It’s a hookup culture, not a rape culture

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Sexual assault has undoubtedly entrenched itself deep within the minds and lives of college students everywhere. Naturally, such a broad toxification demands attention and remedy; regrettably, efforts which attempt to address the notorious substance-induced assault have been starkly misguided and ill-informed. I am referring a specific, yet undeniably large component of what is considered rape or sexual assault on college campuses – two people, of indeterminate drunkenness, engaging in sexual activity.

The prevalence of this type of sexual assault nationwide has given rise to several prominent narratives which try to identify the origins of this disease, namely the notion that we, as college students, are a part of a broader “rape culture;” a culture prevalent in and promoted by the media, judicial processes and public attitudes. I want to suggest that the rape culture narrative is not only wrong, but completely off the mark. It has been aggressively conflated with what is actually “hookup culture,” and the evidence for this can be found not only in nations with “real” rape cultures, but through examining our own culture as well.

I want to suggest that the rape culture narrative is not only wrong, but completely off the mark.

In 2006, a 19-year-old Saudi woman was gang raped by seven men. Through an unforgivable perversion of justice, a Sharia court resentenced her to 200 lashes and six months in jail. What was her crime? Being in a car with a male and having been seen by what I hesitate to call seven other “men.” Not only did the sentencing occur after an appeal, but the Saudi Arabian government defended the decision to punish the victim, saying she was at fault. This is rape culture, seen in such other places as the courts of India and Pakistan. A victim is held at fault; the victimizers are held in acclaim. Not only by isolated groups, but by significant portions of society and its government.

Obviously the fact that other countries have it worse does not mean we do not have it at all. But everywhere I’ve looked, I cannot seem to find it. What aspects of our society lie within the realm of a rape culture? There is simply no systemic tolerance for rape, no prosecution of victims and the general disgust for rape and rapists may only be trumped by the general disgust for pedophilia or murder; indicating that it is not, contrary to what many say, an institutionalized part of our “culture.” Outlier events of injustice are just that, outliers, and are not indicative of any culturally normative problems.

What is institutionalized, however, is hookup culture. The media promotes it, Greek Life promotes it, hell, everyone promotes it, and the qualities present within it give rise to portrayals against which those who shout “rape culture” protest.

What is institutionalized, however, is hookup culture. The media promotes it, Greek Life promotes it, hell, everyone promotes it, and the qualities present within it give rise to portrayals against which those who shout “rape culture” protest. Some say rape culture exists in the portrayal of women in our media. Looking at the media of the aforementioned regions where rape culture is an alarmingly pervasive phenomenon shows that similarities are practically nonexistent. In those areas, the ideals of a rape culture are perpetuated by stripping women of their sexuality. It is not only seen as forbidden, but damaging and corrupting. Instead, what we see in our media is young adults bombarded with suggestions — no, coercions — to “let loose,” to drink, to lower boundaries and to not worry about what might happen tomorrow. This is not a sign of rape culture, but of hookup culture.

In shifting the responsibility for the abundance of ambiguous rape cases onto nonexistent problems in society, we completely overlook the true contributing factors in these instances: alcohol and the disregard for personal responsibility and safety that hookup culture so shamelessly advocates. I hope the dangers of trying to tackle the problem of rape within a rape culture context — when in reality the issue exists in a hookup culture context — are now frighteningly clear. The current attempt to reconcile the ambiguities of consent existing in hookup culture with effective prosecutions of rape is not only naive, but impossible. The legal system in our country operates under the assumption of innocent until proven guilty, a system wholly incompatible with the ambiguities of hookup culture. I suggest we all collectively look inward, rather than outward, for solutions to problems that are so pervasive in our temporary homes.

Email Thomas Briggs at [email protected]