Friday, September 23, 2011

What Rape Culture Looks Like

D&G perfume advert depicting rape as cool
I readapted this from this post on yesmeansyes blog and an analysis of what a rape culture looks like from Finally feminism 101. And I am going to FICTITIOUSLY illustrate it using the recent rape that happened in an Eastern state in Nigeria.
Let’s start with explaining rape culture. Transforming culture says, “Rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.
In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death or taxes. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change”.
The last sentence is one I truly believe in THEY ARE VALUES AND ATTITUDES THAT CAN CHANGE!!
Uchenna is a 400 level law student of ABSU. He comes from a rich family and as a student has the accoutrements of wealth - drives a car, is a member of the best men’s club, hosts and has invites to the best parties etc. He and his 4 buddies regularly visit a beer parlor in the nearby community for some beer and nkwobi (local delicacy). There he regularly flirts with the female waitress Chioma who is the niece of the owner of the beer parlour. Chioma is in her 200 level, studying Arts at the same University. Whether or not she voluntarily flirted with him is unknowable but as a rich cult boy Uchenna knew she could not afford to say no to his advances. So she flirts back.
That’s rape culture. When men make choices about what women do with their sexuality, that strengthens the idea that men can control women’s bodies.
One Friday evening in August, he called to make an order for a pot of nkwobi for he and his friends to TGIF on (home delivery). She couldn’t say no as this was good business for their restaurant and these guys were good customers …she knew she had to do everything possible to keep them happy. When Chioma got to Uchenna’s place with the food, she discovered that he and his friends were already there. She felt a tinge of alarm but shrugged it off. Afterall she knew them. They came to the restaurant at least thrice a week, what could go wrong. From serving them nkwobi it turned into an altercation, a kangaroo court hearing and judgment where she was found guilty of insulting their friend Kadi for trying to ‘cup a feel’ two nights ago at the beer parlour. Before she could say boo, they locked the room and raped her.
Rape culture is pervasive imagery of stranger rape, even though women are 3x more likely to be raped by someone they know than a stranger, and 9x to be raped in their home, the home of someone they know, or anywhere else than being raped on the street.
She attempted to struggle and shout but realized that her struggles were exciting them further. They knew her strength compared to theirs. Struggle only made the victory of her capitulation sweeter. Moreover they threatened her that if she didn’t cooperate she would be their prisoner for the next 48 hours. So she kept quiet and cooperated, opened her legs as wide as she could and let her spirit fly. Back to her maker crying ‘Oh Lord, Why me Lord. What did I do wrong. don’t let it be more than this. Oh God. AIDS, STD, Pregnancy, Shame. Let me die Lord”.

Rape culture is the idea that only certain people rape—and only certain people get raped. Rape culture is ignoring that the thing about rapists is that they rape people. They rape people who are strong and people who are weak, people who are smart and people who are dumb, people who fight back and people who submit just to get it over with, people who are sluts and people who are prudes, people who rich and people who are poor, people who are tall and people who are short, people who are fat and people who are thin, people who are blind and people who are sighted, people who are deaf and people who can hear, people of every race and shape and size and ability and circumstance.

When they finally finished with her, she wrapped her torn clothes around her bruised body and walked home. It hurt so much when her thighs rubbed against each other. She stopped along the way to stoop and pee and it was as if her vaginal area were on fire. She told her Aunty about the attack and asked her if they should report. Her aunty said ‘No’ and told her that she was “overreacting”. Is it not that nice boy Uchenna that always gives you big tips? She reminded her of all the times she had told her to stop wearing those tight jeans and ‘mini skirts’. See what trouble it has brought her now. That’s why the boys noticed her.
Her Aunty also reminded her of the shame it would bring to the family if the story leaks. No man will marry her. She would become an untouchable and taint the marriage chances of her junior ones. What she didn’t add was that she was also considering her business and all the potential loss of income if she accuses those group of boys. Moreover who would listen to poor people like them accusing the likes of Chief Okonkwo’s son. They might send thugs to beat us up or destroy my beer parlour. “No, Chioma. Let God judge our case if you are truly innocent”.

That’s rape culture. When families, friends or people in power refuse to take women’s rape charges seriously, it means there are no consequences for rapists, which makes them free to rape more. Rape culture is also admonishing women to “learn common sense” or “be more responsible” or “avoid certain place” or “don’t dress this way” and failing to admonish men TO NOT RAPE.

