Rape culture can be defined as an idea in which rape is normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. In many rape cases, the victim has been blamed and looked down upon for the negative things that occurred in the rape. Recently, rape culture has grown on college campuses across the nation. Many assume that the victim of rape will actually be viewed as the culprit and seen in a negative light. According to what I’ve witnessed, this definition of rape culture can be refuted because the alleged rapist sometimes gets the bad reputation in rape cases. On June 23, 2013, an incident occurred on Vanderbilt University’s campus involving football players. Four Vanderbilt football players were accused of raping a woman in a dorm room while she was unconscious. Campus police found out about the incident while viewing video footage of another incident two days after it occurred. The campus police stated that the football players were seen on camera acting suspiciously. This incident is a prime example of how males, especially athletes, can be negatively viewed because of society’s stereotypes. Rape culture definitely exists on college campuses. However, although the definition of rape culture deals specifically with the victim, I feel it is necessary to consider rape culture from the opposite point of view.
If we take into consideration the example of the Vanderbilt rape case, no one knows what happened that night – other than the parties involved. Many assumptions have been made based on what was perceived as suspicious behavior. It is quite possible that the choices made that night could have been mutual. How does mutual sexual interaction become domestic violence in a matter of minutes? According to society’s definition of rape culture, the victim is supposed to be blamed or objectified sexually. There was one moment within this rape case where the victim’s sexual past/history would be considered. However, that information was quickly removed from the table. That immediately negated the idea of rape culture. It also made me think of rape culture from a different perspective.
As a member of the Vanderbilt Football team, I knew some of the accused players. Prior to the rape incident, faculty, staff and the student body had a positive attitude toward the football players. They supported the football Commodores, all the way – no matter what. We were winning and coming off a good season the past year. Following the rape incident, I saw a change in the way people viewed the football players. Those very players who some fans loved to death were now viewed as animals by those same fans. What bothered me most was that it seemed that everyone heard the victim’s side of the story but didn’t consider what my teammates could have gone through. In most cases, the athlete (male) is immediately considered the bad guy. This happens on campuses all over the world. The female is considered the victim and most people gravitate toward her word instead of hearing both sides of the story. Males are viewed as guilty before they even appear before a jury. In my opinion, society jumps to conclusions because of a male’s possible dominance over a woman. There are several factors that can contribute to a rape accusation and these factors should be considered every time someone is accused.
For example, women sometimes make the decision to consume large amounts alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to impaired judgment. The woman can make a decision at that moment to engage in consensual sex, but when the alcohol has worn off she realizes that it may have not been the best decision. On the contrary, after the alcohol wears off she may not even be aware of all of the decisions that she has made and may assume that she was taken advantage of. This assumption immediately puts the male in a bad situation. He is immediately assumed to be the aggressor and guilty of harming the female. Rape culture should have a second portion of the definition in which it highlights the possible negativities that the accused rapist could encounter.
The definition of rape culture is definitely one sided. I believe it is necessary to consider rape cases from both points of view. While society can objectify the victim and blame them, society can also victimize the alleged rapist. Without all facts, the football players were considered guilty. Just as the victim has rights, the accused parties also have rights. My proposed part two definition of rape culture is a culture in which the alleged rapist becomes victimized based on society’s assumptions of gender and sexuality. It is only fair for every angle of a situation to be reflected upon. We cannot view or analyze rape culture without considering both/all parties involved.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is a guard one UCONN’s women’s basketball team. She has recently talked to ESPN because many people are questioning her weight. It all started with an article/blog on http://www.theday.com/sports-columns/20141124/a-delicate-topic-that-cant-be-ignored
Excerpt from article:
“It is for this reason that I believe Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ weight is an appropriate topic in a public forum. I know. Delicate. She’s a kid, not a professional. But, you know, if Charles Barkley was the “round mound of rebound” when he played at Auburn, why is it out of bounds to discuss the importance of whether Mosqueda-Lewis can get in better shape by March and thus fulfill the responsibility she has to her teammates? It’s an uncomfortable discussion, sure. But fair. Besides, aside from injury, Mosqueda-Lewis’ inability to move faster – and by extension, guard anything beyond a chair – is the single biggest obstacle imperiling the 10th championship for the UConn women.” Then in further down in article the author continues to say: “I understand this will offend some folks. I get this is a beyond-the-basketball issue because women are often perceived through how they look and not what they do. I despise the Neanderthals who watch women’s sports to ogle, not appreciate.”
