Rape Supportive Culture (RSP) is our collective attitude about sexual violence. Although this term contains the word “rape,” the concept is meant to encompass all forms of violent behavior (stalking, sexual harassment, sexual assault, street harassment, voyeurism/peeping, etc.). Rape supportive culture is ubiquitous – it’s in the air. Tolerating, excusing, or making light of sexual violence through our language and actions keeps rape supportive culture alive. Common phrases that describe sex like a sport such as “hit that, smashing, banging, screwing, tapping, scoring” are not isolated incidents of problematic language. They are part of an overwhelming societal view that normalizes violence which is rape supportive culture. It is also important to recognize that we each participate in RSC on an individual level. Understanding how we contribute requires reflection about our own implicit biases and the ways we are silent in the face of oppressive and dehumanizing language.
Why is it important to understand and name RSC?
An understanding of RSC is a critical starting point for prevention education efforts to address sexual assault and harassment. We begin to see the ways that violent culture on campus is supported and sustained by common daily interactions. When sexual violence does happen and we trivialize, ignore, or make it into jokes, we’re engaging in rape supportive culture (i.e: She deserved it, I raped that test, you’re overreacting, you know you want it….blurred lines). This happens All THE TIME. We’re inundated with messages through media that replace consent with coercion and this form of violence is deemed natural and even sexy.
So, how do we disrupt and dismantle RSC?
This is no easy task. It requires a fundamental shift in how we collectively think about power, consent, and respect. Sexual violence is connected to systems of oppression including but not limited to: racism, transphobia, sexism, gender inequity, ableism, classism, and settler colonialism. As inequity continues to exist among these systems, rape supportive culture thrives. At the WGAC, we utilize both risk reduction and prevention programming strategies to disrupt and dismantle RSC. This means addressing safer partying strategies and oppressive structures that reinforce gender inequality to create behavioral and societal change.