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Invisible Yet Internalized: How Rape Culture Enables The Exploitation Of Women

Rape Culture

This term is a sociological concept for a society in which rape is perceived as something present in every part of the existing societal norms and it is highly normalised and used as a tool to control women’s role in these social structures and acquire full control over their mobility and sexuality.

Different behavioural patterns mostly attached with rape culture are victim blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, denying the damage caused by violence against women in the form of sexual abuse, molestation, sexual, physical or verbal harassment, etc.

Eve teasing: This is a common practice committed by predators with men being primarily involved in this practice. Perpetrators use verbal abuse, physical abuse or molestation as their common method to harass women.

Representational image.

It’s commonly seen in public places through catcalling, sexually aggressive remarks, verbal abuse through sexual slangs and abusive words. Constantly passing on comments, targeting specifically young women or of any age is the purpose of eve teasing.

Therefore, my understanding of rape culture is that it surrounds us. It is a deep internalisation which we ignore and disregard or practice on daily basis. We have raised our children in a manner in which women are taught to be submissive and men are in a dominant position. This division has created a culture which promotes the concept of power and control; in short, rape.

As rape is mostly related to imposing power on the other person, men try to control women’s liberty through many ways. Raping women confirms their authority and power over women.

On the other hand, women become victim by ignoring eve-teasing and tolerating the gender discrimination. Their submission confirms their place in the society.
Society plays the most vital part in rape culture as it connects ‘honour’ with women’s bodies, their sexual orientation and their sexuality. Women are looked down upon as commodities which represents their honour.

Women’s character is judged and analysed by their sexual orientation which makes them the soft targets to get raped. Rape culture and eve teasing both come hand in hand. This aggressive behaviour of men is normalised by glorification of men’s sexual needs through media, culture and social construction by quoting the oft-cited “Men will be Men”.

Thus, this is my basic understanding of rape culture and eve teasing and for further research, I will be reviewing some literature, documentaries until I come to a conclusion with relevant answers.

Background And Significance

‘Rape culture’ as a concept was first introduced in the 1970s in the United States by the radical feminists of second-wave feminism and it was also included in the contemporary times for most of the present feminist movements.

In 1970s, second wave brought about radical feminists which was much needed in that time as the education system failed to address sexism, misogyny and over all patriarchal structures of the society. It was a bold movement raising consciousness about patriarchy and the oppression since ages. It was designed to address misogynistic and oppressive cultural practices and to educate people about the normalisation of rape.

Perpetrators use verbal abuse, physical abuse or molestation as their common method to harass women. Representational image.

If we analyse the work of Canadian psychology professor Alexandra Rutherford, a majority of the population of America assumed that rape, incest, and wife-battering are rare crimes. Then, radical feminism theories pointed out the rape culture and gave the analysis of rape and its frequent occurrence in American society and how it is the most severe manifestation of normalisation of societal misogynistic and sexist structures.

Rape was identified as a crime of violence rather than a gender based violence. The centre of the violence against women through rape shifted from men’s sexual pleasure to the male desire to dominate the other genders via rape. They wanted to intimidate women and other genders through sexual violence to have a sense of power over them.

After the second wave of feminism and the brilliant work of radical feminists, the concept of rape was reviewed again and analysis was done through the lens of the victims rather than the predators.

The foremost official published use of the term was introduced in 1974 in “Rape: The First Sourcebook for Women” during the second wave of feminism and was written and by Noreen Connell, Cassandra Wilson for the New York Radical Feminists publication.

The issue of eve teasing and street harassment was recognized through second wave of feminism only; the brilliant radical feminists made sure to introduce this severe problem to be addressed in media, this happened in 1970s.

During these decades, large number of women started applying in colleges for further educations and gained independence by working in public sector which meant they were no longer in need of ‘male protection’ as earlier when it was a custom to be escorted by men all the time.

