Society and Culture

Rape Culture Can (And Must) Be Changed

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A few weeks ago the White House began what it calls the It’s On Us campaign to end campus sexual assault. This campaign is a direct result of last April’s Title IX developments to try and change the way we look at consent and rape. As Vice President Joe Biden so sagely put it: “Violence against women is not a women’s issue alone, it’s a men’s issue.”


Last week the It’s On Us campaign continued its onslaught on campus sexual violence by releasing guidance to draft sexual assault guidelines, handle reports of assault, promote prevention, and outline exactly what “consent” means.

It is a little early to tell whether or not these guidelines and the new focus on changing college rape culture will have a noticeable effect, but since every education institution in the U.S. is legally obligated to follow Title IX policies, I’d say change is in the air.

This is only the beginning, though. While sexual assault on college campuses is more common and also more ignored than elsewhere in society, it is by no means the only place rape culture runs rampant.

But what exactly is rape culture? It’s where rape is widely recognized and accepted as a normal part of society. Where, instead of trying to prevent rape, victims are blamed. Rape, unfortunately, has become normalized in American society. The word “rape” can be heard to describe anything but the act itself, and there has been more than one occurrence of assault recorded and uploaded to the internet. As if showing themselves raping someone will give the uploader fame.


No, college is definitely not the only place rape culture needs to disappear. It is also not the only place that things like the Title IX developments may not be taken seriously.

By the time kids get to college, they have had at least seventeen years of rape culture exposure. They grew up in gender roles that encouraged male dominance and female submissiveness. They grew up being told that a girl who dresses in a short dress is “slutty” or “asking for it.” They watched movies like The Hangover where being roofied was turned into a comedy. When they finally set foot on a college campus for the first time, they had years of societal expectations ingrained into their heads.

Now, while many college students are eager to have their minds opened and changed by their chosen institution, not all are willing to let go of the beliefs they got from their parents and relatives. “It’s On Us” will no doubt have some positive effects on the number of sexual assault cases on campuses, and it is a sure sign that rape culture can be changed, but it is just one of the steps that needs to be taken.

It should also be noted that, along with rape culture existing outside the college campus, women are by no means the only ones who suffer sexual assaults. It is a truth that is not widely acknowledged that men get raped too. But, as I said before, men are brought up to be dominant and therefore are too afraid to admit a woman assaulted them. When we, in the words of Emma Watson, “see gender as a spectrum, rather than two sets of opposing ideals,” assault initiated by both genders, and the rape culture in which those assaults are normalized, will end.

If you would like more information on Title IX and its guidelines, go here.

Morgan McMurray
Morgan McMurray is an editor and gender equality blogger based in Seattle, Washington. A 2013 graduate of Iowa State University, she has a Bachelor of Arts in English, Journalism, and International Studies. She spends her free time writing, reading, teaching dance classes, and binge-watching Netflix. Contact Morgan at



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