Anyone who has been on the Internet lately is familiar with Robin Thicke’s hit, “Blurred Lines,” as well as the widespread ire it has drawn from feminists. The song has more than 173 million views on YouTube and contains lyrics like “Tried to domesticate you; But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature,” and “I know you want it; I hate these blurred lines.”
I think this song, as well as the music video that goes along with it, is disgusting. My interpretation is that the lyrics imply not only that women are animals meant to be domesticated, but also that if a man claims to “know” that a woman wants “it,” then any lines she draws (for example, lack of consent) are just an irritation.
But the song itself is not the root of the issue. The issue is the culture that allows a video that relegates hardly-clothed women holding livestock to receive millions of views. It’s the culture that was called into question when two Steubenville, Ohio, high school football players were convicted for the rape of an intoxicated 16-year-old girl, then quickly forgotten. It is rape culture.
Rape culture is something that is familiar to many victims’ rights activists but not the general public. Its main characteristic is victim-blaming. We’ve all seen it. Some of it is obvious, such as believing a victim of sexual assault deserved what happened to her because she was “asking for it.”
Bystanders, perpetrators and the victims themselves often assume that by wearing revealing clothing, getting drunk, being sexually promiscuous or “leading a guy on” qualifies as asking for sex. A popular joke illustrates this point wonderfully: “If you have sex with a prostitute against her will, is it rape or stealing?” That is rape, and this is rape culture.
Less obvious manifestations of rape culture are usually propagated by well-meaning people who want to encourage women to stay safe. Young women are told not to walk alone at night, to always carry Mace, to never leave their drinks unattended at a bar and to maybe take a self-defense class. To this, I ask, why should we have to?
The unfortunate truth is that we do. According to the Center for Disease Control, “Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3 percent) … in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives, including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, or alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration.”
Not only is rape alarmingly common, but, according to the CDC, most of the female victims experienced it before the age of 25. That means college women like our friends, classmates and even ourselves, are prime targets for rape.
Think of five women you know. The chances are high that at some time in her life, one of those female friends, co-workers, acquaintances or family members has been or will be the victim of sexual assault.
But it gets worse. Not only do we live in a culture that makes rape possible, we live in one that allows the rapist to get away with his or her crime. According to the Justice Department, 65 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police.
This number is too high; any number of rapes is too high. Too many women who are raped don’t report the crime, and too many rapists get away with the assault.
So to the men out there who might hate those “lines,” I say too bad. Just because someone is making dinner in front of you doesn’t mean you get to eat it. Just because someone is counting money in front of you doesn’t mean you get to take it, and just because a woman is showing some leg, you don’t get to rape her.
To the women I say don’t be ashamed, don’t be guilty, and don’t ever back down.
Grace Pastoor can be reached at email@example.com.