Do We Live In A Rape Culture?

Normally, I’m not big on low-budget documentaries. But this new video called “Our Hidden Culture” really got me thinking. It argues that we in the United States live in a “rape culture”—where unwanted sexual attention is constantly lavished on women (hello, cat callers), where sexual violence is constantly portrayed in music and on film (that’s you, Eminem), and where women are always expected to be sexual creatures (thanks, Victoria’s Secret). When these behaviors are accepted as the norm, of course we see sexual harassment, verbal abuse, discrimination and, yes, rape. The idea here is that sexual violence is as much of a social problem as a personal one. These little things become so commonplace that we may not even notice them, but it’s these very attitudes that lead to violence. My mind was kind of blown by this video. Not because the concept is new, but because it is an accessible way for our society—men, women, children and teens—to begin to unpack the complex issue of sexual violence and take ownership for the alarming frequency with which it is happening. It’s impossible to understand the phenomenon without understanding the context in which it occurs.

So here I am feeling really enlightened. And then I check out Double X, normally one of my favorite sites. But this time I saw an essay by writer Meredith Simons about this vid that seemed to miss the point completely. She says she’s “surprised by the assertion that we live in a rape culture.” She goes on to say: “My own experience suggests that we live in an anything-but-rape culture, where some men are more likely to fret about their flirtatiousness being perceived as harassment than they are to actually flirt. But are these the impressions of a sheltered young woman from the South, the product of a specific social milieu that most women wouldn’t recognize?” [Double X]

I gotta wonder—what planet has she been living on? Because I think it’s hard to go 10 minutes without seeing one of the aforementioned little things. Not to mention that it’s impossible to go through your life in this country and not have sexual violence hit too close to home—be it personally or though a friend, family member, or co-worker. Of course Meredith is entitled to her own opinions and life experiences, but isn’t her ignorance exactly the kind of thinking that video is trying to fight against?

So watch the video above and let me know who you think is right. Do you think we live in a “rape culture”? Or is this concept crazy?