[personal profile] maxvinyl
here's my research paper. I'd really, really appreciate constructive criticism, as it's due tomorrow and I'm still worried (doesn't help that I've gone 700 words over the limit. I really can't stay within the word count limit, can I?) that it isn't good enough.



things to look out for, if you'd be so kind:
- does it progress logically?
- are there any sources I ought to introduce by name (that I haven't) or don't lend enough credibility to? (or, "why should I care what so-and-so says about this")
- does everything make sense? have I left something out somewhere?
- is everything seemingly important to the thesis, or is there something I could probably get rid of? (I am over the word count, after all. again.)
- does it have enough personality and personal opinion/analysis?

(also jsyk the quotes in italics are block quotes in my paper, which is why they're formatted differently here)



Every two minutes, a person in America is sexually assaulted (“How often does sexual assault occur?”). Rape is not rare; it is not something that happens only to women walking the streets alone at night, or to women who wear revealing clothing, or to women who enjoy drinking. Rape is something that can happen to any woman, anywhere in the world, at any time. Similarly, a rapist is not just a shadowy figure lurking in the bushes, he can be a father, a friend, a boyfriend, a husband, a neighbor, a teacher, a pastor. In fact, “[a]lmost two-thirds of all rapes are committed by someone who is known to the victim” (“The Offenders”). A common misconception is that rape is about sex; that if a woman refrains from dressing “provocatively”, getting drunk, and behaves in a very reserved manner, she will not be raped. What rape is actually about is power, control, and ownership; it has nothing to do with sexual attraction (“Rape”). We see images, use language, and partake in behavior that normalizes rape every day in our society. We are living in a rape culture.

Rape culture is not a phrase with a simple and all-encompassing definition. However, it is best defined by Emilie Buchwald, Pamela R. Fletcher, and Martha Roth in Transforming a Rape Culture:
[Rape culture] is a complex set of beliefs that encourages 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. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women and presents it as the norm. (Buchwald, Fletcher, and Roth XI)
Rape culture can be seen in dozens of films, television shows, and books; in advertisements, in politics, in religion, in everyday conversations. It is so prevalent in our world that we hardly give it a second thought when we're face to face with it. Through research and an attempt to understand why it persists, I have determined that rape culture derives from three interconnected sources. [Thesis:] Rape culture in America persists due to the perpetuation of gender roles, patriarchy, and rampant femiphobia, which each affect all aspects of our lives on a daily basis. Rape culture, and thus rape, will never disappear from our society unless we address each of these problems individually and end the practice of curing the symptom rather than the disease.

Gender roles are the true root of the rape epidemic. Through toys, clothing, methods of play, school activities, and simple observation, children today learn that boys and girls are two completely different beings. Boys should be aggressive, strong, outspoken, dominant, independent, competitive, and confident. Girls, on the other hand, should be quiet, acquiescent, emotional, excitable, dependent, gentle, and neat (Archer and Lloyd 23). Children do not require direct instruction to pick up the message that they should adhere to their gender's specified toys, clothes, activities, and behavior.

Gender roles breed patriarchy. An environment in which women are expected to be meek and men assertive clearly favors the men. We see this dynamic in politics, where not only are there more men than women, but the men make most legal decisions for women; we see it in advertising, where men are portrayed as businessmen and women as homemakers; we see it in television and movies, where violent relationships between men and women are sexy; we see it in religious movements, where women are expected to remain virgins for future husbands, but men are not expected to do the same. Male superiority has been the norm so long in our culture that rather than question why it still exists, we simply accept it and carry on with our lives.

