Rape Culture had existed before Jesus Christ wore his first pair of baby sandals. And although the conception of the phrase itself goes back to the early 1970s, the term is still considered new and not fully understood in most contemporary settings.
The game was called Snapback. Springtime during elementary school recess my friends and I would gather around in a circle and wait on the perfect time to sneak up behind a girl who was swinging the jump rope and SMACK her right on the butt then run off running in motion as I high five my homies in the corner. Never paying attention to the tear eyed effect she may or not had. My friends and I justified our actions by the fewer(or perhaps one) female students who laughed as a reaction. My youthful harassment appeared to be more validated years later when, in a flashback scene from a movie called The Wood, actor Omar Epps character mirrored the exact past actions I lived. My joined laughter with the theater audience was confirmation the emotional IQ of myself and society lacked the maturity to understand how our efforts were keeping Rape Culture alive.
Snapping bras and pulling down skirts were considered harmless boy fun to show affection for a girl. Never once in Junior High did the thought of invasion of privacy come to mind. Women teachers would often shrug their shoulders with a Boys will be boys type attitude. Male teachers, despite in their personal life being overprotective fathers, excused these problematic actions as a rite of passage that is reminiscent of their own upbringing. Meanwhile, a young girl with a sore backside, is left to ponder what did she do wrong.
The objectification of a young schoolgirl was advertised in a Britney Spears video where she danced in a short plaid skirt, knee-high socks, and a tied-up belly button exposed shirt that revealed some slight cleavage. This continued an aged old theme of the sexual naughty catholic school girl who is sending out a “Spank me” invitation to all men in attendance.
Parents unintentionally encouraged the narrative that a woman’s clothes represent her sexual behavior. Young daughters are caution not to dressed too revealing; for fear that a man might think they are promiscuous, therefore placing their lives in the same danger as a non-virgin female character in a horror slasher film. The miseducated male adolescent learns through these images that permission is not required, and an open belly button piercing worn by a young woman is a doorbell invitation to her body to do with as he pleases.
Sexually active women on screen are often portrayed as dangerous and only be dealt with at one’s own risk. Whether it’s an older biblical movie like Samson And Delilah or years later with the basketball film, He Got Game, both within script has the main male character receiving various warnings from others that the downfall of their God-given gifts would be an immoral woman aka Fast Girl.
To grow up as a young black male especially is to hear from mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and older sisters, warning of the immoral girl AKA, the fast girl. The use of condoms was/is given to the young black teenage male as a form of protection instead of a responsible practice for fear of the fast “dirty” girl who may try to put a baby on you. Because these young girls were(and still) unfairly stereotyped as a threat, their concerns and outcries often are ignored, increasing the lack of accountability among young men who live within a protective bubble created by the women who raised them.
The impact of Rape Culture has different influences among white and black males but have parallel lessons between the two. The white adolescence learns a Lion King–Everything the light touches is our kingdom-lesson that creates a belief system that they can have anything they want. Young black male youths are taught the same only with a different undertone that says – that if you play the game right, work harder than everyone else, and overcome the odds that are already stacked against you; an obedient Queen shall(or should) be your reward. Neither is correct, yet both create a wall of entitlement that leaves no room of understanding on how to deal with rejection.
Media outlets and entertainment platforms encourage public perception to overrule morals and facts. Both Mike Tyson and Kobe Bryant were perceived to be innocent of rape accusations by the public based on the actions of their accusers who visited both men(A married man in Kobe’s case) late at night. The assumption of She knew what she wanted is a mentality that I grew and laughed along with others around me as Comedian Bill Bellamy dismissed Tyson’s charges as a mere “booty call” gone wrong. I
A man of a generation born before the year 1988 learned at best the basic “Stop all advances, if the girl tells you NO,” with little to no further educational discussions on context cues, sexual pressures, or the violation of barriers while intoxicated. Movies, TV, music, and other cultural moments through entertainment have helped push the narrative that toxic behavior was acceptable while rooting its influence in parental teachings that continue to pass on a masked form of traditional growing pains. Fathers/father figures need to unlearn their previous toxic culture and support progressive healthier ways of engagement between young boys and young girls. Mothers/mother figures should consciously avoid promoting the same patriarchal ideologies once used against them with their sons and daughters.
A better society is one that doesn’t just recognize the dangerous patterns of its past but works to creates teachable spaces in the present that eliminate all forms of rape culture existence in the future.