Note: This post references social attitudes about sexual assault and rape.
If you're ever curious what they mean when they use the term "rape culture," check out the conviction of the voyeuristically homophobic Dharun Ravi and how even cutting-edge opponents of homophobia reflexively latch onto the "irony" that Ravi will likely be raped by his fellow prisoners. For example
Wait until he meets his new roomate, Buba. He’ll learn what being gay really means………….
March 16, 2012 at 12:17 pm
Good for him. Now he can watch all the gay stuff in prison. Hopefully Bubba sees him dropping the soap.
Do your time. He is getting exactly what he deserves!. He knew what he was doing, he isn't a little kid. So what if people are gay, if they are happy they are happy, you is anyone to tell them different.
March 16, 2012 at 6:29PM
Wherever Dharun Ravi is going, I hope he's shown the same type of privacy and respect that he showed Tyler Clementi. Enjoy prison, Ravi.
Here's what progressive-politics blogger Jill of Brilliant at Breakfast has to say about Ravi's conviction in general and about the treatment people are speculating he will receive when he goes to prison. (emphasis mine)
I was quite frankly surprised when I heard that the jury in the Dharun Ravi case had thrown the book at him. I never expected conviction on anything other than perhaps invasion of privacy in this case. But a jury clearly decided that there was enough of a trail of evidence to demonstrate that Ravi knew perfectly well what he was doing and that what he did was a hate crime. I suppose I underestimated my fellow New Jerseyans.
There is an element of the bloodthirsty mob about some of the reaction to the conviction, what with people commenting on news sites of their own fantasies about what might happen to a slightly-built, nice-looking young man of twenty in prison.
Source: Brilliant at Breakfast
So... this business about rape as extra punishment (with its ridiculously naive corollary that prison without rape would somehow might not be "enough" punishment at all) is exactly what feminists mean when they say "rape culture."
The idea that genitals are weapons, the idea that genitals are instruments of punishment? The idea that having genitals thrust upon you is punishment or (we do call prisons "corrections facilities) correction rather than simple violent assault? The also barkingly naive assumption that any given prisoner (especially young and/or educated and/or middle class prisoners and/or prisoners found guilty only of "white collar" crime) will always be the victims rather than, oh, say, the perpetrators of sexual assault in prison?
That's a big part of rape culture.
The tacit approval of a system that, when we think about it, necessarily encourages, rewards, and approves of prison rapists to the exact same degree it approves of their victims' "punishment?" Oh, and the notion that the routine use of sex as a form of social punishment, control, and revenge on the one hand and (tacit) approval of perpetrators for helping maintain that system of punishment, control, and revenge regardless of whether their victims are men in prison or women just out and about.
That's a big part of it too.
And yeah, as Jill points out it's not just "conservatives" who go for it, it's not just homophobes or misogynists, it's not just religious hierarchies, and, for that matter, it's not just men, period, who are ingrained in the culture of rape. As Jill points out, when it comes to culturally sanctioning the use of sex as an instrument of punishment or torture liberals and progressives can be as invested as the ones we think of as "usual suspects."
It's part of the culture, right, buried (in plain sight!) so deeply that hardly anyone even notices, right? And it's about rape, right? And a nice, simple shorthand way to say it is rape culture.
Does Dharun Ravi deserve to be punished? Oh yeah. He deliberately chose to entertain himself and at least attempted to entertain others by intruding on a young man's privacy, exploiting the same cultural elements of shunning, mockery, and shame about homosexuality that tragically led his victim to commit suicide.* But the sexual assaults and degradation that Ravi probably really will face have nothing to do with the punishment he has been sentenced to.** And everything to do with rape culture.
* It's worth noting that Dharun was found guilty not of driving his victim to suicide but of the far more ordinary and entirely precidented crimes of multiple counts of invasion of privacy, some counts of intimidating Clementi because of his sexual orientation, and tampering with evidence. ** Remember, as far as both the law and the legal system itself punishment concerns only the duration of sentences, not by atrocities committed against or by prisoners while serving their sentences: if Ravi becomes a victim it will neither shorten nor lengthen his sentence. Therefore there's no reason for the legal system to tolerate such atrocities.