The outcome of second wave feminism was brilliant and more liberating then other waves as the radical feminists made sure that each woman’s issue was addressed including important issues which needed attention for immediate aid like violence against women, normalisation of rape culture, domestic violence, gender based discrimination, gender based violence, etc.

Literature Review

Rape Culture on Campus
[Kristen Bain, Published by: Off our]

This article starts with questioning the government about the expenditure on saving us and fighting for us in wars. The author uses the term ‘War on terror’ and explains how we are living in this present situation. She also explains how government fails to provide us a small measure of defense like pepper spray to save us against sexual predators because pepper spray can’t be sold at wholesale prices near the campuses.

The authors tells that how women have to struggle to buy a pepper spray as it is not easily available and how women have been able to convince only 1 out of 12 businessman to sell it on discount. She quotes Andrea Dworkin’s statement that rape is an act of terrorism. Rape is explained as a dictator in so far that the victim is blamed and its terror works everywhere.

The article also talks about the different strategies these women on campus use to analyse the rape culture. Representational image.

Rape is a by product of patriarchy. The authors talks about the rape awareness campaigns and how these self defence workshops indirectly puts the blame on the victim, as this actually doesn’t point our on the root cause of this social evil. The main issue the author wants to examine is power and control.

The article also talks about the different strategies these women on campus use to analyse the rape culture such as dividing women into 4 groups and the most targeted women’s group is observed.

The most pertinent question that the article asks is what can be done to prevent rape? Ending statement of this article is equating rape with a ‘War on Women’ , which means using rape as an act of terrorism that has been going on for centuries.

India’s Daughter Documentary

With inputs from Asha and Badri Singh (parents of Jyoti Singh)

A women is raped in India every 20 minutes. Most rapes are unreported but on 16 December 2012, medical student Jyoti Singh (Dwarka) was gangraped and murdered brutally which brought a big storm in India. Six men who committed the act were Ram Singh, Mukesh, Pawan, Akash Thakur, Vinay and a juvenile.

DU students and members of Asmita Theatre Group hjold placards and shout slogans during a protest against government as Nirbhaya and other rape survivors haven’t received justice, on the seventh anniversary of the Nirbhaya rape case, at Jantar Mantar on December 17, 2019 in New Delhi, India. Photo: Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

In a country like India, gender discrimination is present since birth. In this documentary, there are several statements by Mukesh (Driver), A.P singh (Defence Lawyer), M.L sharma (Defence Lawyer) which were defending their toxic masculinity and the internalized rape culture.


1. Women are equally responsible for the rape. As she came late at night, she was to be blamed.

2. He blamed the girl for everything saying that she was not supposed to be out at night and if she didn’t fight back, they would have not killed her.

3. She forgot her Indian values and deserved to get punished.

4. He explained everything in detail that how they switched off bus lights, inserted a steel rod inside her, beat her up, raped her one by one, inserted their hands inside her vagina and grabbed her intestine and after that how they threw them outside the bus naked, He explained the condition of the bus that how it was full painted with her blood and in the end they wore their stuff and just went to their houses and slept. He said this again and again that they were making a point that she should not have been out so late with her male friend, He explained every detail with no guilt at all.

5. He had no guilt regarding the incident.

M.L Sharma (Defence Lawyer):

1. A woman is just like a flower, it gives a good looking, very soft performance and men are thrones who are there to protect women. Put the flower in the gutter and it will be destroyed; keep it in  the temple they will be worshipped.

2. A girl with another man, who took her on a date. In our culture we don’t allow our women to go out after 7:30 or 8:30, especially with an unknown man.

3. They left our culture , they were under imagination of film culture in which they can do anything they want to do.

4. Women should not be put on streets like food, women on the other hand are more precious than a diamond or a gem. iIt is up to you how you want to put your diamond. If you put it on the street, the dog will take the diamond anyway.

