Rape Myths

by Adam Kaiser

Unfortunately, the occurrence of sexual violence is far too common in society today.  The negative effects of sexual violence on our society, especially on women, cannot be overstated.  Most would agree that, sadly, we live in a “culture of violence.”  Many factors contribute to a “culture of violence.”  One of these factors is the cultural attitudes surrounding rape myths. 

Rape myths are beliefs about sexual assault.

Examples of rape myths include:  Women “ask” to be raped based on the way they dress,   women who flirt with men invite sexual assault, women who drink too much deserve to be assaulted, and women fantasize about rape.

Rape myths insinuate that rape is triggered, provoked by the victim, deserved, or asked for.  Rape myths downplay the role that sexist attitudes have in creating a culture of violence. 

Rape myths are dangerous, not only because they normalize and downplay rape, but because they often promote it.  In a study conducted by Gerd Bohner, Afroditi Pina, Viki Tendayi and Frank Siebler, researchers found an alarming correlation between rape myth acceptance and rape proclivity.  In one part of the study, college aged men at a British University are exposed to rape myths that are said to be accepted by their peers and then are asked to take a survey to assess their attitudes toward committing acts of sexual violence.  It is no surprise that these men showed a higher propensity towards acts of sexual violence. 

In the second half of the study men are exposed to statements showing that their peers reject rape myths.  These men, unlike their counterparts in the first experiment, showed a much lower propensity towards sexually violent activity. 

This study, although alarming, is a call to action. Personally rejecting rape myths alone is not enough to end the cycle of violence.  Instead, it is important to let your peers know that you reject rape myths.  Let them know that under no circumstances does a victim ask to be sexually assaulted.  Let them know that no matter how a person is dressed, how much they flirt, or what their sexual history includes, they never deserve to be raped. 

Although this may seem simple, it is a step that every person can take to end sexual violence.  This study demonstrates that showing others that you reject rape myths and support survivors can make a difference and influence others opinions and thoughts about rape.

Sexual violence cannot be stopped until a cultural shift happens.  Everyone should challenge themselves to take a stand against sexual violence and make it something that is unacceptable on every level and in every community.

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6 Comments

  1. gbl
    Posted September 9, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    I don’t want to read articles about rape myths from a male, who invented them, perpetrate them, and now benefit from listing them in an article? No THANKS. Give these paid or unpaid assignments to a WOMAN, preferably a survivor, it shouldn’t be hard to find–one, in four. I want to hear women, not men on this topic, I want the money, and experience of the writing, to go to a woman.

    No more men telling us anything. If they want to work against rape let them start their own orgs and go at it. Let them talk to other men, not women. We are in the position we are in with this because we listen to men.

  2. for GBL
    Posted September 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    cool story bro. way to be a part of the problem.

  3. It's not just men
    Posted September 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Both women and men endorse rape myths. It is not just men that created these ideas that what women wear etc “cause” rape. As a survivor myself I understand the frustration and destructiveness of rape myths. I want to remind everyone that men are not the problem. I found my female friends to endorse rape myths and blame me for my rape by asking why I drank, why I was out, why I danced with him etc. more than any of my male friends did. As an active participant in the stopping violence against women movement I know my experience with women endorsing rape myths is not unique. Violence against women won’t stop until both men and women stand up! Thank you for your important article Adam.

  4. Mandy
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I had a similar experience coming out as a survivor as the second commenter did. My FEMALE friends asked me why I let myself get raped while my MALE friends wanted to kill the rapist and were supportive of me. 

    That being said I would like to add on to the second commenter by reminding the original commenter that men can also be victims of rape. Yes, 1 in 4 women experience sexual assault but so do 1 in 6 men. When a man is raped the shame and embarrassment is almost worse because as a man you are taught to be tough, not to become a victim. 

    The fact that you know One Student exists shows me that you would like to see an end to rape culture, yet you’re saying that someone else isn’t good enough to do the job because of their genitalia? Part of the reason rape culture exists is because of the double standards against women. Because of the inequalities women still face in this country. How can you be an active member in the fight for equality and fair treatment and then make a comment like you did? 
    Adam wrote a great article, one that could help other men see their blaming habits and you’re trying to tear him down for doing so? Personally, I hope he keeps up the great work and would like to thank him for voicing his opinion on the matter. 

  5. Posted September 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    This is a good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
    Brief but very precise information… Thanks for sharing this
    one. A must read post!

  6. Lorna
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    A very common one I see people using to label someone a liar is that they do not behave like a true rape victim: aren’t traumatized enough, don’t hate the rapist enough or aren’t sexually inhibited enough. There should be more education on the variety of responses to rape and that you cannot tell if someone is raped by how they behave afterwards. That rape victims often go into denial, try to minimize what has happened and don’t always call it rape (at least not right away) is something people should be educated on. Others are that date rape is just a misunderstanding, date/achquaintance/spousal rape isn’t as traumatizing as stranger rape, highly sexed men who can get a woman won’t rape cause they don’t need to, sex workers can’t be raped, you can’t rape someone you are sleeping with or married to, pressuring someone into sex isn’t abuse, if someone only has 1 accusation against them they must be innocent or have only done it once, rape victims always report and rape can always be proved by physical evidence.

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