UCI and the Not So ‘Secret’ Rape Culture
UCI Secrets: a blessing or a curse? This popular Facebook page has been the primary tool for procrastination for many a UCI student these last few months, and at times becomes a place for contention, often spurred by the convenient mask of anonymity.
Recent posts and replies have shed light on what many UCI students seem to think about topics that are already controversial on college campuses, and particularly rape culture.
Posts that share an opinion on responsibility in rape cases tend to spark responses from both young men and women, both in support and in disgust. Seeing as it is currently Sexual Assault Awareness Month, these posts could not be more relevant (and infuriating).
Many UCI students seem to have missed out on sex education classes in high school. Many posts, particularly number 717, claim that rape is the victim’s fault when they put themselves in a situation (a party, for example) in which they could potentially get raped. The post goes on to say being a “slut” and being “stupid” are two common reasons for why a girl (the author of the post specifies the gender of the victim) would find herself in a potentially life-ruining situation.
This post is problematic because it erases all possible blame from the rapist and shifts it to the victim for daring to step into a situation — and especially for drinking alcohol — in which rapists will be looking to take advantage of people. Ultimately, however, it is the rapist who commits the act of rape, and therefore the blame lies with them.
The fact remains that rape victims are not always intoxicated at the time. But if victims are supposed to be responsible enough with alcohol so that they do not get to the point of being raped, shouldn’t the potential perpetrators be responsible enough with alcohol so that they do not let their temptation to rape overcome them? If alcohol is not an excuse to get raped, why is it an excuse to rape?
It is unfortunate that we live in a society in which not only do we blame victims for surviving an unwanted crime (rendering the argument “she wanted it” null and void, since rape is defined as an act that is committed despite the other person’s consent) but we also dare to give tips to girls to avoid rape (don’t wear that, don’t go there, don’t drink that) as if this is the solution preventing rape, when in actuality, the only thing that stops rape from happening is people not raping other people.
Of course, men can also be rape victims, but it is undeniable that the overwhelming majority of rape victims are women. Society’s attitude towards women is deplorable in general. Other posts (number 611) speak of the indecency of many female students for dressing “slutty,” or wearing revealing outfits. The poster goes on to plead with girls to “have self-respect!”
Personally, I believe that any person who has the confidence to wear what they like and display their body to a degree that they are comfortable with has a great amount of self-respect, and I have respect for them.
Furthermore, small clothing cannot be considered a legitimate provocation for rape when rape also occurs to fully-clothed women, veiled women and women of the days of layers of long skirts and petticoats.
Other posts (number 669) share their views of women by claiming that “extreme feminists” make other women look bad, and is supported by repliers who claim that if women want equality, they should not expect to be paid for on dates or to be taken care of at parties.
The poster fails to explain what they consider to be “extreme feminists,” but both the poster and many repliers would benefit from education in the history of the oppression of women in the economic, social, political, public and private realms of society.
Furthermore, if the struggles of men, according to a comment on UCI Secrets, involve upholding sexist norms of paying for women who have never been considered independent enough to take care of themselves, and carrying out the decency of perhaps helping a drunk girl at a party to a safe place, then clearly there is a discrepancy in the ways men and women each feel the effects of injustice.
It is unfortunate that social media plays such a large role in perpetuating the conditions that continue to allow blame to be placed on the victim. In the recent Steubenville, Ohio rape case, for example, in which a drunk teenage girl was taken advantage of at a party by two football stars, the media sympathized more with the two young men who would no longer be able to follow through with their football careers.
The girl, meanwhile, was harassed, called names, and blamed over Twitter by her classmates, thereby ensuring that the already miniscule fraction of women that report rape will be further discouraged to do so.
Hopefully, as college students, the moderators of UCI Secrets will be more thoughtful and progressive in what they choose to post, allow and promote on their corner of that burden-blessing of social media.
Karam Johal is a third-year women’s studies major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.