Later, while Chioma was convalescing in her aunty’s home, the rapists came with other buddies to the Aunty’s bar. They ordered beer, drank and they loudly recounted tales of what happens to people who attempted to betray them. Violence, Arson, Kidnapping etc. Chioma’s Aunty received the message, smiled and served them more beer. 
In the beer parlour seated unbeknownst by the corner watching and listening was a lecturer of the Law faculty in ABSU. He had seen the rape video making its rounds amongst students. One of his student buddies had shown it to him. If he wasn’t sure before, now it was confirmed that these  were the rapists. He had also seen the media campaign asking for information about those involved. His conscience nagged him, but what could he do. The Vice Chancellor of the Uni had publicly denied that “No ABSU student was involved”. Who was he to counter his statement? He definitely didn’t want to lose his job ..not when Professorship was two years away. Nor did he want to repercussions from the boys. So he sweeps the memory of what he has seen from his head and goes home to mark Test papers.
That’s rape culture. When authorities who could use their power to help victims find justice deliberately keep silent. it not only leaves rapists free but intimidates other victims from ever coming forward.
As more details emerge, you’d think there would be a deafening outcry from sympathetic Nigerians - fellow students, mothers, women in government, fathers, brothers who would join arms with this hurt sister in solidarity and call out for investigations for justice. No! Rather they ask ‘why did she go to his room?’, anonymous students from her school write to say ‘she’s a known slut who probably decided to make more money by taking on 5 guys and has now bitten more than she can chew’, they say ‘didn’t you hear her tell her rapists that ‘she was cooperating’ does that sound like rape to you? Was she screaming or moaning in pain at any point? Aren’t people being raped supposed to scream and struggle? Some even suggest she may be a lying gold digger who is only protesting cause the act was video-ed.
Her life history is already on public trial in a way that would never happen if she were the victim of kidnapping or attempted murder.
That’s rape culture. When victims are tasked with the burden of rape prevention. When women are too afraid of being re-victimized by their peers, the courts and the media to come forward, and when the public gets the message that women who accuse men of rape are lying or did something to deserve it, and the cycle continues.

Chioma is yet to report the matter to the police. Nobody has come out to identify her or to identify the 5 half-named assaulters. From what people who watched the rape video affirm (normal sane people) it was an assault. There was nothing consensual. Why then are some people doubting that it is a rape. In the video names were called, why aren’t school registers being subpoenaed to find out the names of all male students who have similar names. But no, security forces are sitting in their offices waiting for Chioma to waltz in and announce ”oh here I am. Ready to avenge my rapists. See their names, pictures and phone numbers”.

Rape culture is the pervasive narrative that there is a “typical” way to behave after being raped, instead of the acknowledgment that responses to rape are as varied as its victims, that, immediately following a rape, some women go into shock; some are lucid; some are angry; some are ashamed; some are stoic; some are erratic; some want to report it; some don’t; some will act out; some will crawl inside themselves; some will have healthy sex lives; some never will again.

Rape culture is the pervasive narrative that a rape victim who reports rape is readily believed and well-supported, instead of acknowledging that reporting a rape is a huge personal investment, a difficult process that can be embarrassing, shameful, hurtful, frustrating, and too often unfulfilling. Rape culture is ignoring that there is very little incentive to report a rape; it’s a terrible experience with a small likelihood of seeing justice served.

There are 5 alleged rapists in this crime. But no one is talking about them or what determinants in their school environment or community fostered and promoted rape. Rather the victim is the focus of all the blame and negativity. That’s rape culture, and it has to stop.


  1. Fantastic post! Absolutely brilliant. Naija definitely has a rape culture and it's got to stop. Well done Ginger for this insightful post. 'Hope it speaks to the people who read it.

  2. BTW, thanks for the link - to the update on suspects' id.

  3. A round of applause on this. You nailed it to the tooth.
    So is the scenario you painted exactly what happened, or was it an assumption?
    If the former is the answer, how did all the details come out?

  4. Adura - the first time I read the original post about rape culture 3 years ago and all the comments following I shed tears. I could so relate. And we see it repeated everytime a story of rape comes out.

    @ilola - ha! i forgot to add a disclaimer. The story is fictitious.

  5. I'm mentally saluting you on this post. Perfectly written. Silence is the most dangerous thing about social vices and we must not condone it. loved the way you blended fact and fiction...perfect blend.
    I just hope the girl is still alive and i don't get d dum dums making excuses and accusing the girl about what not, even if the chic is a slut, it does NOT JUSTIFY THE BEASTLY BEHAVIOUR CALLED RAPE!
    Thank you sooo much for this post. Bless you

  6. I still find it hard to think about this poor girl. Those boys should remember, what goes around comes around. They will get their own.

