What is rape culture?
Rape culture is the patriarchal belief that women do not like sex (a belief promoted by so-called radical feminists as well as “men’s rights activists”), and that men are inherently predatory and want sex all the time. According to this view, women always have to be coerced or cajoled into sex. This erases the possibility of meaningful or enthusiastic consent. In this view, any woman who actually enjoys sex is a “slut” and is therefore “fair game” to be hit on by men (note the predatory language). Think of all the times you have heard the idea that a rape victim was somehow “asking for it”.
Rape is mostly about exerting power over the victim; it is mostly not about fulfilling a sexual urge. It is also worth noting that when a man rapes another man, it is often done to “feminise” the victim, in other words, to exert patriarchal power over him. A similar motive occurs in the so-called “corrective rape” of lesbians by men – an attempt to “put them back in their place” in the patriarchal power hierarchy.
While an empirical comparison of undetected and incarcerated rapists is beyond the scope of the research reported here, studies of these two groups have revealed a number of similarities. Among the common characteristics shared by many incarcerated and undetected rapists, are high levels of anger at women (e.g., Groth, 1979; Malamuth, 1986; Lisak & Roth, 1990), the need to dominate women (e.g., Groth, 1979; Malamuth, 1986; Lisak & Roth, 1990), hypermasculinity (e.g., Groth, 1979; Mosher & Anderson, 1986; Lisak, Hopper & Song, 1996), lack of empathy (e.g., Lisak & Ivan, 1995; Scully, 1988) and psychopathy and antisocial traits (e.g., Ouimette, 1997; Kosson, Kelly, & White, 1997; Prentky & Knight, 1991).
What is consent culture?
Consent culture is the view that everyone has the right to enjoyable sex, which they have enthusiastically consented to, in full possession of the facts (STD status of sexual partner, relationship status of partner, likelihood of commitment). And that everyone has the right to say no to sex.
Consent can be non-verbal, but when we are on the beginner slopes of consent culture, it’s great to actually get verbal consent.
How does promoting consent culture help?
We are never going to 100% eliminate creeps and predators.
However, at the moment, the wider culture (rape culture) empowers creeps and predators, by erasing boundaries, by slut-shaming and silencing people who call out predatory behaviours, and by claiming that “there’s nothing you can do, it’s in the nature of men to be predatory”. We do men (and everyone) a disservice if we give in to that bullshit.
Empowering potential victims is the last bastion of defence. The first bastion of defence is creating a consent culture.
In Canada, it was found that the anti-rape posters that placed the blame on perpetrators’ faulty notions of consent (instead of emphasising that women should not place themselves in positions of vulnerability, like most rape posters do) actually reduced the rate of rape by 10%.
It has also been found that a lot of rapes are committed by the same predators, who do not get reported because of the shame experienced by the victims. If these perpetrators were reported and dealt with, and everyone was a lot clearer about what consent means, then rape would become less of a widespread problem.
A consent culture is a sex-positive culture: one where people feel empowered to say no, and empowered to say yes, enthusiastically, without being slut-shamed, told they are a prude, or that they are frigid. One where we can explore sexuality and sacred touch together, in safety.
So you think Paganism doesn’t have a problem?
Let me tell you about some of the experiences that I have had with supposedly sex-positive Pagans.
- Visiting another group which had trainees. The ritual was robed, but then they decided to take their clothes off during the feast, and started doing sexual things. They were polyamorous, I was in a monogamous relationship. They called me a prude for not being poly, and tried to get me to join in. As someone who thought I was poly but wanted to be faithful to my partner, this was very uncomfortable. I felt pressurised to join in, so as not to seem a prude.
- Working with a HP. Shared a bed afterwards because it was the only bed in the flat and it was very cold. He wanted sex, I didn’t. I ended up having sex with him to shut him up.
- People who hug in a creepy sexualised manner (more than one).
- All the people who try to tell you that third degree initiation, or any other initiation, has to involve the Great Rite with actual sexual intercourse.
- The creepy guy who is married, chats up women, and fails to tell them he is married. Repeatedly.
- The slut-shaming and dismissal and cries of “don’t rock the boat” or “if you are strong then you can defend yourself” that happen every time this issue is raised.
I will no longer be silenced by slut-shaming, victim-blaming, fear of rocking the boat, and patriarchal misogyny.
Want to learn more / take action?
- Create an anti-harassment policy and procedure for your group, community, or event, using resources like the Geek Feminism Wiki model policy, or the THATcamp anti-harassment policy.
- Create a safeguarding policy and procedure for your event, group, or community. This is a complex topic, but the UK government safeguarding website is a good place to start.
- Offer workshops and talks on consent culture at events.
- Read articles on consent culture and rape culture.
- Read our forthcoming anthology, Pagan Consent Culture.
Recommended Pagan articles
- Erotic Ethics and Pagan Consent Culture – Christine Hoff Kraemer
- Silence equals complicity: making Pagan groups safe for everyone – Yvonne Aburrow
- Allegations Emerge After Pagan Author Charged With Possessing Child Pornography | The Wild Hunt – Jason Pitzl-Waters
- The community statement on religious sexual abuse. – Brendan Myers
- Predators in Paganism – T Thorn Coyle
- The Fish Rots from the Head Down: Squid Eye and Sexual Exploitation – Lydia Crabtree
- The Frosts – Pedophiles in our Midst – Rob / Jo
- Sex! Witches!!! Nudity!!!!! And yes, ethics…. – Kim Dent-Brown
- Approaching Groups – Phil Hine
Recommended general articles
- The Pervocracy: the Myth of the Boner Werewolf
- The Pervocracy: The Missing Stair
- Yes means yes: Meet the predators
- Ada Initiative: Conference anti-harassment campaigns do work: Three existence proofs from SF&F, atheism/skepticism, and open source
- rockstar dinosaur pirate princess: Consent – not actually that complicated (the famous tea and consent blogpost)