We wanted to take a moment, in light of all the media attention that the Daniel Tosh incident has been receiving, to talk about Rape Culture.
First, what is the Daniel Tosh incident? At a live stand-up comedy show in LA, Comedy Central comedian Daniel Tosh addressed a woman in the audience saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…” (The anonymous audience-member has posted her account of the event here). The comment has been getting airtime on social media sites all over the internet, including facebook, and has sparked several dialogues about Rape Culture.
Marshall University explains Rape Culture as the following:
“Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.
Rape Culture affects every woman. The rape of one woman is a degradation, terror, and limitation to all women. Most women and girls limit their behavior because of the existence of rape. Most women and girls live in fear of rape. Men, in general, do not. That’s how rape functions as a powerful means by which the whole female population is held in a subordinate position to the whole male population, even though many men don’t rape, and many women are never victims of rape. This cycle of fear is the legacy of Rape Culture.”
We as a culture are constantly working on our use of language, whether it’s eliminating homophobic or racist language or encouraging others to do the same. Language, and our comfort around words, creates an environment that normalizes and perpetuates this behavior.
Still not sure what we’re talking about? Here are some examples of rape culture, again from Marshall University.
- Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”)
- Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)
- Sexually explicit jokes
- Tolerance of sexual harassment
- Inflating false rape report statistics
- Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
- Gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television
- Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
- Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
- Pressure on men to “score”
- Pressure on women to not appear “cold”
- Assuming only promiscuous women get raped
- Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped
- Refusing to take rape accusations seriously
- Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape
This incident and use of language in a public forum (then magnified on the internet and through other forms of social media) has created an opportunity for dialogue and change. Though we agree that Mr. Tosh’s comments were inappropriate and not funny, we want to take this chance to encourage positive change; what we can each do in our daily lives to alter our language and behaviors that feed a rape culture.
Marshall University offers ways to combat Rape Culture:
- Avoid using language that objectifies or degrades women
- Speak out if you hear someone else making an offensive joke or trivializing rape
- If a friend says she has been raped, take her seriously and be supportive
- Think critically about the media’s messages about women, men, relationships, and violence
- Be respectful of others’ physical space even in casual situations
- Always communicate with sexual partners and do not assume consent
- Define your own manhood or womanhood. Do not let stereotypes shape your actions.
- Get involved! Join a student or community group working to end violence against women.
If this incident has outraged you, moved you to start dialogue or post something on Facebook, we encourage you to do so in a positive manner. This is an opportunity to educate our peers about the importance of language, both publicly and privately. If you’re unhappy with the comments that have been made (or the apologies), show your distaste by taking action and helping to change Rape Culture. There are plenty of things to make jokes about right now, just ask Jon Stewart.
For more information or resources, please check out the following websites.