Rape culture is the normalization of behaviors and environments that enable sexual assault and rape. We all know the relevance of rape culture in Greek life, specifically fraternities. Greek life’s role in rape culture is certainly a prominent one. According to The Guardian, fraternity members are three times more likely than nonmembers to rape someone, but the harmful effects of rape culture appear in college environments beyond just Greek life.
My female friends and I have heard the rule so many times as it’s been drilled into our brains: don’t walk alone at night. Even when I’m walking around in a group, I do a quick scan to make sure I know where the closest blue light is. In the evenings, I look out my window and often see a guy going for a run. I wish I could go for a sunset run to Horsebarn Hill, but running back in the dark would be dangerous.
A lot of my male friends don’t understand what I mean when I say “rape culture.” They haven’t been told countless times to not go out alone or to make sure they don’t leave their drink unattended for even a minute. It must be nice to not worry about these things. Even going to the dining hall can be a dangerous journey. The walk from my building to the closest dining hall is only a few minutes, but I must pass through an isolated hill in the woods. Something as subtle as a sound from the bushes makes me nervous and causes me to run down the hill.
Trying to avoid walking alone in the dark is easier said than done. I have a chemistry lab, for example, that ends at 8 p.m. As the sun sets earlier and earlier, I become more and more nervous for my walk back — a feeling my male friends have rarely experienced. However, this is not to say that men have not been affected by rape culture.
Rape culture impacts men negatively too. This past week I had a male friend explain an uncomfortable sexual experience to me. He then followed with, “I guess it doesn’t matter, though, because I’m a guy so it’s different.” The truth is, it’s not different. Girls can take advantage of guys just as much as guys can. No, men don’t experience the same fear as women when walking back to their dorms at night. However, men experience a different obstacle just as much as women do: being told their feelings of being violated are invalid. Victims of sexual assault and rape often don’t come forward about their experiences out of fear of being told they weren’t actually raped or that their abuser would “never do that.” Men are told to not complain or speak up after being violated because of the effects of toxic masculinity. Additionally, male victims of rape and sexual assault are rarely given a platform to speak about their experiences. This culture causes men to stay silent after engaging in sexual activity against their will.
The impact of rape culture is even more prevalent on college campuses. There is a direct correlation between college campuses and rape frequency. According to RAINN, male college students are five times more likely to be raped or assaulted than men of the same age who don’t attend college. This statistic demonstrates how the setting of a college campus enables this harmful behavior.
There is a need, specifically on college campuses, to feel validated by other peers, thus causing victims to stay silent about unwanted sexual experiences. We must work to destroy the social atmospheres that promote and enable rape culture and the silence behind it. Rape culture on college campuses impacts all genders, and the social environment on many campuses, including the University of Connecticut, creates an atmosphere in which the voices of victims are silenced.