Feature Tuesdays: The shameful side of ‘British culture’

By Holly Lennon

Here in Britain we are seemingly proud of our ‘British culture’ whether it be Shakespeare, The Beatles back catalogue, afternoon tea, the Royal Family or the boring old Scottish weather. Culture is something that makes us unique, something that we can splatter across adverts ‘Come visit Britain and see how very cultured we are!’ But us Brits and our modest ways are selling ourselves short – classic us. We have a whole catalogue full of cultures that isn’t  handed out at tourist information centres, its contents include drug culture, gang culture and the latest edition to what we have to offer,  ‘rape culture’. In case you haven’t managed to pick up a copy of Britain’s rogue cultures catalogue, here is an introduction to our latest ‘trend’.

If you’re not sure what I’m on about when I say rape culture just take a look around, and if you’re still not sure refer to the recent Steubinville rape trial in America where people are in uproar over the inexcusably bias reporting of the case. Rape culture was personified in the coverage by CNN, ABC, and NBC who spun a sympathy story in favour of the perpetrators because of their promising careers and crocodile tears, while neglecting to extend their ‘sympathies’ to the victim, whose life has been shattered by her attackers and subsequent abuse from those who felt she shouldn’t have sought justice. Apparently being intoxicated means you are asking to be raped these days.

Rape culture has already struck those who witnessed the girl being assaulted at a party and instead of helping her, sent a picture of it to the rest of their friends, it has seeped into the minds of those who think an overweight rape victim should be glad anyone wanted to have sex with her in the first place because a woman’s worth is purely in her sex appeal. It is perpetuated by blaming, or ‘slut shaming’ as it’s been branded. Slut shaming is another trend sweeping the Nation; it’s already got its own Facebook page. ‘Hey Girls, Don’t You Know’ has thousands of likes and contributors, mainly from girls trying to embarrass each other.  The culture is not specific to gender or age, unlike many other cultures – making it much more powerful.

But where did this culture come from? It wasn’t made in a recording studio or thought up by a struggling artist – it was created by us. You might not have noticed (how could you not have noticed people?!) but popular music and the videos that go with it, are becoming increasing more sexualised and explicit. What these images of underdressed and over sexualised women do is plant the seed in the impressionable minds of young boys and girls that women are purely there as sexual objects, only worth as much as their body has to offer. The rise in mainstream pornography has a direct effect on teen pregnancy, relationships between young people and physical and sexual violence. Industries like film, television, advertising and video gaming are ‘sexing’ everything up, because sex sells, apparently. It also degrades and violates. Society is being driven by sexuality and women are being driven by fear. The burden of preventing rape has become their responsibility – don’t wear short skirts, don’t walk anywhere alone, don’t drink too much, don’t leave your drink unattended, learn self-defence – the list goes on.

Ultimately rape culture is the trivialisation of sexual assault by the media and society. It’s the reason boys in Steubenville thought violating an unconscious girl was a socially acceptable thing to do because she was intoxicated, and so did their friends. It is the reason American broadcasters were dwelling on the career these boys had forfeited rather than the brutal crime they had committed. It is the reason women are too scared to convict their attackers and instead suffer the rest of their lives and it’s the reason rape has become a part of the catalogue of rogue cultures we have to offer in Britain alongside the ASBO culture or the ‘something for nothing’ culture we hear so much about. We’ve lived in a time where rape was never spoken about and now we’re living in a time where it’s taken as a joke, as a piece of gossip rather than a life ruining and malicious crime. And that is not acceptable.

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