Last week, Hands Off spoke with Wuraola Abulatan (@goldenwura) on the topic “Is The Rape Culture Real?”. Wura herself is an experienced anti-rape activist working with Stand To End Rape Initiative, and so she had quite a lot of insightful things to say in response to the questions we asked her.
She started off by defining what rape culture means, which was helpful for people who were new to the discussion and wanted to follow it. She described rape culture as:
“Societal systems where rape and sexual violence is in abundant, normalized and accepted. This is mostly due to settings, attitudes and beliefs about gender and sexuality. A lot of things fall under the rape culture and contributes to it,” she then provided this graphic to further explain the rape culture:
Wura made good points on how we as members of society unknowingly contribute to rape culture. She spoke on how people often “blame or shame a victim/survivor, keep quiet about sexual violence thus enabling rape, and perpetrate rape apology by trying to justify rape” as some of the ways that people contribute to rape culture. She also included, “showing support for a rapist or people that normalize rape culture, not providing needed support or access to survivors, creating pop culture materials that glorify sexual violence and not speaking up to correct people/peers when they make propagate harmful analogies about rape.”
As we all know, rape is a crime and the tactics listed above only support the perpetrator of the crime, while shutting the victim down.
We then reached back to our conversation from the last two weeks on How To Spot A Rape Apologist. We asked her, “where does the rape apologist fit in the rape culture?”. She responded to the question by, saying: “rape apologists fit in the victimization rung of rape culture because they try to find justification for rape or poke holes in survivors’ stories. In trying to be logical or expect the perfect ‘story’ or incidence, they further victimize survivors.”
The conversation then moved ahead to touch on pop culture and its part in normalizing rape all over the world, with an emphasis on Nigeria. Our guest expressed her disgust at this unfortunate situation, with a take-no-prisoners approach to tackling it:
“Oh my God, where do I start from? First, we start with massive awareness about rape culture and the contribution of pop culture to it. Next we have to CANCEL artists who normalize rape culture with their content and have refused to fix up.
We need to stop supporting them, stop laughing at their jokes, speak up and ask them what’s funny, stop listening to their songs because the more you support and give them your money, time and energy, the more you’re funding their rape culture lifestyle.
Pinch them where it hurts and see if they don’t act right. Personally, I try to consume less of such materials but they’re really everywhere and in your face and this is why the rape culture thing is strong with us.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Next, we brought up the line between rough sex and rape, which many use as an excuse to forcibly sleep with someone. Is there really a distinction? Yes, says Wura.
“Once consent is given enthusiastically and is ongoing without fear or repercussions then you’re good to do what was consented to. Rough sex has nothing to do with rape, it is just sex that is rough. Rape is not sex, neither is it a type of sex. The only type of sex there is, is the one with CONSENT and rough sex falls under this.”
On the “Bystander Effect” and its link with rape culture, Wura firstly provided some clarity: “It posits that people are less likely to help when there are more people around, if you’re in trouble in public, people are less likely to help you because everyone will think someone else will help thereby leading to no one helping.” She rightly believed that it is a reason why harassers get away with public harassment.
“it’s not like everyone around doesn’t know something wrong is going on, it’s because they’re expecting the other person to help and when no one does, rape culture nods and climbs higher in our subconscious.
Before you know it, people are looking the other way, laughing at rape jokes and trying to justify rape. What beats Bystander Effect is Bystander Intervention and that’s when someone has the good mind to step in, speak up or help.”
We should all be interveners. Would you sit staring while your neighbor’s shirt caught fire? Or would you get some water and put out the flames? If you would simply stare, that’s you being a bystander. If you would put out the fire, that’s you being an intervener. The same goes for rape and other forms of assault.
Finally, we asked Wura about myths about sex that should be dispelled to tackle pervasiveness of rape culture. She provided an exhaustive list of them, as below:
- Women want to be harassed or coerced into sex. That is a lie from the pits of hell. Women are sexual beings and like men, we want to have sex. If anyone tells you No, take the NO as it is a NO, not a ‘try again’, not a ‘convince’ me. Also remember that silence is a NO
- It’s not rape if the person didn’t scream or fight off the rapist. Someone even made a ‘consented rape’ comment recently. Rape doesn’t have a perfect linear script and people react to situations differently hence their actions will always be different. Once there is no consent or consent is withdrawn, whatever happens after that violates the body of a survivor is rape/sexual violence.
- Men do not get raped. This is not true, men do get raped and can be raped by women and men. Everyone has bodily autonomy that should be respected. Men can be drugged, threatened, emotionally manipulated and groomed into sexual activities they do not consent to.
- Rape isn’t common or it’s a new phenomenon. Rape is as old as time because we’ve always been in a society that places one gender above the other. What’s key now is that we’re aware of the culture that let’s rape thrive and we’re working hard to put an end to it.
- Being a rape survivor is something to be ashamed of. The only thing to be ashamed of here is being a rapist. The shame, blame and stigma of rape should never be on the survivor, the criminal who committed a crime should be the one ashamed and punished.
- Follow Wuraola @goldenwura on twitter as she actively fights against rape in our society.