5.  You are talking about men and women being friends; sorry, that doesn’t happen in our society as A woman can put the thought of sex in men’s minds immediately, We have the best culture and in our culture there is no place for Women.

6. He will like to create a damage and he will put his hand inside, it’s just like action.

A.P Singh (Defence Lawyer):

1.  A girl should go out if necessary with blood relations only or relatives. She should not go out in night hours with boyfriend.

2. If my daughter, sister is engaged in pre-Marital relationship and is disgracing her character, I will burn her alive in my farmhouse in front of my entire family. (He still stands by this statement.)

Akash’s wife:
1. I don’t believe my husband has done anything.

2.She says this again and again that so many women are raped on daily basis but only my husband is going to hanged because of this, She glorifies her husband.

Ram Singh’s and Mukesh’s parents:

1.  They lie about the incident and support their children with full confidence.

These statements proved the internalized rape culture and how victim is blamed and shamed. It is shown in the documentary how the culprits believe that raping women is their birth right but after this incident, everyone started to begin to question rape culture itself. Before this, rape was considered a shameful event and was viewed as being worse than death.

After this, society started to take responsibility for such rapists and gender discrimination was questioned.

Even Jyoti’s mother raised several questions as to why boys are not held accountable, why women are blamed for the crimes of men, why modesty is entitled with women and not men. Her parents felt helpless for not being able to save their daughter.

Representational image.

Dr. Maria Mishra explains the concept of gang rape in this documentary in so far that it is used to send a message that women are not allowed to cross certain boundaries. Dr. Sandeep (Jail Psychiatrist) stated that the psychological drive behind the act is their sense of entitlement. These men think it’s their right to enjoy women, Rich people do it by money and poor people do it by consuming alcohol and gaining the courage to enjoy.

Dr. Rashmi Ahuja (Gynecologist) stated the condition of Jyoti was dire and that she was bleeding to death but despite the pain, she kept giving narrating the brutal incident she went through.

Even the police department filed the charge sheet within 17 days for this case and the given time for high profile cases like these are 90 days. Police stated the condition of men in Tihar Jail who have been arrested for rape saying most of them stated that they have done more than 200 rapes but held accountable for only 12 or 15.

Each and every department was challenged after this case as it was an awakening to the rape culture in India which is still an ongoing battle.

Students Protest Against Eve teasing

[D.N. , Economic and Political weekly]

In March, women students of Madras University Law college went on strike protesting against the constant harrassment they had to face. The college authorities responded with threats and the teaching community was quite unsympathetic. The main theme of the article is Gender discrimination and harassment.

This started when obscene writing and pictures were found scribbled on the benches of a woman’s classroom. The college authorities first step was the divide and rule, in which separate classes were provided for girls and boys and when this system was questioned, the retort from college authorities was accusation of ulterior motives and loose character on the part of protesters.

Representational image.

Eve teasing then increased in the university and became a daily routine and whenever women protested, they were given suspension threats. After this, women started observing that irrespective of their caste, religion or colour, they were being cat-called.

So, they decided to come with an accurate approach for the protest and their democratic tactics and determination regarding the protest started to threaten the college authorities and men involved.

In fact the men who supported the protest were outnumbered. College authorities often gave problematic statements like “Women are like glass and will break if struck. So, they need our protection but if they don’t stop the protest they will be given no protection.”

The article ends with the continuous struggle of women against eve teasing, which is still unresolved.

Rape Culture: A Personal Story

[Alyn Pearson, Off Our backs]

In this article, the author talks about her personal struggle with rape culture. She talks about her encounters with several casual and serious men in her life which changed her, especially impacting her position as a peer rape counselor.

She explains each and every personal detail in which her high school and college sexual encounters are elucidated; she explains how she was conditioned to view herself as heterosexual and that her college life was a sexual trap. Drug abuse was ever present in her life. She narrated how she transformed herself into someone she was not supposed to be.