The thing that blows my mind is that this author is questioning Kaleena’s weight and how she looks but then has the nerve to say he deposes the “Neanderthals that perceive women for their looks and not what they do. He’s technically be a hypocrite.
In the video, which is above on the espn website, she responded really well to the criticism she is getting. She states, “she shouldn’t be getting judged on how she looks but how she is playing. She continues to say she is keeping up with her teammates and that the outcome is the most important, If she is helping her teammates and doing her job then nothing should matter”.
This could connect to the article “Sex sells, but what else does it do?”. The article says, “Some people find women’s participation in pornography, both as part of the audience and as part of the production, to be empowering, and argue that is demonstrates the importance of women controlling their own sexuality and others argue that the higher wages exist only because women still have to exploit themselves to make money” (Pappas, 325). So since Kaleena is such a big name in Women’s Basketball do they want her to loose this weight so they can then sexualize her in photos like they do other women athletes? Clearly women in porn is somewhat different then women in sports but they are both being sexualized or judged for their weight or how they look. When is this going to change?
James Dean, the writer of “Straight Men” in the “New Sexual Studies Book” defines heterosexual simply as opposite sex attraction (246). The stigma towards homosexuality is declining and it is becoming more and more common to see men interact with each other in affectionate ways, especially among those on sports teams according to “Science: Straight Athletes Love a Same-Sex Snuggle” by Luke Malone.
Celebrities are good for a few things; they entertain us through music, television, and movies and they serve as icons in fashion and their different actions, but when they make a mistake, it becomes a statement for the rest of society (and for other celebrities who are making the same mistake). When prominent figures act in a way that is unlawful, unjust, or unacceptable, society likes to make an example of them. What comes to mind first, is Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods is one of the greatest golfers of all time and was LOVED by golf fans. However, when one of his mistress’ talked about her relationship with him, his name became worthless. Subsequently, more and more women came out talking about the same relationship that they had with Woods. Tiger Woods became hated by Americans for cheating on his wife and for sleeping with so many women. This sex scandal was all over the news and his family was stalked until he admitted to these allegations. However, in reality, he is probably not the only celebrity that does this. He is just the one that got caught and couldn’t cover it up. Another celebrity that comes to mind that was made of an example for his terrible acts is Bill Cosby. For anyone that doesn’t know, he was a comedian and actor that was loved by Americans for his entire career, until he was recently accused of sexually assaulting many women throughout the years. Cosby committed a terrible crime, but this crime has become a way to bring awareness to the frequentness of sexual assault.
Bill Cosby was accused of raping many women beginning in the 1960s. There are more than fifteen women that have accused Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them, but no charges have been made. Bill Cosby paid one woman that accused him a large sum of money to settle the civil lawsuit against him (this is all according to a Huffington Post article posted in September of 2014). It has been incredibly clear that people are upset with Bill Cosby but more importantly they want him to speak out about these allegations. After polling fans of Bill Cosby, most said they wanted him to “own up to the mistake.” Over these allegations, Cosby has lost deals with NBC and Netflix and also lost countless fans. However, the only good that has come from this resulted in a fifty percent increase in the calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline. The women that have come forth with these allegations about Bill Cosby have empowered other women that have suffered sexual assault to come forth and get help. The importance of making an example out of celebrities’ mistakes helps society realize what is really going on within our communities. Some other celebrities that were accused of sexual assault are; Mike Tyson, R.Kelly, 2Pac, Ceelo Green, Darren Sharper, Lawrence Taylor, Woody Allen, Sean Kingston, Marilyn Manson, and Ben Roethlisberger just to name a few.
