Rape culture is often something difficult to pinpoint. As well as a host of other terms; institutionalised misogyny, ingrained sexism, sexual objectification, it’s often subtle and insidious. For men especially, it is difficult to conceptualise something that is essentially absent from their lives. The 98 screenshots submitted as evidence to the Warwick SU are not subtle, they are not insidious, and all people can see the disgusting beliefs directed at women that their authors hold. It bears a frighteningly close resemblance to Trump’s ‘locker room talk’ that was revealed to the public during the American election. ‘Punch her in the clit’ particularly a comment that parallels closely with ‘grab her by the pussy’. The Warwick student’s chat features a combination of accusing women of over-reacting and needlessly accusing men of sexual assault, while also threatening to rape those aforementioned women. The lack of self-awareness is frightening.
It is important to note however that though this may be a very obvious outburst of misogynistic abuse, it is but a drop in the ocean of the bullshit women have to deal with on a regular basis. Cat-calling, groping and drink spiking are but a few tactics used by men to create a climate of objectification that keeps women in a position of submission. The club, the street, and the house-party are but a few spaces in which this behaviour, deemed unacceptable in all other contexts, receives a sort of pass. It was, for example, apparently deemed conventional for a complete stranger to physically lift me up and drag me to another part of the room to be trapped and surrounded by his mates, whom I had also never met. The fact that we were in a club made it so.
The lack of self-awareness is frightening
And yet, most telling about the student’s chat is the denial of these facts. The accusation that women just tend to moan about these things, and that they over-react perfectly demonstrates the attitudes that so many people have towards rape culture and sexual assault. The #metoo movement is still ongoing and the very visual display of people declaring their sexual assault is something I hoped would begin to change people’s attitudes. It has of course done this for many, but these messages show that we still have a long way to go before consent stops being a discussion and becomes a given. Against this movement, and essentially every movement focused on the championing of women’s rights or welfare, there has been a backlash. From the Menenists to Incel, angry reactions to feminist campaigns are clear to see.
Private spaces, forums and chatrooms have become the place to expel poison and hate. Now I guess we’ve finally succeeded in pushing men from the house, gained access to the pub and shut down all the strip-clubs with our feminist agenda, there’s nowhere else to go I suppose. Except we haven’t, and these vile beliefs, founded around female submission and objectification, do ooze into the public domain. This isn’t locker room talk, this is the attitude that we face every time we head to The Kasbah on a Saturday night. Every time we walk home across campus when it’s dark. Every time we wait alone at the bus stop. It’s not every man, of course, and it’s not every time, but it’s enough for there to be a constant sense of fear and unease, especially in these places. To go through that, and then be met with denial at the hands of our peers, and those in executive positions who we rely on to represent and protect us, is heart-breaking.
This isn’t locker room talk, this is the attitude that we face every time we head to The Kasbah on a Saturday night
These chats reveal a woman devoid of her own agency, her own sexuality and her own mind. She is reduced to a moaning ball of self-hatred, deserving of any attention a man can selflessly throw her way. Her body is a convenient way to self-gratification, and she is but an obstacle to get around. It’s nothing new, certainly not to us, but that doesn’t make this any less disgusting or degrading. Hate these messages, but don’t forget, these are sentiments that we see all the time, though they may be more subtly delivered.