  7. fictitious or not this reads exactly like the story. except the beer parlour scene. God save that girl

  8. Great post, Ginger. There is rape culture all over our patriarchal world and it is heart breaking. I remember the furore that D&G ad caused, and it is a supposedly better world here? I watched a reenactment of the DSK cases on one of my favorite TV shows SVU and there was also so much info packed in there, a lot of what you have here.

    Those comments about whether she screamed or not probably assume that Rape has to be violent. We have to realize that rape can be just sex except that the victim says NO at any point in time.

    I went on twitter this morning and found that a wrong perp had been identified, and there's now a call not to RT an innocent person's details. That is the danger in rash responses. I read somewhere that the authorities are already investigating, I don't know whether to believe that. However, to put structures in place that can change attitudes, sometimes allowing due process may be the best way.

  9. Very well written, Ginger!

  10. This is just spot on! Very insightful, very comprehensive. I can't praise it enough. And I'm ashamed of myself for being a part of this Rape Culture. For doing nothing, saying very little, just watching and waiting for updates on the case...
    Well done Ginger. This is a fantastic piece.

  11. Thanks for sharing. I hope we can walk toward solutions.

  12. Standing ovation here missy, this is a brilliant post. we need a revolution, people need to be accountable for their actions no matter who they are or who they know.

  13. Well thought out and written. What to do, Nigeria?!

  14. All congratulating the writer of this article. What was done to resolve this matter for the poor girl?

  15. Very well written... I tell you, no one has made anyone the judge over the other in this case. Who are we to judge the girl for what she wears? I just feel its a mental problem for a man to see a woman and force himself on her. Such illness needs psychological treatment, I tell you. That is my own take... Our society - parents, relatives, even law enforcers - as you have rightly pointed out, are not helping matters.

    - LDP

  16. When you put it this way it makes one realise just how many times one has come close, within a hair's breath of being raped. Bloody hell.

    Well done.

  17. Ginger,

    I don't know what to say that everyone else has not already said. But I just wanna mark present at least.

  18. speechless. i HAD TO share this on my facebook page (never done that before).

    Noone i know could have written so succintly on this social issue that i conveniently ignored, as you have done here. i wish i knew a newspaper editor, cos this is print worthy. absolutely.

  19. This is horrifying, but exists all over the world. When it's "rape" the victim is more closely looked at than the rapist. Was it really "rape", or did she feel guilty and then call it "rape". You present it all so clearly. Very well done, Ginger!

  20. Nothing i can say that the others before me haven't.

    When i see people question VIDEO EVIDENCE of rape, it makes me wonder how victims are expected to speak up. A video, with names mentioned, still nothing. I can't express how much this saddens me.

  21. Beautifully written. I have been following this story waiting for news that the rapists are caught.

  22. *standing ovation* ..u hit the nail on the head! when i first heard of this story on linda ikeji's blog, it hurt so much i jst went to bed. I still havent seen the video and i dnt even want to see it cos it would probably torment me for days.
    Justice is a foreign word in the Nigerian system!..that VC ought to be ashamed of himself!

  23. This adequately describes the rape culture in our society....

  24. love this - well written.. hmm i hope it passes a message to a rapist and a victim out there. Speak up!

  25. Excellent post Ginger! I like how you explained it in the Nigerian context because this stuff doesn't just happen elsewhere and it's time for people to face this. I've blogged about a faulty understanding of rape before so i don't want to repeat all of that here. It's enough to say that rape happens because there is a whole culture that sustains it.

    @Myne, i mostly agree with you but i think that rape is in itself violent whether there is extra physical force or not. The very fact that someone is being subjected to sex that they do not want to participate in is violence to my mind.

  26. Thank you every one for your lovely comments.
    I wish i could have done more than write. I wish i could have written an epilogue about how these five rapists were caught. Rather from what i hear of the case, its about to go into the canals of Nigeria's unresolved rape cases. And the culture lives on...

  27. When i first heard about the rape case, people were asking for the video and i was like, must you see the video to confirm that there was a rape? It is such a pity that we live in a society where instead of doing the right thing, we pass blame. I loved the way you wove the fact with the fiction. I could just see your fiction happening for real.

  28. This post was excellently written. We really must stop this rape culture....I don't think anyone else could have said it better

  29. Well written.....good work!

  30. Wow..why am I just finding this post?!

    Well said!

    1. My thoughts exactly.

      Time has passed and, inevitably, the world has moved on. Until next time.

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