Another name that has gotten much media for beating his wife is Ray Rice from the Baltimore Ravens. Ray Rice and his fiance at the time and now wife Janay fought in an elevator and both were taken to jail and charged with simple assault. However a few days later, a video was released of the fight when the couple was on the elevator and Ray Rice was seen dragging his wife’s body out of the elevator. This is what caused Rice to be suspended from two football games. However, what was most shocking was that his coach continued to support him and defend his character. Janay married Ray a few months later even though she was dragged out of an elevator.
This story reminded me of the class session of when we attended the art gallery that hung the pictures of the woman that was abused by her husband at such a young age. After many years of being beat and her children being affected by it, she got the courage and bravery to leave him and take him to court. Learning about this woman’s process has been incredibly eye opening because we learned how difficult the process is to protect your family against a man that has abused you for so many years. She has battled custody rights, restraining orders, and child support and the justice system still questions her. She has been a way for us to learn more about sexual and physical abuse and the role it plays in society. We know that one out of every five women are sexually assaulted on campus, but we do not even know how many woman are abused and do not report it. Celebrities get the backlash of their mistakes because they were once so popular in American’s eyes but we also need to save and help the people that are victims of abuse from your average person. We learned in class that eighty to ninety percent of sexual assaults are perpetuated by acquaintances, so if we know this statistic, how can we make a difference? What changes can we make?
Many rumors have been going around the media about Bruce Jenner transitioning into a woman. Once the world’s best athlete, a label that fits the definition of masculinity perfectly, now transitioning into a female through surgical modification of his masculine features is something nobody would have ever guessed to happen to him.
“Cheered on by a wildly whooping and whistling crowd of 70,000, the United States’ Bruce Jenner grimaced his way across the finish line late last Friday afternoon to claim the one Olympic honor more precious than gold: the title of “the world’s greatest athlete.” (Time.com) Bruce Jenner was, and still is, one of the most well-respected athletes of all time. He won a gold medal and set a world record in the decathlon at the Summer Olympics of 1976. Competing in the decathlon is the ultimate test of strength, agility, and true athleticism, consisting of 10 track and field events. Setting a world record in this at the Summer Olympics defines him as the world’s best athlete, a label that fits perfectly in the definition of “masculinity”.
This idea brings up the overarching question, which we have talked a lot about in class, of what defines “masculinity” and what defines “femininity” and who defines these traits?
Masculine traits tend to include dominance, a lack of showing emotion, being the bread winner of the family, physical strength, independence, and security in himself. Feminine traits, on the other hand, tend to include being weaker than the male (where did this idea come from?), more emotional, physical attractiveness, caring about their physical appearance, and usually working at home and caring for children. The overarching question is this: why are masculinity and femininity defined as stated, and how did it become this way?
Personally, I believe that it started with the primary, biological trait that men are physically stronger than women. God made them this way, and there is nothing females can do about this. But the idea that they are physically dominant over women makes them feel like they should be mentally dominant over them as well. This is where the extreme difference in traits comes from. It comes from the idea that men are the ones going out and bringing home the money for the families, and the women are the ones that stay at home and cook, clean, and take care of the children.
I realize that this video is from TMZ and TMZ is never truly justified, but I believe this video is a great representation of all of the changes Bruce has made to himself to make himself more “feminine”. From the plastic surgery in his face, to his hair, to the shaving of his adams apple (something considered to be a true, masculine feature), to his painted nails, his changes are a great representation of how the world describes femininity.
The overarching question is as stated: how did “masculinity” and “femininity” gain their separate traits? Henceforth, besides the media who defines these traits today?
Sexual Standards in Sports
When watching the Olympics, many spectators are not only in awe of the competition, but they are also in awe of the body composition. Athletes typically put years of hard work into a performance that can last as little as two seconds. Some athletes might appear glamorous, like figure skaters or gymnasts; meanwhile others appear tough and rigid like weightlifters or boxers. Typically in the past no standards have been made and gender has not been questioned, but up until recently things have changed.