Patriarchy in turn creates femiphobia, or the fear of femininity. Men have maintained the power dynamic by keeping the line between male and female very distinct. This unnecessary distinction has resulted in men fearing and rejecting anything which might bring them closer to that line, and thus, femininity. This fear often manifests itself in the form of violence. When a man's masculinity is called into question, his instinctive response tends to be to fight, to prove that he is masculine. This explains why the majority of all sexual assaults and rapes are perpetrated by men (“Who Are the Victims?”). Femiphobia is clear in all aspects of our society: gay women tend to be more accepted by men than do gay men, cross-dressing is used as a punishment for boys in some schools and prisons, and words like “girl”, “fag”, and “pussy” are common insults for men. This is what is responsible for our rape culture, and it has insinuated itself into our everyday lives through a myriad of mediums.

Religion is the first, and perhaps oldest, tool used to perpetuate rape culture. It works through selling gender roles in the Biblical family model, which is peddled as the only true and correct way for families to exist. It takes advantage of male superiority by pressing its purity agenda and working to outlaw abortion, both ways in which women can further be oppressed and manipulated. Its preoccupation with gender roles then advocates femiphobia--the male fear of anything feminine--creating dangerous atmospheres not only for women, but for anyone who is not heterosexual and cisgendered, or comfortable in the sex and gender they were born into. Religion helps to shape our worldview into one in which men are aggressive--the predators--and women are submissive--the prey. More subliminally, we learn that men must like sex and actively pursue it, while women must dislike it and, for modesty's sake, make it difficult to obtain. This absurd notion makes it very easy for a man to rape a woman after she has emphatically told him “no” because he expects it from her and assumes it is her modesty preventing her from saying “yes”.

Religion's crusade to keep young women and girls “pure” is, in fact, more damaging to women than it is helpful and is a product of the superiority of men. This purity movement, as I call it, leads women to believe “that our moral compass lies somewhere between our legs. Literally” (Valenti “The Purity Myth” 13). What this does in turn is lead society to discredit many rape victims purely on the basis of their past sexual history. Case in point, Bill Napoli, a Republican senator from South Dakota and opponent to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. Responding to a question regarding what circumstances he might support abortion, he said, “A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated” (14). The most unfortunate part of Napoli's statement is that it is not an entirely uncommon opinion.

The purity movement doesn’t always rely solely on subtle insinuations; many abstinence-only and virginity-until-marriage proponents openly blame rape victims for their rape due to what they were wearing or their sex life, something which takes the blame off the rapist and clears him of any wrongdoing. Abstinence-only programs are used in 35% of schools in America, and many are based in fundamentalist Christianity. According to author, speaker, and anti-rape activist Jessica Valenti, these programs tend to rely on “fear- and shame-based tactics to spread their misinformation” (103).The result is that young women who choose to become sexually active are considered dirty and impure, something which in turn results in rendering them “unrapeable”, a word which feminist Cara Kulwicki defines as a person who, for various reasons pertaining to their lifestyle or choices, has been made out by society as being in “a permanent state of consent” (Kulwicki). A woman who has had a multitude of past sex partners is less likely to be believed than a woman who was a virgin at the time of the rape, simply because we place such a value on a woman's virginity.

Our laws and politics are also to blame for the perpetuation of rape culture, particularly because the political and legal arena is so dominated by men. America's right-wing is currently fighting tooth and nail to overturn Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion once again. Due to loopholes, it is nearly impossible to obtain an abortion in some places of the United States. Utah recently made miscarriages by women thought to have not wanted their pregnancy a criminal offense (Neville), and Colorado may have an initiative on the 2010 ballot that would give a woman's unfertilized eggs the same rights as a person (Boven). What the anti-choice movement does to women is puts their rights and their freedoms in the hands of others, namely men. Women are already objectified and treated as sub-human due to various other issues, and the treatment of our bodies as “public property and as open to state control” (Friedman and Valenti 19) only worsens things. It becomes harder to see rape as rape when the victim is not viewed as an equal and a fellow human being.

