Rape Culture: Five Authors Clarify Its Nature

Despite being found to have sexually assaulted writer E. Jean Carroll, ex-President Donald Trump alarmingly continues to have support from too large a group of prospective voters as well as many elected Republicans. What follows are several books that help clarify the nature of rape culture in this country and elsewhere.

I. Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture–and What We Can Do About It (2015) by Kate Harding

From the book: “Rape culture manifests in a myriad ways…but its most devilish trick is to make the average, noncriminal person identify with the person accused, instead of the person reporting the crime. Rape culture encourages us to scrutinize victims’ stories for any evidence that they brought the violence onto themselves – and always to imagine ourselves in the terrifying role of Good Man, Falsely Accused, before we ‘rush to judgment’.”

II. On Being Raped (2016) by Raymond M. Douglas

From the author: “When I was raped, I learned things about myself and the world I live in that it would have been far better never to know.”

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) states that “1 out of every 10 rape victims are male.” In addition, 17% of sexual assault victims at our colleges are male undergraduates.

Douglas states, “I searched for something in print that would confirm to me that I wasn’t the only man to whom this had ever happened. I didn’t find it. To the contrary, the academic and clinical literature I found stated with great assurance that the rape of men was virtually unknown outside of prison or, if it occurred, was confined to people who hitchhiked or swam alone on remote beaches.”

III. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (2018) by Roxane Gay

“According to Roxane Gay, editor of the essay collection Not That Bad, the term refers to ‘a culture where it often seems like it is a question of when, not if, a woman will encounter some kind of sexual violence'” (Nina Power, The Guardian).

Seija Rankin, ew.com: “[Gay] noted that when she thought about what had caused her to minimize her own experiences with sexual violence, she realized that she — and many of the women she knows — had often been told: ‘It’s not that bad’.”

IV. What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape (2018) by Sohaila Abdulali

Publishers Weekly

A former coordinator of a rape crisis center, she uses her own brutal rape as a touchstone and springboard for this series of extended reflections on the discourse surrounding rape, with stories from Australia, Egypt, India, Italy, South Africa, and the U.S….She approaches debates about consent, responsibility, motive, honor, and prevention with deep compassion, humor, a healthy dose of irony, and anger. Though Abdulali doesn’t claim to have answers, the book’s assertions are clear: victims deserve belief, support, and a fair hearing; rapists, not their targets, are responsible for rape; and survivors can go on to live full and joyful lives. Her clear-eyed assessments, grace, and literary touches will make this book valuable reading for sociologists, therapists, feminists, and anyone who believes women should be able to move through the world free from fear.

V. Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl (2019) by Jeannie Vanasco

English professor Vanasco was sexually assaulted at the age of 19 by a friend whom she calls “Mark” in this memoir (an apt play on the word boundary).

Ilana Masad, NPR: “The title…doesn’t refer only to what Vanasco didn’t talk about with Mark, either before or after the rape; it refers also to all the ways in which girls are taught to be silent about experiences that make them uncomfortable, all the ways in which women find realms in which to unlearn those patterns of silence in order to bolster, comfort, and reassure one another.”

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