Caster Semenya, a track and field Athlete from South Africa is one of the most recent athletes to undergo gender testing. In an article titled “Unruly Bodies” by Sharon Preves from “Introducing the New Sexuality Studies”, Caster Semenya is recognized along with another athlete, Johnny Weir.
Semenya was claimed to be tested because of her tremendous speed, and not because of her low voice and physical build. Until this day it is uncertain whether her career as an athlete was short lived. “The IAAD has yet to rule on whether they consider her ‘female enough’ to continue the tremendously promising career that she only just began.” (Preves 129).
Results from the tests were leaked and the test reported that Semenya had no ovaries or uterus, but she had external features of female genetalia and a testes that wasn’t fully developed. All of these characteristics gave Semenya extra testosterone.
Less than a year later, Weir, a figure skater from the United States, was tested because of his questionably flamboyant attitude. Tested only 6 months apart, this caused major uproar amongst the International Association of Athletics Foundation (IAAF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In solution of multiple meetings and conferences, the IOC decided to create facilities where female athletes can undergo treatment as extensive as surgery in able to be able to compete.
Regarding transgender athletes, October 2014 was the first time that the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) allowed transgender athletes to play, as well as the first time a Division 1 NCAA Transgender athlete opened up. Regarding the AIA, allowing athletes to play is case by case. The article on azcentral.com stated, “We look at the school,” Schmidt said. “Do they support the request? We look at the student. There is a lot of documentation to explore, the gender dysphonia. Are they working with medical professionals? Where are the parents and students themselves? What are their positions? How long have they identified as the opposite sex they were born?” However, not all schools are willing to let transgender athletes participate, so they do look at outside circumstances such as other students as well. More and more schools and recreational sports programs are recognizing transgender athletes today. According to transathlete.com, here are the policies for NCAA sports (via transathlete.com):
“The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which organizes competition in 23 sports at over 1,000 colleges and universities, does not require gender confirming surgery or legal recognition of a player’s transitioned sex in order for transgender players to participate on a team which matches their identity. However, things become a bit more complicated when hormones are used. The recommended NCAA policy requires one year of hormone treatment as a condition prior to competing on a female team. Conversely, athletes assigned female at birth remain eligible to compete in women’s sports unless or until that athlete begins a physical transition using hormones (testosterone).”
The NCAA’s most recently opened up athlete, Kye Allums, who is now 25 years old, played basketball at George Washington University and opened up in 2010. In an interview with Time magazine, he often used the word ‘uncomfortable’ when describing his life as a female. When Kye Allums opened up in 2010, he said he received extensive negative feedback doubting his claim. However, opposing teams’ players supported his decision, and did not let it affect the game, but fans were said to have pointed in surprise of a ’not so shocking’ appearance change. Today, Allums travels nation-wide to talk about his life as a transgender.
According to the NCAA, here are reasons why transgender athletes need to be addressed right now:
-—Estimates are that 1-2% of the population identifies as transgender
—-More young people are identifying as transgender at younger ages
—-In recent years, the NCAA has had at least 40 inquiries from member schools about how to include transgender students on athletic teams
-—Participation in athletics contributes to students’ overall educational experience
-The NCAA is a part of the higher education community and supports a broad commitment to inclusion and equal access
In conclusion, sports alone are a very controversial topic. When questions about gender are involved, the topic becomes very serious. Today, many organizations and strong individuals are making history in the sports world. The NCAA, IAAF, AIA, and IOC are only a few of the many organizations taking risks and making changes. There are many aspects that need to be looked at regarding performance and gender dysphonia.
How would you feel if your sex was questioned based on your athletic performance?
Do you think that transgender athletes should be allowed to play in the NCAA?
How would you feel about locker room showers in schools?
How do you think this will change the way gay men and women appear in sports today?