Rape culture is a common topic in the feminist blogosphere, and for good reason: Society is set up so that everything from dress codes to dating traditions reinforce rape culture. From the moment we're wrapped in a baby blanket based on our biological sex, a sharp division is drawn between girls and boys — a dichotomy that goes on to inform the way we experience romance as we get older.
Even as children, we're taught that men are the sexual aggressors, while women are supposed to fend off their advances and remain "pure" until marriage. It's even apparent in the way kids are treated in the classroom: Research has shown that teachers are far more likely to praise or criticize boys based on ability, but they tend to reward girls for their physical appearance. It's a subtle difference, but it serves to teach us early on that girls are passive, pretty objects for boys to look at, and this heteronormative narrative persists for the rest of our lives.
Although this objectification comes with a whole range of issues, one of the most damaging is its role in rape culture. Society teaches us that women's worth is in their sexual appeal, which men are supposedly unable to resist; at the same time, however, we're told that having sex makes us dirty. The end result? A society that normalizes sexual violence against women and blames the victims for the actions of the aggressors — aka rape culture.
The insidious thing about rape culture is that it's not always as obvious as victim-blaming in the media. It's present in all kinds of everyday traditions, especially when it comes to romance. Let's take a look at some ways dating perpetuates rape culture below.
1. Men Paying For Everything
Although it's certainly nice to get free dinner, the tradition of men paying for everything on dates is a subtle sign of rape culture, largely because it's implied that the woman owes him in return. Under no circumstances does anyone owe another person sex, but it's still a common expectation even in the modern day. Don't believe me? Take a look at the disturbing 2013 study that found exactly that.
2. Women Not Making The First Move
This goes back to the idea that women are supposed to be passive in romantic relationships; men always make the first move, while women sit back and allow themselves to be romanced. Women who do make the first move are often seen as brazen or too independent, and they're shamed for taking control of their dating lives. Not only does this downplay a woman's wishes, it also implies that a man's desires are more important than his date's. Yikes.
3. Not Taking "No" For An Answer
Countless books, movies, and TV shows rely on the idea that persistence is key. Rather than taking rejection at face value and moving on, society teaches men to take "no" as a "maybe," and eventually he'll be able to wear a woman down — although why anyone would want to go on a date with someone who doesn't want to be there is beyond me. It might seem romantic in some situations, but in reality, it has dangerous implications for consent.
4. Safety Precautions
When you're a woman, getting ready for a date involves significantly more planning. There's asking a friend to send a safety text, the requisite social media stalking to make sure your date isn't a serial killer, the worry that you'll get date raped... The list goes on and on. Taking safety precautions are a huge part of dating as a woman, in part because society places the responsibility for preventing sexual assault squarely on the victims.
5. The "Player" Versus "Slut" Stereotype
Although this isn't a dating tradition, per se, the "player" and "slut" stereotypes are so ingrained in dating culture that they merit a mention. Men are expected to get laid with hordes of beautiful women, but in turn, these women are shamed for their participation in sex. Not only is such slut shaming incredibly illogical, it perpetuates rape culture in a number of ways.
Primarily, it implies that women who have sex aren't deserving of respect. When this is combined with the idea that men are sexually voracious and don't need to control themselves, you get a dangerous narrative in which men bear no responsibility for their actions, and the consent of certain women is less important than others' — and that's simply wrong.