The language of rape becomes mainstream

Right this minute, my head is spinning and my eyes are popping out of my head over two recent reports about how the insidious, disrespectful, anti-women messages of “Bro Culture” have completely infiltrated pop culture.

First, there’s the fact that according to British psychologists, convicted rapists and men’s magazines basically use the same expressions and language to describe women. In other words, the use of expressions like:

“Mascara running down the cheeks means they’ve just been crying, and it was probably your fault . . . but you can cheer up the miserable beauty with a bit of the old in and out,”


“You know girls in general are all right. But some of them are bitches . . . The bitches are the type that . . . need to have it stuffed to them hard and heavy,”


“A girl may like anal sex because it makes her feel incredibly naughty and she likes feeling like a dirty slut. If this is the case, you can try all sorts of humiliating acts to help live out her filthy fantasy.”

are so ubiquitous, we can no longer tell if they indicate alarming criminal behavior or mainstream entertainment.

Perhaps even more disturbing is that the prevalence of such sentiments has led the media and other culture makers to up the ante when it comes to racy/edgy/sexy. The result: when men and women were asked to rate the quotes from lad mags versus those from convicted rapists, most found the comments from contemporary men’s magazines MORE derogatory.

Yep. You read that right. The pop culture targeting today’s young men basically instructs its audience to treat women in ways so abhorrent they are illegal. Anyone else but me got a problem with that?

Second, there’s the fact that a University of Vermont fraternity recently polled members about who they’d like to rape. As if the whole “Dude. She’s hot. I’d do her” mantra of the past decade or so wasn’t bad enough. Now it’s “Dude. She’s hot. I’d do her—even against her will.”

IMO, that is one scary, telltale barometer of just how toxic these messages are. That when a bunch of 18- to 21-year-old boys are alone, they think it’s okay and funny and a perfectly normal topic of conversation to discuss women this way.

They are so accustomed to rape jokes and to living a culture that still blames women who are assaulted for dressing too sexy instead of blaming violent life-wreckers for their actions. This is how our boys are being conditioned.

Sure, the frat’s national governing body made a statement saying “any behavior that demeans women won’t be tolerated.” But it’s too little, too late. Or maybe it’s just futile given that our boys are growing up on a diet of pornified images and wink-wink innuendos that teach a very specific (and messed-up) way of interacting with women.

Lots of boys (I hope) experience a great sense of conflict when they contrast the cultural script that encourages them to view and talk about women this way with they way they have naturally interacted with female friends, sisters and mothers their whole lives. But the messages are strong—and if this is what we are teaching boys from such a young age, how can we expect them to ever graduate to having mature, respectful relationships with the women in their lives?

The sad truth is that they’re behaving exactly as we (meaning our culture) instruct them to behave. And until we do better on our end, I worry we aren’t going to see much better coming from them.


PS. Did I mention that I’m a mom to two young boys? Late and in the dead of night, I worry who they will become once they’re exposed to these toxic messages.

8 thoughts on “The language of rape becomes mainstream

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  1. Brilliant article. This stuff needs to be shouted from the rooftops and people need to see how devastating this behavior is. It is unacceptable and will NOT be tolerated.

  2. I agree. But your conclusion “that they’re behaving exactly as we instruct them to behave” is, to mix metaphors, only skimming the surface, not mining the depths, avoiding the obvious and skirting the issues. Give us more, much more. As you point out ,until and unless you address the real issue: the hypocrisy that has been foisted on society, you ain’t going to change a thing.
    P.S. Did I mention that I am the grandfather of four boys?

  3. Being a victim myself – I can speak from first hand experience – EDUCATION and ZERO TOLLERANCE is the key. No means no, and that is all there is to say.

  4. Thanks for this article. I, too, am worried about rape jokes and blaming the victim. I once had to explain to the father of my teenage client why is wasn’t her fault that she was raped while she was drunk. He had been blaming his daughter for being drunk (which was totally hurting the relationship!) until I asked him if thought it would be ok for his daughter to take advantage of someone because he was drunk. It’s sad that our culture is so casual about rape.

  5. Totally agree. We’ve got to educate, get this out in open in discussion with kids, and have no tolerance for this stuff. We need to set the standard for those we influence. I’m horrified by it too. And take it as a challenge to do something about it. Thanks for article!

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