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.