Two words that some would like to deny, some have experienced, and all of us have to live with in our day to day life.
It starts when we are children. One in four girls will be molested by the time she is 18. Yes, you read that right. In an average female senior classroom of twenty, five of those girls will have been sexually abused. The definition of sexual abuse is a wide one, but the Victims of Crime website defines sexual abuse as the infliction of sexual activity on a person who cannot give consent.
Little girls on the playground are told when a boy is mean to them it means he likes them, setting a foundation for male dominance and violence. When we allow this foundation to build, we teach little girls that it’s okay when a boy is rough or violent to get what he wants, even when it is sexual in nature. What kind of future are we setting our girls up for?
Girls are told “boys will be boys,” an excuse that covers a wide range of behaviors from eating dirt to forcing a kiss on a little girl. In the meantime, girls are forced to fit into a tight mold that society has crafted for them. Their behavior is refined by society, telling them what is “right” and “proper”. That to be sexually open is slutty, promiscuous. On the other hand, boys are told the more females they “conquer” the more manly, the more superior they are. Talking about sexual exploits is celebrated in male culture, whereas girls are told to not even think about sex.
The New York Times recently published an article that discusses California’s new sexual consent education law. California became the first state that has a law that requires that all high school sexual education classes give lessons on affirmative consent; essentially teachers discuss what constitutes consent. Let that sink in: our school systems had to come up with a class to teach kids that SEXUAL ASSAULT IS WRONG. “Yes means yes” is the permeating idea throughout the classes, and I support that entirely. But the fact that we have to have an actual class to teach kids that is disturbing. How come children don’t know that from day one? How come the simple idea that we should respect other's’ bodies and wishes is not so engrained in our minds that we have to have a class on it? When it comes down to it, I support these types of classes wholeheartedly. Education is the only way to improve our society, and it is high time our public institutions took steps to incorporate sexual consent education into sexual education curriculum. What depresses me is that the need for these classes even exists. A person’s dignity is one of the most basic rights accorded to them, and the fact that some people so carelessly steal that away without a second thought is revolting.
The new California law also gives a more concrete definition of consent: "Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent," says the new law. It also goes on to add "nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time." Naturally, some oppose the law, because it puts too much of a “burden” on the accused. Want to know what a real burden is? Having someone sexually assault you and then be told it was your fault, or you were asking for it, or to be shamed. I applaud California for taking steps in the right direction in our war on sexual violence.
It is not easy to admit that, as a society, we raise rapists; through advertisements and popular media that sexualizes women to the point where they are merely sex objects. The gender pay gap, the fact that we STILL have not had a female president, and many other subtle and not-so-subtle ways are how we teach boys that they are above girls. I will admit that we have come a long way since the days when women were basically considered housekeepers and baby-makers, but that stereotype still follows women today in a quiet whisper. The underlying view on women has not changed; there are still those who think that women exist solely to satisfy their sexual pleasure, and until we annihilate that idea, we will always live with rape culture.
The end of rape culture will only occur when we, as a human race, come together and say enough is enough. Women are equal to men, and their bodies and minds deserve to be respected. A cultural revolution has to take place before we can reach a world in which no person feels superior to another based on gender. No person should ever feel unsafe or violated. It is up to us, young and old, to change the world we live in.