There has probably never been a more relevant time than right now to teach young people the truth about rape culture. It is all around us. It has become such a regular, “don’t think twice about it” part of our society, that it takes major news stories like the one we are seeing about Harvey Weinstein to shock us. We know that Hollywood is full of insecure dirtbags that use their position, power, and money to get what and whom they want. But that fact should not make it any less appalling when these stories come to light. We are experiencing the normalization of rape culture on levels that reach us in our everyday lives. It’s not just the men at the top of the food chain that are the culprits of such vile behaviors towards others. Indeed, the notion of sexually violating another just because one wants to is at play in the workplace, in public areas, and unfortunately, in schools where our children spend most of their days.
Rape culture is the thing that makes young members of a high school football team engage in hazing “activities” that involve attempted aggravated rape. What can we really expect though when boys know that the leader of the free world is a man who calls women “nasty” and “grabs them by the pussy?” In Grundy County, TN, five students from Grundy County High School are being charged with violating a fellow football player as a joke. As the story goes, members of the football team met for a workout session around 5 a.m. on Wednesday, October 11, 2017, after which the victim, a freshmen teammate, was thrown to the ground, held down and assaulted with a dust mop metal handle. The 15-year-old man now has a deep wound to deal with because other young men thought using a mop handle in a sexual way on him, against his will, was totally acceptable behavior for “hazing” purposes.
This is the kind of thing that happens when the lines of what constitutes sexual violence are skewed. The words rape, assault, and other triggering terms are thrown around so freely that it desensitizes us to the real effects of what they mean. There is no way in hell that those boys, ranging in ages 14 to 17, should have thought it funny or entertaining to sexually assault their fellow teammate. But that is what happens when social media-fueled news and entertainment showing men threatening to rape someone as a punch line invades every part of our lives.
The Harvey Weinstein story is huge. Woman after woman has come forward with their stories. Some are tales of harassment; others are accounts of nonconsensual sex. Hollywood is a breeding ground for rape culture and the sick men leading the studios and production companies have let their deplorable sexual fantasies infiltrate projects, which have, in turn, conditioned the minds of young men and boys to believe that violating someone sexually, against their will, is not a big deal. In fact, far too many believe it to be a game of wills when in actuality it’s a horrible crime.
There is an ever-present need to combat the images and assumptions that encourage and allow sexual violence in our society. Women and children are the main victims of these crimes, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t happen to men as well. Regardless of gender, if a person is violated sexually, they are victims of the debilitating rape culture that has become commonplace. Whether you are the leader of a hit-making production house or the members of a down country football team, sexual violence and misconduct should have repercussions. Weinstein is getting his because it is so public and his victims continue to grow in numbers. Those young men who sexually assaulted their teammate also need to be punished. Without any real implications for their “sins” perpetrators of rape culture behaviors will continue to grow, and their actions will become a living, breathing, thriving part of our fabric as a people.
When it comes down to it, it is up to everyone to teach young men that they are not superior beings who can just do whatever they want to whomever they want. Men and women must have the foresight to know and understand the importance of doing so. In the same way, we have to hold accountable the grown men who commit such atrocities. For far too long, there were actors who heard about Weinstein and did nothing. A lot of them are coming forward now to apologize for not being more aware. But that is not enough. Men have to call out other men without regard to how it will look or whether or not it will jeopardize their status because that’s a prime way to stop it altogether. Well, that and actually bringing these bad men to justice.
Rape culture should not be a thing in a country like America, one of the most advanced societies in the history of the world. We need to reorder our priorities to ensure that this damaging phenomenon dies sooner than later.