What is rape culture?

Chapter 2.12 was a campaigned launched at The university currently known as Rhodes (UCKAR) 3 weeks ago. The campaign drew awareness the perpetuation to rape and rape culture on the campus. A series of posters were put up outside the universities main library. Printed on them were anonymous quotes from survivors of rape and sexual assault about how the university dealt with cases of rape and sexual violence. University management addressed these horror stores by removing the posters during the week and continuing “business as usual”.

In the weeks to follow went against this business as usual, a culture that has and had been bubbling under at UCKAR boiled over and its students decided to address rape culture on the campus. #RuReferenceList

What is rape culture? How does it affect you and are you aware of it?

I know what rape it, but what is rape culture?

Have you ever described a difficult test as having raped you?

Have you ever thought she was asking for it because her skirt was short?

Have you ever cat called?

Have you ever slut shamed?

If you have you have perpetuated rape culture.

Rape culture is a term that first appeared in feminist circles in the 1970’s. The term was used to describe how society blamed survivors of rape, sexual and gender violence for the crimes committed on their bodies and normalized.

Many feminists since have provided definitions of what rape culture is and how it plays out every day life. Emilie Buchwald, author of Transforming a Rape Culture, defines rape culture as “a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself”.

It’s becomes easy to see how this culture plays out in popular culture. It has creeped into our jokes, movies, music, social media, advertising and  TV


By being so normalized into our everyday interactions  a space where violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable and normalized.  Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are.”

Within the south African scheme, 1 in 27 cases of rape are reported. These figures are under reported. Rape is just one of those under reported crimes. It is attached to stigma and coupled with patriarchy, poverty , historical social and gender inequality, makes addressing rape culture more difficult.

Way forward

The most obvious way is recognize the seriousness of rape and stop perpetuating the undermining of it.

As a society we need to relearn what we know about rape and through campaigns like chapter 2.12 and the #rurefrencelist protest, this can be achieved.



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