An important concept to understand when thinking about rape is the idea that in a society which structurally supports male supremacy (which our society does in a number of important ways), there is the development of a self-perception in individuals in relation to perceived normalcy (being male), for men this means living up to the dominant masculinity ideals, for women this means playing their role in relation to men or emulating and reinforcing masculinity paradigms and thus the societal structure as a whole. In other words, patriarchal values are often internalized in an attempt to fit in.
The point is that in this sense, men are “normal” and women are “deviant”.
Through this culture, young men become especially, and increasingly alienated from the diversity and breadth of real feminine sexual desires and needs. This is done through the construction of a model of the woman as subordinate, the sexual objectification of the woman. Sex becomes conceptually impersonal to the young man. It becomes seen as something enacted upon another, rather than with another. This is the reification of a socially constructed rape culture.
To state it again another way, when the dominant culture within a society is supportive of a group of people being accepted as ‘inferior’ to another group, it allows the supposedly ‘superior’ group to develop abstract mental models of the misunderstood other group. In a patriarchal society this can lead to misogyny.
Societal framing of men as normal and women as deviant enables violent and hateful acts by the dehumanization of the victim in the eyes of the perpetrator.
The media presents a small selection of pre-packaged norm models for young women to emulate. They are not as diverse, interesting, or self-reliant as the plethora of options available to young men deciding how to behave (which I also believe is extremely limiting) and the majority of them are based off of the female relationship to males itself, or encouraging the female to adopt negative masculinity traits. Obviously the media isn’t the only thing guiding the development of young people, but it is important because of its format. It is because the media presents normalcy from an external perspective, showing others interacting socially that it is so powerful.
It creates a mental blueprint for behavior when out in the world that may conflict with the internal character development of the individual in the family home. It is also important considering the ever increasing role that it plays in value development and socialization, considering the sheer amount of time that many children and teenagers spend exploring the internet and watching television.
People know that rape is “not okay”. It is one of the most stigmatized crimes in our society. Yet, many people do not seem to fully comprehend the gravity of rape as a real, tangible act and it’s consequences. It is not often talked about from a human perspective, in a compassionate and empathy evoking manner. Rather, rape cases are often reduced to a blur of legalese and easily interpreted (and misinterpreted) information like the superficial details of the crime and the punishment. Victim blaming is a common occurrence and social media has made this all the worse. Victims remain dehumanized in the public eye.
In a world where women are presented to young men through media primarily, if not solely as sexual objects, sexual assault will be a huge problem. There is a cultivated perception of women as subhuman mediums through which sexual pleasure is derived. This needs to be addressed. At the very least, women’s ownership of their own bodies needs to be something clearly communicated, and consciously socialized into young men. It may sound ridiculous, but simply from observing the reality of what happens in our society it is clearly not. It is blatantly obvious that this is because Young men need now, more than ever, to be taught to view media and “normal” behavior through a critical lens.
Prescribed male sexual behaviour is often dominating and aggressive. Again -it is presented as an individual’s act upon another, not with another- this denies the reality of sex itself, being only possible as an interpersonal act. It is a relational, fundamentally social act and to not be perceived as such is delusional. Many of the encouraged male behaviour paradigms have not only misogynistic, but also generally sociopathic elements as we talked about somewhat in the last article. This happens culturally through many outlets: through misogynistic pornography, advertisements, pop music, magazines, etc… and is then reinforced socially in male social groups and sports teams. It creates a powerful cultural male/female division, positing ‘male’ and ‘male’ behaviour types as superior and normal, couple this with the cultural effects of a society that celebrates individualism, narcissism, and often defines a male as “strong” by his lack of emotional attachment to other human beings and we have a deadly cocktail.