The Rapist’s Privilege

During the 1980s women started a fight that we are still fighting today, which is the fight against rape culture. During the eighties, rape was considered a crime only done by a violent stranger, who was preferably African American. This belief is clearly depicted in Bush’s campaign add in 1988 against Michael Dukakis.


Women, especially college women, started to fight this restricted definition of rape. They wanted the definition to include the white college guys who raped them at college parties, after dates, and in their dorms—their fellow students, who were violating their bodies and getting away with it. In 1982, Mary Koss challenged the notion of the minority rapist in Ms. Through a surveying college women, she aimed to illustrate that acquaintance rape was as valid as violent stranger rape and that the methods used by these rapists were part of the rape process. Female college students realized that they had a voice in the matter of their victimization—they organized anti-rape movements and stated that they had the right to refuse sex at parties and from acquaintances.

Men disagreed, and backlash followed. This backlash continues today, and we have made little progress. Parties and dates have been normalized as places and situations where rape happens. Girls are warned to be careful in both circumstances. Frat parties are dangerous, alcohol makes you more susceptible to rape, wearing short skirts provokes men, making out with someone gives them the wrong idea—we have all heard these warnings. This normalization is a problem because it gives rapists a playground in which they can misbehave without being questioned as to why they misbehaved—society already knows it happens in these situations. So the victim is then interrogated: why did they go to the party? Why did they date him if they didn’t find him sexually attractive? Why do you wear skirts that short? I once had guy defend another guy who had been sexually aggressive with a girl. He told me that if a girl goes in his bedroom, he expects that sex will happen. Why did the girl go in the other guy’s bedroom if she didn’t want sex? We stop questioning the obvious crime, invading someone’s body without their permission, and we start questioning non-criminal activities such as wearing an article of clothing or walking into a space, whether it be a bedroom or a party.

Why else would Brock Turner get out of jail after three months of good behavior? How else would his father feel he had the right to refer to the rape as “20 minutes of action”?

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