Most toxically, rape culture is the existence and reinforcement of myths about the kind of people who rape, the kind of people who get raped and the kind of behavior that results in an assault. It is the slut-shaming and victim-blaming that, unconsciously or not, colors our individual responses to the statement: I was raped. We know that the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known, if only recently or vaguely, to the victim. Researchers have found that a small number of men commit large numbers of acquaintance rapes, many of them deliberately targeting intoxicated women, then using these pervasive myths to avoid prosecution. For this reason, above all others, it is important to talk, not just about rape, but about rape culture.
In fact, all rapes are carried out by a small number of men. Rapists are in the minority. This is not about men’s innate aggression. Nor is it about women’s victim paranoia. And it is not an invention of feminists who do not like Carr’s haircut. A measured response to rape culture does not make all men responsible for rape, just as it should not make all women responsible for getting or not getting raped. It involves calling out rape myths in conversation, removing our custom from the organizations that offend us, holding police and politicians to account and insisting that there is nothing culturally relative about sexual violence. In defining our terms as clearly as possible, we can all counter the mood music that makes rape easier to perpetrate and harder to prosecute.