Our Culture Is Rape Culture, and We Have to Confront It

Written by Erin Gistaro

The U.S. was founded as a rape culture. But we’re not supposed to talk about that.

This land has been used for the predation of women since men first stepped off ships in 1492 and immediately began raping indigenous women. Indigenous women still suffer some of the highest rates of rape and sexual assault in the United States. White men literally go onto reservations to hunt women because they know our country’s laws allow them to do so with impunity. But we don’t talk about that at our Thanksgiving dinner tables.

In America’s attempt to white-wash our history of enslaving black bodies we often conveniently forget to talk about the prevalence of sexual slavery—that black women were bought and sold to be raped and tortured, to be forced to bear children and then see those children ripped away. But we don’t talk about that when we’re looking at statues in town squares.

Marital rape wasn’t a crime in all 50 states until 1993 because married women did not legally have authority over their own bodies. The Bible, like in the case of all state-sanctioned rape of women—including mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds—was used to defend that statute. Yet in almost every state grown men still can, and do, marry 14-year-old girls—because if you’re married, statutory rape laws don’t apply. But we don’t talk about that when we’re glorifying brides and marriage.

One in five girls and one in 20 boys are sexually abused in the United States. Rates of child sexual abuse in the U.S. have always been exceptionally high through three centuries, and yet all we tell them is to be afraid of strangers and be ashamed of their bodies. We know that almost all children who suffer abuse are victimized by someone they trust—someone who has access to them at home or at school, someone who makes them feel good. But we don’t talk to children about that.

The President has been accused of raping, assaulting and abusing women for decades. He used his money and influence to prey on people who didn’t have as much power as him and boasted about it. America still elected him because being a sexual predator is not considered a disqualifier from leadership. But we don’t talk about that when we go to the voting booths.

Our rape culture isn’t a new thing. The landslide of stories emerging from celebrities and civilians alike aren’t proof of a new phenomena, but of an old epidemic. Powerful men in the U.S. have long harassed and assaulted women at their will, and with little consequence.

Rape is as American as apple pie, as American as stealing land from Indigenous people, as American as slavery, as American as subhuman standards for women, as American as child abuse. Rape is as American as the President.

This post originally appeared on Ms. Magazine

Photo Credit: VeryBusyPeople/Flickr

89 comments

Deborah W
Deborah W4 hours ago

RAPE CULTURE IS NOT A NEW PHENOMENA, been there in varying forms from our beginnings. While awareness is being voiced, finally, alone it does nothing. Back to the root problems, now so advanced as to be forgotten ... responsibility, accountability, actions with their following choice consequences, what's accepted as normal but isn't. Black and white, male and female must, and in many cases already do, band TOGETHER rather than DIVIDING over smaller group-herd fodder-spew spun daily. On this day especially, let's revisit our own personal "mana". As Jung said ... the unconscious influence of one being on another. Ownership is owned and we can all do more, no matter small or large, it all counts.

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Anette S
Anette S10 days ago

*(animals, male and female humans)

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Anette S
Anette S10 days ago

We must start at the root - that is, children must be educated in the way that they know what is fun/okay and where the threat begins. This applies not only to the subject of rape, but to violence against others (animal, male and female) in general.

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Anette S
Anette S10 days ago

As long as (especially mothers) do not clearly teach their children what it means to be raped and tell/show where the 'borders' are in consensual sex, little or nothing will change.

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Rebecca C

Good read

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Joan E
Joan E11 days ago

It looks like women are standing up to abusers, and the abusers are losing their jobs. It's turned from a trickle into a torrent.

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Karen H
Karen H11 days ago

I continually ask my misrepresentatives what they're doing about rape culture, and what they're doing to help victims (instead of denying them health care). They dance artfully around the subject and never really answer. So I keep emailing and calling. And I will continue to do so until they DO something.

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Deborah W
Deborah W13 days ago

NO SHIT, YA THINK. Protests, while allowing awareness, alone don't cut it. Back to the root problems, now so advanced as to be forgotten ... responsibility, accountability, actions with their following choice consequences, what's accepted as normal but isn't. Black and white, male and female must, and in many cases already do, band TOGETHER rather than split over smaller group-herd fodder-spew spun daily. Much more will be needed to reverse this deadly trend ...

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Anne F
Anne F13 days ago

time to keep pushing to learn who is abusing power and demanding sex --

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Karen H
Karen H15 days ago

Our male lawmakers seem to feel that rape is no big deal. To them, rape is simply sex. "Legitimate rape" is when a stranger drags a woman into an alley, beats her senseless and then rapes her. Then her body shuts down so she can't become pregnant. Until they realize that ANYONE can be a rapist (male, female, someone known to the victim, whatever), we won't have any helpful legislation.

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