Adding insult to injury, only about 40% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police, according to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. Taking into account those that go unreported and the likelihood of arrest and subsequent prosecution, only 6% of rapists are sent to jail (“Reporting Rates”). This number seems to become worse when athletes or other high-profile individuals become involved. In 2000, 19 year-old Marie, a freshman at the University of Washington, was drugged and raped at a fraternity party by star football player and future NFL player Jerramy Stevens. Against Stevens was DNA evidence from the rape kit, an eyewitness account, and his history of violence―but Stevens escaped prosecution due to his defense from school officials and officials with the local police. It was claimed that there was “'insufficient evidence'” (Armstrong and Perry). Shortly afterward, two of Stevens' teammates raped and sexually assaulted three other female UW students, also escaping prosecution. In 2004, there were nine sexual assault charges filed against football players at Colorado University, none of which ended in prosecution (“CU football players escape rape charges”). To understand why this is, one only needs to listen to the discourse that arises during a high-profile rape case. Gender roles have already rendered women silly and frivolous, and our male-superiority complex just exacerbates the issue when the public chooses to side with the rapist due to whatever part of the victim’s personal life is believed to have put her at fault for the rape.

Feminist Andrea Dworkin once asked an audience of 500 men for one single day without rape (Buchwald, Fletcher, and Roth 21). Unfortunately, that day has never happened and likely never will unless politicians actively campaign to end rape and make good on their promises. However, that is unlikely to happen any time soon. According to John Stoltenberg, feminist and 31-year life partner of Andrea Dworkin, politicians refrain from speaking too much about rape during their campaigns for a multitude of reasons. One is that men dislike hearing about rape from candidates; they see it as a “'special interest' issue” and something that hits “too close to home” (263-264). Another reason is that many believe that nothing can be done about rape because violence and aggression are traits inherent in males, therefore rape is in their nature. A politician will not do anything if the people do not believe anything can be done, and the people will not believe anything can be done if the politician does not believe it.

Rape culture is clearly visible in pop culture and our everyday social activities, rendering it nearly impossible, if not entirely so, to go a single day without being exposed to it. According to Dr. Jean Kilbourne, the average American is exposed to around 3,000 advertisements per day through television, magazines, radio, internet, and billboards. Though people claim ads do not affect them, ads are incredibly effective at selling their products. But as Kilbourne explains, ads sell more than just products. Many advertisements turn women's bodies into objects, literally and figuratively. A beer ad shows a woman with the label tanned on to her skin, another depicts a pair of scissors with a woman's legs as the blades (Kilbourne). Other ads show only parts of women's bodies: legs, breasts, torso. The resulting image is not of a person, but of an object being used to sell a product. This is another contributing factor to the dehumanization of women; after all, how can one rape a set of breasts or a pair of legs? Those aren't people, they are things.

Rape has become so normalized in our culture that we see abuse and male superiority in popular culture as sexy and romantic. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer is one of the most recent examples of abusive romance in today’s pop culture. It portrays a terrifyingly dangerous and unhealthy relationship between 17 year-old Bella and 72 year-old Edward, a vampire. Throughout the series, we see examples of stalking, breaking and entering, control, physical abuse, and even sexual assault from another character. All of these instances are meant to be romantic expressions of love from the male characters (Meyer). Further examples of abuse and male dominance in pop culture can be seen in Blade Runner, Mad Men, 90210, The Bounty Hunter, Sixteen Candles, a large number of paperback romances, and the non-fictional works of Tucker Max, just to list a few. In an article on rape culture and the media, anti-rape activist Alyn Pearson explains her views on rape in film:
I thought about all the movies I have seen with rape scenes . . . And I realized that these cinematic forays into the crime of rape make it sexy. They depict rape as rough, unwanted sex, that is nevertheless sexy. They show the frail, beautiful woman and the big, beautiful man engaged in sexual intercourse that just happens to be accompanied by mutters of no and some tears, or some serious drunken sleeping. Rape scenes in movies are geared to turn people on, not shock them. And as long as the public is being seduced by the myth that rape is about sex and not about power, and that rape is about lust and not oppressive violence, then the rape culture can continue to thrive and to destroy women. (Pearson)
The implications in these examples range from the idea that “good” women are virgins, that coercion is not rape, that rape resulting from alcohol isn’t really rape, that women exist to be exploited by men sexually, that dismantling one’s girlfriend’s truck so she cannot leave is romantic, that having one’s mouth violated by another’s is not sexual assault, and that loud-mouthed, scantily-clad women are undesirable, while women that keep their mouths shut and are ladylike will be rewarded (Kellner, Leibowitz, and Ryan).

