Guest post: The collection of stories we tell about ourselves

Originally a comment by A Masked Avenger on Sommers thinks she is liberal-minded.

aliam, #18:

If you call our ENTIRE CULTURE a RAPE CULTURE then you are saying that MEN have culturally been indoctrinated into being potential rapists in the waiting.

Brian Pansky is right: you’re doing “why are there still monkeys?” You’re trying to interpret a criticism of culture as a criticism of all members of the culture in general, and each one in particular, so that you can conclude, “If ‘rape culture’ is real, then you’re saying I am a rapist!” No such thing.

TW: rape culture, references to rape.

The culture is basically the collection of stories we tell about ourselves. It’s a set of shared myths. Such as the myth that men are protectors, and “don’t hit women,” but rather defend them. That they’re providers. That women are the nurturers. That “normal” is growing up with your mommy, who is definitely a woman and makes dinner every night, and your daddy, who is definitely a man and comes home every night bringing the bacon and stories about his day. And so on, and so on.

And within those myths are some that weaken women’s boundaries by trivializing them or outright denying their existence. There’s the myth that marriage is a contract to have sex, and saying “no” to your husband is a violation of the contract. Or the myth that women say “no” in order to look like “good girls,” when really they mean “yes,” and what they really want is for your manly manliness to overcome their resistance in order to give them an alibi. Or the myth that women who aren’t “good girls” are “sluts” who will have sex with anyone, and who if they say no to you, are insulting your masculinity. And so on, and so on.

The net effect of those stories isn’t to make men hide in the bushes and rape random passers-by. But it very much IS to make men less respectful of boundaries. More likely to badger women who say no, or have sex with intoxicated women without worrying whether they’d have consented when sober, or otherwise have sexual contact with women who are not freely consenting. Which is very much not OK. Which is rape.


  1. John Horstman says

    Also, rape is normalized. The overwhelming majority of men are socialized to see behaviors that constitute rape (like those A Masked Avenger notes) as not-rape, as normal sex. Plenty of men either eventually learn better or don’t ever actually rape despite internalizing these norms, but plenty also don’t, and nearly all of us* internalize some of them to some extent.

    *’us’ being people read as men – I don’t actually identify as a man, but I don’t give a duck about gender categories, I was assigned male at birth, and I’m usually read as a man

  2. Jason Dick says

    I’d just answer:

    Yes, that’s what rape culture does. You hit the nail on the head. Bravo. Men who buy into the stories that rape culture tells are potential rapists, because they have been taught that many forms of rape are just fine, normal sex.

  3. leni says

    and nearly all of us* internalize some of them to some extent

    I don’t think you needed to qualify “us”. It’s everyone in the culture, we all internalize it to some degree.

  4. says

    Similarly, as aliam may be an atheist, would they reject the notion that we live in a Christian culture? Maybe they would. But I’d say we do. That obviously doesn’t mean everyone in that culture is a Christian.

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