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Sexual Violence and Our Rape Culture

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Rape Culture has yet to be dealt with by society in an active way. In some ways, society actually perpetuates rape culture by maintaining the cycle of victim blaming, sexual objectification, and elected ignorance. When I say elected ignorance, I’m referring to society’s tendency to turn a blind eye to some forms of sexual violence, like domestic abuse, because it is considered to be outside of the public sphere. When sexual violence occurs in the private sphere but somehow leaks into the public sphere, social institutions as well as the victims of the crime will often try to conceal the offense for fear of scrutiny and penalties. The perpetuation of rape culture and the social construction of sexual violence are significantly influenced by society’s conceptualization of the public and the private sphere.
As is explored in this week’s readings, the public and the private sphere are divided in terms of “gendered and sexualised notions of both spaces and places” which facilitates the normalization of certain forms of violence (Richardson and May 326). By this, Richardson and May are referring to the fact that masculinity, objectivity, and the non-sexual are associated with the public sphere, while femininity and “the sexual” were and still are associated with the private sphere .To clarify this further, whatever happened in the home, stayed in the home even if it included rape.
In Sheffield’s essay, she says “rape was originally a violation of a father’s or husband’s property rights; consequently, a husband by definition could not rape his wife. Wife beating was condoned by the law and still is condemned in name only” (Sheffield 412). This is but one heinous act in the private sphere that society has turned a blind eye to in the past because we think we have no jurisdiction in the private sphere. It is also possible that our male-dominated society chooses to be ignorant of it because it fulfills the unconscious desire to “maintain the patriarchal definition of woman’s place” (Sheffield 409). As a result, a community norm is created against public intervention in private affairs.
This is illustrated in Patricia Martin and Robert Hummer’s essay “Fraternities and Rape on Campus”. “The ability to use alcohol without scrutiny by authorities and alcohol’s frequent association with violence, including sexual coercion, facilitates rape in fraternity houses” (Martin and Hummer 477). Fraternities are free from public interference just like the home in the private realm. This is extremely detrimental to the welfare of our society because its continuation will only lead to America’s moral downfall. Although society has begun to acknowledge the injustice in this system, more changes must be instituted in order to end the cycle of victim blaming, sexual objectification, and elected ignorance.
Our conceptualization of the private and the public sphere, in which we associate each realm with certain values, is harmful to people as individuals as well as society as a whole. This is due to the fact that it creates social hierarchies, leading to the marginalization of certain groups of people, such as women of color (Crenshaw 491). How then must we go about ending the perpetuation of sexual violence and rape culture? The first step is to reconfigure the private and the public sphere so that each is free from the influence of “gendered and sexualised notions”, or to completely do away with the existence of a private and public sphere all together.

Works Cited

Martin, Patricia Y., and Robert A. Hummer. "Fraternities and Rape on Campus." Feminist Frontiers. By Verta A. Taylor, Leila J. Rupp, and Nancy Whittier. New York: McGraw Hill Higher Education, 2009. 477. Print.
Crenshaw, Kimberle. "Mapping the Margins." Feminist Frontiers. By Verta A. Taylor, Leila J. Rupp, and Nancy Whittier. New York: McGraw Hill Higher Education, 2009. 491. Print.
Sheffield, Carole J. "Sexual Terrorism." Women: a Feminist Perspective. By Jo Freeman. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Pub., 1995. Print.
Richardson, Diane, and Hazel May. "Deserving Victims?: Sexual Status and the Social Construction of Violence." The Sociological Review 47.2 (1999): 326. Print.

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