I have three close friends. The statistics suggest that one of us will be sexually assaulted: forced to take part in in sexual acts without giving consent. The chances of the perpetrator receiving a punishment is 6 out of 1000, according to RAINN. A culture that turns away from a victim’s need for help, a culture that excuses the rapist’s actions, a culture that deems it justifiable to joke about sexual assault… is rape culture.
Something that’s common at my school is making light of the word “rape.” My friends and classmates say things like: “She’s so hot, I’m gonna rape her” or “I totally raped that test!” By doing so, the one joking is making light of a victim’s tragedy and saying that their assault is not a big deal. These comments could also be reassuring any potential or previous perpetrators who could be listening that sexual assault is okay. When I hear things like that, I call them out on it. I don’t think there is a “perfect” response to things like that, but I always try.
It’s hard to call out rape jokes because of the way people try to shake off what you’re saying. They call you a “buzzkill” to make you feel like you’re ruining their fun. But I’ve found that eventually, they will listen.
I tell them that rape is not something to joke about because of how terrible and tragic it is. I tell them that it isn’t funny, that if something so awful ever happened to them, which it definitely could, they would never want anyone to joke about it.
But the people making the jokes are not really at fault; they are born into a society that teaches them that it is okay to make light of someone else’s trauma, no matter how it makes others feel. I ask them if they would stop making jokes about rape if they ever heard a rape survivor’s story. They always avoid the question, probably because it makes them uncomfortable.
Rape is, understandably, a difficult topic to discuss, especially for people in my age group. And although it may be difficult, it needs to be talked about. It’s hard for people my age to discuss rape because most of us don’t know how to react when hearing about something so serious. Thinking about rape can be scary, and that’s why people try to make light of it.
Some people think it’s okay to joke about rape because they are surrounded by older people who do so as well. Some parents, teachers, and media outlets perpetuate ideas that help rape culture continue to exist: that women are the only ones who get raped, that it’s the victim’s fault for whatever reason, that women need to protect themselves, rather than just teaching not to rape, and that rape can only happen in very specific situations. If parents blame victims, chances are, so will their children; if parents trivialize the matter of rape, their children will think it is okay, and do so correspondingly.
All this being said, it’s not the adults’ fault either. They think that way because of the society they grew up in, a rape culture. There are people who think this way and, while it sets back creating a safe place for everyone in the world, it doesn’t make it impossible. For this reason, it’s so important to constantly call people out when they perpetuate rape culture and try to inform them about how it facilitates sexual violence.
My friends and I have started to speak about rape. Our voices have power, and we’re using that power to advocate for victims of sexual assault. We’re using our power to try to educate others about sexual assault. We talk to our peers and hope that our beliefs influence theirs, while still trying to understand their perspective.
Rape culture is so prominent in our society that joking about rape is considered okay. The most concerning thing about this issue is that kids I know aren’t the only ones making rape jokes; almost everyone hears rape jokes all the time and nobody really knows how to stop others from doing it. While it might seem impossible to eradicate all rape jokes, there definitely is a way. I think that if everyone gets educated on the subject and everyone speaks up, then the light at the end of the tunnel is a lot closer than we all think.
Talia Rubinstein is a 16 year old rising junior at Milken Community High School. Talia is a trained Peer Educator of The Talk Project. She adores literature and has a passion for music and theater.