The Normalization of Rape

If there was one thing to be taken from Gender Studies 125, it would be that nothing is ever as it appears. All year the class has analyzed the media – everything from news coverage to animated movies to awareness/fundraising ads. We have learned that even the things that appear good have their own faults. Whether done intentionally or unintentionally, the faults are prevalent and serve as a severe concern.

People may disagree, but Legally Blonde is one of the best woman empowering movies out there. The main character, Elle Woods, transforms her ideals (while remaining herself) in order to achieve her dreams. She studies like crazy, refuses to sleep with her superior to get ahead of her other classmates, and is asked out as a sub-par subtext in the final credits. However, while re-watching this film recently, I picked up on something else. In one scene, Elle gets tricked into dressing up for what she believes to be a costume party. When she arrives to find her peers in regular clothes, one character greets her casually with, “wow, don’t you look like a walking felony.” In addition to the completely unnecessary and really just not funny rape joke, the line is also hints at victim blaming. This is what Elle was wearing to the party.


Regarding only what she was wearing, the movie accustoms Elle dressing up as bunny to her deserving of rape. It associates what a person is wearing as a justifiable reason for someone else to take advantage of him or her. In her piece The Not Rape Epidemic, Latoya Peterson states on page 141 “…I fully understood the concept of being raped twice – first during the act, and then later during the court proceedings” in response to hearing a lawyer comment on a victims attire. Elle could have showed up naked. Even then, she doesn’t deserve to be “a walking felony” because frankly, no one deserves to be “a walking felony.” No one deserves to be raped, the same way no one asks to be raped; yet the topic is consistently joked about. In addition, people tend to neglect that rape is not just a female thing.

This video was recently brought to my attention, as some guy on my floor showed it to me because “it was funny.” The clip begins with Michael Cera and a female talking via their computers. In week six we read about “hyper-personal effect” which was a term coined by Joe Walther of Cornell University to justify how individuals are more revealing, open and sociable online than they are in real life. The female in the clip asks Michael Cera to “sex chat” in which she places herself “alone in a dark alley”, “vulnerable and half naked.” Michael Cera being unaware to what she is asking of him does not know how to respond.

Moreover, it is important to note that the clip depicts the female as wanting to be taken advantage of, and the male being unsure of what to do. As a testament to rape as whole, this clip speaks volumes about how women are not just victims, but rapists themselves. Although the clip conveyed this message comically, it shows that rape is a multifaceted issue. I am not saying that because the female asked to be raped this makes rape okay, or because Michael Cera was unsure of what to do that in the situation that he is supposed to represent all males because neither of these statements are true. The clip merely displays another side of rape that is not often shown – sometimes males are the ones taken advantage of.

Right here at Queen’s rape is considered a joke. This week, Queens Musical Theatre began running a musical called “Reefer Madness.” The production follows one boy and his gradual obsession on marijuana. The show is funny despite its serious subject matter, and most scenarios are exaggerated for humor. In one scene, the main character is shown in jail, in which the narrator states “prison showed Jimmy many horrors, but they are to inappropriate for our eyes.” During this bit, three other male inmates force Jimmy to his knees and crowd around him, before the narrator cuts them short. When she shoos them off the stage Jimmy praises her and mouths thank-you numerous times. It is important to note that the scene was not essential to development of character or story line. It was placed to add humor because prison rape jokes are so mainstream that they are no longer considered offensive by the general public. It would be harder to find a show/movie that DOES NOT make a prison rape/rape joke than it is to find one that does. The very serious and life altering issue has been made so comical it is a board game – “don’t drop the soap,” allows players to make their way through a prison system.

Although arguably one of the most prevalent and disturbing issues, rape remains a constant. I have watched clips in which women claim that men need to be taught not to rape, I have participated in self-defense classes that would help me ward off a potential attacker, I walk with my keys in between my fingers at night and I hope that people just stop wanting to rape others. People place on blame on the victims as well as the perpetrators, and people edify both protection and human respect. Yet, the issue thrives.

One TV show, One Tree Hill, filmed a controversial episode surrounding a school shooting. In a voice over, one character stated: “Does darkness have a name? Is it your name?” People can blame all they want, and they can try to protect all they want, but rape is carried out by humans, and it is done so everyday. Rape is a physical attack, but it is also deeply moral, mental and societal. Has anyone ever thought to question the occurrence of rape paired with society, culture, humans? They are pieced – paired together like two sides of a magazine or a coin, feeding and building off each other. Rape cannot dissipate until we change, taking giant actions towards a culture so embedded within our society.


3 thoughts on “The Normalization of Rape

  1. This post truly epitomizes rape culture found in the 21st century. It is astonishing that a school like Queens would endorse something so utterly and completely wrong. But there is a flip side to every coin. Queens also endorses The Slut Walk. The Slut Walk was created due to a comment a Toronto policeman made in 2011 towards a sexual assault case, “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” I know, wow, how could anyone, never the less a policeman say that? Consequently, women created the slut walk to stand as a unified front to reclaim the word slut. This case is similar to the way Elle Woods was treated at the party, as both people were thought to be at fault if sexual harassment were to occur for the way they dressed. In reality, regardless of how one dresses, without consent rape is rape. Although women may like to dress more provocatively when they go out the way one dresses does not give consent for someone to take advantage of them. How women dress is their prerogative, and they should not have to change their lifestyle for anyone but themselves As a result, Queens takes a stand and promotes the Slut Walk to educate their students about slut bashing. You know the old saying “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Well ya, that’s not true. Slut Bashing is actually a strong form of bullying. This word sexually objectifies women, which causes feelings of dehumanization and worthlessness. Nobody should ever feel this way, especially with regards to how one chooses to dress.

    Here is the link to the SlutWalk Kingston facebook page:

  2. This issue of assailants and juries placing the blame on victims is quite common. This is extremely prevalent in many different cultures around the world. In India, there is a protest going on regarding “the blame-the-victim culture” in India around sex crimes. This issue is seen so much and Kavita Krishnan, the Secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association wanted to make it clear that this is the issue people should be concerned about when protesting about rape. In India, it is noted that if these women do not carry chili powder around with them or walk home without a male escort – the rest is up to them and any negative consequences that may occur (rape) is their own fault. There is a constant debate about women’s clothing and whether or not this is a behavior that demonstrates female’s invitation for males to rape them. Men seem to target women who are viewed as ‘bad girls’ because they are sure they will not be prosecuted solely based on the females’ reputation. The consensus among individuals is that if women are not seen as “good girls” then they will be the targets of a sexual assault. As we saw in the “9 ugliest feminists in America,” it is slut walk inspired and also it does not matter what you wear, it is all about rape culture. The common notion of this “blame-the-victim” card needs to be re-thought. Why do women need to be escorted home or carry pepper spray with them in their purses? This is absurd. Rapists are never held responsible for their actions. This can be related to the notion of male privilege. Females are always being victimized. Males are higher up the social ladder and possess more advantages than females do; therefore this notion of “victim blaming” is common.

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