Rape Culture On College Campuses
Rape culture is defined as a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse. Existing as a woman in a society that glorifies and actively propagates sexual violence against women, especially through popular music, advertising, and movies just to name a few is petrifying. Adding parties, bars, Greek life, and sports into the mix of everyday life makes college campuses the number one environment that condones rape culture. We so often see vulgar and demeaning images and pass them off as normal, because sadly in today’s world, it is. The normalization of sexually explicit song lyrics, suggestive images, and the sickening desire for media outlets to be the first one to get their hands on the details on the latest rape case, all contribute to this alarming culture.
There has been no shortage of perverted, explicit, and “rape-y” songs in the past decade. However, sometimes we sing these songs not realizing that we are condoning these messages of sexism. Sexism is prejudice or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex. Artists often hide their misogynistic lyrics behind a catchy melody or fun beat. Just four short years ago the hit song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke blasted through every college bar in the country as well as an overwhelming amount of times on the radio. The song was so popular that it landed at number one on Billboard’s Hot 100. The title of the song, “Blurred Lines”, is essentially referring to blurred lines around sexual consent. A majority of the song is the R&B singer whispering, “I know you want it” over and over into a girl’s ear, promoting the “no means yes” mentality present in rape culture. Another recurring line in the song is “You’re a good girl,” suggesting that a good girl wouldn’t give him anything less than he’s asking for. Diving into the world of rap music and the never-ending list of rappers who constantly include misogynistic and rape-y lyrics in their songs would be far too long of a process. Nevertheless, rap seems to be the most prominent genre played in college bars across the country. Not only do these rappers rap about forcing women into sex, some of the biggest rap icons in the world have been convicted of sexual assault including Snoop Dog, Big Sean and the infamous Tupac.
On top of the music that is being listened to by college students, the relentless alcohol consumption and promotion of “partying” contributes to this barbaric and disrespectful culture. College bars located around Louisiana State University use drink promotions, merchandise, and social media posts in order to draw people in. Bogies, a bar in Tigerland has recently teamed up with Old Row, a brand that embodies college life in the South. The Old Row koozies that are handed out at the bar say, “Sluts love Bogies” and “#ShackerSunday starts at Bogies.” The bar is luring people in by promising the presence of “sluts” or that you’ll score a drunk hookup with someone Saturday night leading to “shacker Sunday.” Old Row is known for plastering their social media accounts with explicit images of college girls and excessive drinking. Their slogan, “Admit Nothing, Deny Everything” is a perfect representation of their sleazy image.
While rape culture is an important issue campus wide, it is particularly prevalent in fraternities. It is no secret to any college student that fraternities are given special privileges derived from their social status. Fraternity parties receive very little university regulation, and the regulations that are in place are not hard to get around. These parties as well as any night out with fraternity brothers quickly turns into a masculinity competition. Masculinity is defined as the possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men. Members of fraternities often measure their masculinity by the number of sexual encounters they have under their belt. Fraternity members use male gaze to attract new members. Male gaze is the way in which society depicts the world and women from a masculine point of view, presenting women as objects of male pleasure. During rush season some fraternities on LSU’s campus hire attractive girls to stand at the entrance to the fraternity house as the prospective new members walk in. These girls are being used a sexual objects to lure in pledges. They are being used to show what these boys can “obtain” if they join the fraternity. This system is perpetuating fantasy driven gender roles insinuating that a woman’s role is to please a man. By viewing women as trophies, fraternity members begin to see women’s bodies as something they are entitled to. This entitlement is what leads members into using persuasive methods often involving alcohol to coax women into sexual activity. Consider the case of the Penn State fraternity Facebook scandal. Members of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity celebrated and encouraged such behavior by posting nude photos of passed out women on a secret Facebook page. The practice of objectifying women is so pervasive that the fraternity started a second page after the first one had been shut down. Feeling entitled to images of their female peers is evidence that the concept of male privilege is present in the college environment. Male privilege is a concept used to describe social, economic, and political advantages or rights that are made available to men solely on the basis of their sex. Social media allowed the members to bond in brotherhood over such ideas.
The hype around rape cases occurring on college campuses is often what pushes the media to exploit sexual violence victims in an attempt to make a better story and increase clicks. In March of 2017, an eighteen-year-old female LSU student was kidnapped from the Greek parking lot behind the sorority houses. Local media outlets scrambled to release rushed news stories just hours after the abduction. The Advocate, a well respected local newspaper, posted an unnecessarily detailed account of the abduction. The Article stated; “Herra then drove the two of them, in her (the victim’s) car, off campus where he forced her to perform oral sex. The victim was then dropped off at the Jim Lu Food Mart, 1701 government St., where Herra had instructed her to buy condoms.” The Advocate’s inclusion of these details was insensitive and unnecessary. Salacious details are often included at the victim’s expense for the benefit of the writer. Being the victim of abduction on a college campus is already unimaginably traumatizing in itself. Having the entirety of the student body discussing the fact that you were forced to perform oral sex on a stranger immensely intensifies the trauma of the situation.
Society, particularly college students, need to begin talking about how rape culture is created. Today’s women may have made strides in the workplace in terms of jobs and pay, but they are treated with far more disrespect than the generation before them. It is not enough for university officials to police the ideas of the rape culture if they do not include a conversation about how these ideas are promulgated and how they have seeped into the culture. Students and the general public need to be educated about the messages they are getting from music, social media, and the media so they can evaluate the values being set forth and consciously decide whether or not these ideas should be woven into the fabric of our social mores.