Posted by: kathleenjustis12 | March 26, 2015

Rape Culture and the Media vs. College

The media is a powerful institution within American society, but, as we saw in the MissRepresentation documentary, it is often used to perpetuate societal inequalities.  The film briefly examined the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault in the United States, stating that twenty-five percent of women are abused by a partner during their lifetime and one out of every six women are survivors of rape or attempted rape. The documentary went on to state that the prevalence of violence against women in the media, coupled with their overt sexualization, increased the risk of being raped, because the media desensitizes young boys and men and leads many to view women as objects, rather than as people. This idea serves as a means of perpetuating rape culture.
Rape culture, or the “whole set of attitudes that further a society in which rape is inevitable, consent is invisible, and victims are blamed instead of supported,” has become a more or less accepted evil of modern society. This is not to say that rape culture is something that people support, but rather that there is a basic understanding that rape culture exists within American society. In fact, rape culture is often discussed in in conjunction with college life and there are countless articles that discuss their relationship. The article posted above details reactions to an email sent in 2013 by a student at Georgia Tech. In the aforementioned email, the student provided strategies on how to take advantage of drunk women at parties. These tips primarily involved giving a girl increasing amounts of alcohol until physical contact intensifies. Even worse, he titled the email “Luring you Rapebait” showing that he not only understood the wrongness of his actions, but also took a blasé, “devil may care” attitude toward the rape of a classmate.

The reactions that other students had to the email showed the desensitized attitude toward sexual assault, which were likely a result of extensive media exposure. Rather than condemning the behavior of the student and his attitude toward women, most individuals who were asked about the email referred to the behavior as “expected” and stated that the were more surprised that someone had written it out and distributed it on the internet than they were that such sentiments existed and were expressed on campus. Some students even reflected on how sad it was that the email may eventually affect the student’s career prospects. Basically, rather than blaming the student for his misogynistic views about women or trying to correct his behavior in a way that may dissuade him and others from adopting this attitude, he has become a victim of his own actions.

Even though this happened on another college campus, in another state, the circumstances that allow for sexual assault and rape culture may exist at Christopher Newport, as well. Media and party culture perpetuate rape culture on campus. I am not a part of a Panhellenic Greek organization, and do not know whether the Panhellenic Council regulates this, or if it is directly controlled by CNU, but Sororities are not permitted to throw parties. Further, and although I know that this does not apply to all students, drinking alcohol, going to parties, and “hooking up” are intrinsically linked to college life. Christopher Newport University and several other schools couple this rule with the existence of dry residence halls. Thus, even though college students are notorious for partying and alcohol consumption, CNU students cannot drink or engage in other college recreational activities in their residence hall, which forces them to go out to parties. Because parties cannot be throw by sororities, students who want to go out have to choose between going to a fraternity party or going to a party at a sports team’s house. Either way, the commodity, which is alcohol while one is in college, is exclusively controlled by men. And we, as women, never really know what is in the jungle juice. Further, since alcohol is not cheap, I have heard may women at CNU say that they have danced, kissed, and even had sex with men at, or after, parties because they felt that they owed it to the other individual. This can perpetuate rape culture because some young men see this beholden-esque attitude that some women seem to display and translate to a feeling of entitlement. This is more prevalent today than ever before, because men are exposed to so many hyper-sexualized depictions of women in the media, which allows some men to see women as a commodity, or as an object, rather than as another human being.

In what ways does the media perpetuate rape culture? Do you think that by only allowing fraternities, and not sororities, to throw parties that CNU may unknowingly be perpetuating rape culture on campus? And finally, if sororities were allowed to throw parties, do you think that women would still expect sex in return for alcohol, or would it be replace by a different form of payment or commodity?