Women attend a prayer ceremony for a rape victim after a rally, organized by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit (unseen), protesting for justice and security for women, at Raj Ghat in New Delhi January 2, 2013.  REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Her first sexual experience happened only because she wanted the society around her to accept as ‘cool’ and an ‘open-minded’ person, how she never had the courage to question the aggressive sexual behaviour of her partner and thought she disappointed him by being uncomfortable in that situation.

She also explained how her consent was not a priority, how she forced herself into a situation she never wanted to be in to gain attention, how she wanted to look cool rather than being that ‘strong woman’ who is able to say ‘No’.

This state of her was declared by her as living in denial in so far that she was scared of the opposite sex and the sex role confusion. She points out at the social construction and how she is also a victim of this rape culture as she shamed herself for years for disappointing him and convinced herself that aggressive sexual behaviour is just ‘hooking up’, not some man exercising privilege and power over her constructed sense of submissive womanhood.

Rape Culture: It’s All Around Us

[Alyn Pearson, off our backs]

In this article, rape is compared to a disease and how its occurrence is like common cold but even worse because its germs are everywhere, especially the socially constructed notions like if women wear revealing clothes, consume alcohol they will be subject to rape, etc.

Rape culture is said to be like that poor sanitation which causes typhoid as we live in an environment where rape is fostered. Social training, media propaganda has also influenced the author. Earlier, she used to reject feminism until she joined ‘Brave Organisation’ in which the Orange experiment made her realise that men are conditioned to get what they want and be aggressive until they get it while women are trained to be submissive and eventually give in to men’s power and demands.

Rape is a result of power imbalance between men and women and this study is not observed by lot of women. It is internalized through romantic dramas that create a construction that women has to fulfil some duties to be a perfect women especially what a man desires.

Rape culture is years of training which imposes heterosexual relationships on women and it is expected of women not to say ‘No’. Fashion Industry is an advisory department which tells women that how men want them to be. Rape is endemic in culture and media makes sure to instill rape culture in all of us.

Media plays an important role in promoting rape culture, as it gives us gender roles to mimic and worship. In fact, rape scenes in movies are glorification of unwanted sexual intercourse and they never show the power play. It is always portrayed as unwanted yet ‘pleasurable’ sexual act.

Media is sexist in every advertisement, magazine, etc. Only one movie “Boys don’t cry” shows the actual power play in rape in so far that how she is raped when she questions the concept of gender. So, rape culture is all around us and our mind is manipulated by rape culture on a daily basis.

Research Methodology

This study uses the secondary data that was collected by students on campus, peer rape counsellors, media. By questioning the society through protest, their personal experiences are also used and case studies are made use of as well.

The study is done on the present environment of rape culture with reference to its past history as well.

Points to be questioned:

1. Should higher incidence of rape be associated with prevalence of the ideology of male dominance?
2. Is the power imbalance between men and women being questioned?
3. Is rape culture an ever-present and evolving process and will it ever end?
4. What are the measures that could be taken to eradicate rape culture?


After concluding this research, I have come to the conclusion that rape culture is still largely unrecognised yet internalized in our society.

Rape culture is invisible but has strong roots. Educating men, women and the youth about rape culture is the first step to get rid of it. There are no specific laws to address rape culture and even women justify their own subjugation.

To eliminate rape culture, the journey yet to begin. It has no recognition even in the educational institutions. So, I believe that to empower men, we have to first disempower them and make them aware of their toxic masculinity and privileges. Rape culture is like cancer – it is slowly hollowing out the society of its ethos.


1. Off our
3. Off Our Backs
Vol. 32, No. 9/10 (september-october 2002), pp. 26-27 (2 pages)
Published by: off our backs, inc.
4. alyn pearson
Off Our Backs, Vol. 30, No. 8 (august/september 2000), pp. 12-14
5. alyn pearson
Off Our Backs, Vol. 30, No. 8 (august/september 2000), pp. 13-14

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