging and assuming about people! It doesn’t do anyone any bit of good. 

So what are your thoughts on slut shaming and rape culture? Did you know about both issues? Have you heard or seen examples of rape culture? What do you think should be done about it?