  1. I found this blog post to be very interesting. In the past, those who have been sexually assaulted often kept quiet about the horrible act that was inflicted upon them. However, this has changed. In today’s society, we’ve seen an increase in women, and even men, speaking up and admitting that they have fallen victim to sexual assault and/or rape.
    I believe the media perpetuates rape culture. I do recall the terrible facts from Miss Representation. The media highly sexualizes women, through grotesque sexual and violent scenes in television shows and movies, sexual pictures in magazines, and many other modes of media. Our culture may not realize it, but the way we present women as “sexy” or sexual objects, and men as hyper masculine and dominant…it implants an inappropriate image of how women and men should act in society. The more we surround ourselves with such violent and sexual images, we desensitize ourselves. It’s similar to violent video games. Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto are extremely violent video games. The more we allow children at young ages to play these types of games, they more they are desensitized to violence. They are more prone to violent behaviors, actions and thoughts. It’s also important to notice that many video games portray women in tight, almost non-existent clothing. What are children (boys from 8-17 who play such video games) going to think then?
    To an extent, allowing only fraternities to hold parties (instead of sororities) can perpetuate rape culture at CNU’s campus. However, men can be sexually assaulted/raped too. Not to mention, women who are throwing parties can be taken advantage of in their own home. Throw in alcohol to the equation, and poor decisions/actions can be made anywhere, whether at a fraternity, sorority, or sports/athletes house party. As a Panhellenic member at Christopher Newport, we have MSMR events (My Sister My Responsibility). We encourage sisters (in your sorority of Panhellenic sister) to watch out for each other and hold each other accountable at parties. I also know IFC holds similar events for men, to teach them how to act responsible around women in such an environment. Maybe not at CNU, but other campuses, limiting one gender organization to hold parties can perpetuate rape culture. I know things happen and you don’t always hear about them, but CNU seems’ to have a rather good reputation.
    I don’t know if women would expect sex as a return/favor for serving alcohol at a sorority party. When alcohol is thrown into an equation anything can happen…a “good/safe” party can go bad at any moment with alcohol. Socially (we have learned in leadership class too) women are not “dominant” or “aggressive”, it’s the men, especially in leadership roles. But one can never know what will truly happen, because really anything can happen at a party.

  2. This is an incredibly thoughtful blog post and I am so intrigued by your view points on the subject! I am disgusted that “rape culture” has become such a prevalent topic in our culture and I do believe that the media plays a large role in this. Every day for practically the majority of their development and adult life men are exposed to images that degrade and objectify women. Clothing ads, alcohol ads, even credit card ads have all become sexualized to the point that we as a society have gained and unrealistic idea of what sex and sexuality is. Girls are raised to look for that prince charming and boys are raised to see girls as objects. Where is the middle ground? Bring in the complications of college and alcohol and social settings and you have almost a perfect scene for something to go wrong. I have several friends who have been affected by sexual assault and all have been alcohol related incidents. I find this very disturbing. Naturally I think this topic is upsetting for any young woman, none of us ever want to feel unsafe or violated in any way. I find the connection that you have made about how men control most of the alcohol and parties at CNU fascinating. I had never really thought of it that way but looking at it you are absolutely right. Men do control most of the social drinking scene on campus and that does put women at a disadvantage. Not every woman who comes to college is going to drink but those who like to go out on the weekend are put into a very tight spot in our current situation. I think it would be very interesting to see the dynamics on campus if sororities where allowed to throw parties. What would they be like? How different would they be? Would the tables turn? Would women be more in control? It is quite an interesting topic to think about. I almost feel as if it would set higher standards of respect for the fraternities and sports teams that host parties. But until we ever are able to experience something like that women just need to be very careful of who they are with, where they go, and what they drink. As a society we need to begin instilling higher levels of respect in men towards women and we need to instill high levels of self confidence in women. Women should not feel as if they owe a man anything, even if he bought them a drink.

  3. Thank you so much for this thoughtful post. I agree with the previous posts that media plays a large role in perpetuating the “rape culture” in society. The objectification of women is EVERYWHERE. In movies, on T.V, in music, even on news broadcasts. The prevalence of treating women as an object for sexual pleasure has gotten out of hand. It’s to the point where society does not even notice that media is portraying women as sex objects. I mean, I even at times, catch myself objectifying women. Of course I do not do this intentionally. I will often catch myself listening to songs that objectify women and be appalled by what I thought was a song with just a good beat. The prevalence of women being objectified often makes its way into societies everyday activities, as exemplified by my own experience. With this being said, it is impossible for “rape culture” not to be perpetuated when degrading messages about women are consuming our society.

    When it comes to parties at CNU, I do think only allowing fraternities to throw parties does perpetuate the rape culture on campus. This is definitely not the sole cause of rape and there are many other factors that need to be taken into consideration. However I do strongly believe that frat parties do perpetuate this type of culture. For one thing, frat parties are looking for women to join their parties. An example of this is that girls get in free at parties while men have to pay to get in the parties. Additionally, it is the norm to dress a little suggestively at parties. It is not normal for a girl to go to a party in a t-shirt and jeans. A girl is going to be wearing something that shows a little more skin. I could go on about my opinions about this, but this is just a glimpse into why I think frat parties promote rape culture on campus.

    I don’t think much would change if sororities were allowed to throw parties. This is very blunt statement but when people go out and a large consumption of alcohol is involved, the risk for women getting taken advantage of is heightened. Societal norms of objectifying women have attributed to this being the case. Again, I could go on about this issue, but this blog post would turn into a novel.

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