This Is How Rape Culture Has Influenced This Election

Sexism and feminism were fated to be an important part of this presidential election from the day that Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy, but the influence and focus on rape culture in the United States was thoroughly unexpected. The topic crashed into the forefront of the campaign when the 2005 Access Hollywood recording of Donald Trump essentially bragging about his ability to commit sexual assault reached the national stage, and rape culture suddenly became a central issue in the presidential election.

Since that tape was leaked, the national discussion and perspective on one of the most contentious issues in American society has revealed a lot about who this nation is and what it stands for, and the choice made on Election Day will be significant in how that conversation continues to move forward. Although the election will end on Nov. 8, its impact on rape culture will extend much further.

Realistically, this election can go one of two ways when it comes to rape culture — in fact, it kind of already has. Those who have been advocating against rape culture now have powerful new evidence to show just how pervasive and overlooked it often is.

Trump was able to make it to the highest echelons of the business world despite his sexist commentary on, well, everything, not to mention facing allegations of assault regarding nearly a dozen women (allegations he vehemently denies). The inequality regarding rape culture is difficult to ignore here, and people have been highlighting it in some really poignant ways. The vast majority of observers (hell, even former Trump supporters!) have castigated Trump's actions and words, which will hopefully be a lesson for the next generation that we need to fight rape culture.

Yet there's still a "silent majority" which at least tacitly accepts Trump's actions, and by extension condones rape culture itself. "Trump That Bitch" T-shirts and women tweeting that Trump can grab them by the pussy whenever he wants prove that there is clearly no universal understanding of rape culture. When it comes to how society can treat women, some people seem to have fundamentally different views on what is acceptable and what's not, and it's unclear if any amount of campaigning could ever change their minds.

Burying your head in the sand on an issue like this means tacit acceptance of a cultural evil that leads to physical and emotional harm for millions of women.

There's also the unfortunate truth that rape culture now exists as a political, and therefore partisan, subject. The liberal response to Trump has been swift condemnation, which doesn't necessarily help dispel support in the increasingly polarized political climate. When a person's identity as a conservative, Republican, or Trump supporter is threatened by new information about his alleged and proven words and actions, it's easier to double down and claim bias or lies than to admit that you were wrong.

Riley J. Dennis on YouTube

The inclusion of rape culture as a political topic is so new that people are really still figuring out how to deal with it. For many, it could literally be the first time they've ever been consciously aware of its existence or retrospectively considered their part in its perpetuity, and that's daunting. In a way, it's understandable that people are having a tough time dealing with this conflicting information, but ultimately, it's not OK that they're not dealing with it altogether.

Burying your head in the sand on an issue like this means tacit acceptance of a cultural evil that leads to physical and emotional harm for millions of women.

And of course, there's the matter of who the winner will be. Polls currently indicate that Clinton will win the White House, from which she would have a strong platform to continue the societal reform she has pushed throughout her campaign. That could lead to an even bigger backlash against rape culture opponents than the country has already seen.

Under a Clinton presidency, rape culture could become an even more polarizing topic than it is today, with some people moving on to new frontiers of equality and other remaining entrenched in the status quo of sexism. Under a Trump presidency, it wouldn't exactly be the Wild West again, but as a woman, it's horrifying to think about what could be normalized in that society.

What seems undeniable is that the country can never go backward from here. Women and those who speak out against rape culture have been waiting for generations to get a platform like this, and they're not going to give it up, especially if Clinton wins. No matter who wins, from here on out, rape culture will be on the country's mind in a way it never has been before.

Image: HBO (1)