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Part of: Rape culture and consent


The issue at the heart of this debate is our agency and consent.

It may seem like everyone is discussing consent these days but it wasn’t too long ago when rape within a marriage or relationship was not even recognised as that in most laws. Even now, the conversation on consent is far from enlightened and can be muddied by media coverage globally on consent and what it means for us individually.

Due to rape culture and its embedded nature in our society, we often internalise toxic concepts of victim blaming and rape apologism but this is a safe space to explore that. Whether it is telling your niece or daughter to wear a longer skirt, your male friend that he should have “manned up”, or questioning“if I had said this, it would not have happened”, these thoughts take the responsibility away from the criminal and put it on those who have done nothing to call for it. You may rationalise it in your head by thinking you are reducing the risk of getting assaulted or thinking of ways to make sense of why it happened but we’re here to tell you something you know deep inside: no one invites sexual abuse. No one does anyone to “deserve” it, nor think they have the right to enact it on others.

Rape culture is emboldened through lots of ways, and one of the most pervasive and toxic is through media portrayals. Sadly, we could write countless pages of the way in which the media portrayals of rape survivors and perpetrators has failed us, as well as failed to focus on systems of power and abuse. The media’s role should be to expose and generate awareness against society’s ills in favour of those who need support the most, but that isn’t always the case. For some survivors, the media coverage of their rape or other violence was like a second assault on them because of the insensitivity in the media’s use of pictures, publishing names, other invasions of privacy and in the way they reported about their assault. Media coverage like the Italian coverage of the Harvey Weinstein scandal work to directly perpetuate myths and misrepresentations about sexual assault and directly shifting blame from this male perpetrator of violence and assigning the responsibility for violence to women.

We see this happen over and over across the world, with rape culture influencing media representation and then the conversations society has about rape. Another case we see this in is when people ask “what was she wearing?”. We’re inclusive of all individuals and their identities, but the predominant subject of this question is almost always female survivors. We see these survivors questioned and portrayed time and time again based on what they were wearing - be it visible tattoos, skinny jeans in Italy or the underwear of an Irish teenage girl who was raped. When we start to actively question and argue back against media portrayals and coverage of rape and sexual assault cases, we began to work against rape culture by not allowing it to take over everything we consume and perpetuate the harmful myths that make survivors not want to come forward to report.