Perhaps the most overwhelming aspect of all of this is the way that the average person partakes in the rape culture without even realizing it. Cara Kulwicki points out, for instance, that the word “sex” is often used interchangeably with “rape”. This gives the impression, usually subliminally, that the crime is somehow less or was consensual. Sex is something between two consenting adults; rape is not. “Sex” is often used to refer to the rape of an unconscious victim, according to Kulwicki. “Of course, an unconscious individual is incapable of giving consent – but interestingly, this is one situation where I most commonly see the word incorrectly used,” she says. News articles frequently include headlines using “sex” instead of “rape”, even in cases where the victim was a child or a toddler. In one court case it was ruled that the word “rape” was not allowed to be used in the courtroom for fear that it might influence the proceedings (Kulwicki). The reason for this, I would imagine, is due to the fact that our perception and opinion of rape has been so muddled and twisted that we are loath to use it because we feel that what we are seeing is not truly rape.

The language used every day by men and women, children and adults, reflects our culture of rape and allows it to continue. The word “slut”, for instance, is a common insult hurled at young women, even at girls who have not yet reached puberty. When one calls a woman a slut, it is an insult meant to hurt, meant to shame the woman and make her feel dirty and disgusting because of her personal choices regarding her sex life. However, “slut” can be used against any woman for almost anything: wearing a bikini, having a boyfriend, walking a certain way, talking about sex, daring to enjoy sex (Valenti “He‘s a Stud, She‘s a Slut” 14). This insult is a direct result of society's obsession with virginal and “pure” women. If a so-called slut is raped, many will attempt to discredit her and her claim on the basis that she probably liked it or couldn't possibly have said no because she's had sex before.

In the fall of 2009, a 15 year-old girl was gang-raped outside of her high-school homecoming dance as dozens stood by watching. Many Americans reacted appropriately, with horror and disgust. Many, however, also insisted that it was her fault for drinking, being outside, and wearing a dress (Clark-Flory). After all, men apparently lack self-control. She should have known better than to wear a dress to a formal dance and then have the gall to stand outside. Add alcohol to the mix and there's no question about it: what man could possibly resist such a temptation? The answer: a man who is not a rapist.

Additionally, words like “pussy” and “fag” bolster femiphobia and can prompt sexual violence from men. These words make them feel that their manhood has been questioned, and to them, rape is a good way to not only prove that they enjoy women, but that they are strong and capable of overpowering another human being. But femiphobia is not just the cause of male-on-female rape, it is also partly responsible for homophobia and male-on-male rape. Straight men tend to view gay men as both a threat to their sex’s masculinity as well as a personal threat to their person because it causes them to feel the same fear of rape that women feel at all times. One in thirty-three men will be raped in his lifetime, and though that number is lower than the female statistic, it is still far too high.

The United States is clearly suffering a rape epidemic. One in six women will be raped in her lifetime (“Who Are the Victims?”), yet no solutions have been proposed nor have any steps been taken to tackle the root of the rape problem. If we continue to allow gender roles to be perpetuated by religion and dominate our lives and our youth, men and women will forever be unequal. If we allow this inequality, femiphobia will only increase and become worse with each passing generation. If we allow femiphobia to continue, we will never rid ourselves of the disease that is rape. We must address these three causes and attempt to fix them and we must realize that we are all human beings. If we do not, one in six women may become one in four women, or one in two women, or all women. We have the power to end rape. Women should not have to live in fear.

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