Author initiates discussion about rape culture

On Tuesday evening, Wake Forest University hosted Kate Harding, author of “Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture — and What We Can Do About It”.

Harding previously contributed to create “The Book of Jezebel”, the Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere as well as Shapely Prose.” While each of her books are unique in their own way, Harding received an enormous amount of press for “Asking for It” as it was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award. “Asking for It” is a nonfiction book focusing on all aspects of rape — the rising rape culture, rape myths and solutions to this common crime. 

Harding began her presentation by reading excerpts from her book which documented the details of her rape. Throughout her reading, she interjected with anecdotes about her story. As she went play by play through the night, she included her feelings and desires from that night.

She said she had wanted to kiss someone, she was drunk and she wanted to be liked. She did not, however, want to be raped. Having only been on campus for two weeks, Harding recounted her trip to the hospital in which she did not want to file a report in fear that her parents would find out. She reiterated this as being a large problem with rape culture — there is enormous fear of shame.

This shame prevented Harding from speaking out at school. As she told the audience, she had been in the cafeteria with her friend who was a sophomore when she saw her rapist. When Harding announced that was him, the friend told her it couldn’t be because they were friends and he was not like that. Instantly, Harding told herself she was wrong and was too drunk to recognize her rapist. This doubt contributed to the rape culture in that it supported and protected perpetrators rather than victims.

Harding defined rape culture as simply the culture that supports the needs of the rapists rather than victims and survivors. She added there are rape myths with different origins which also support rape culture. To continue her discussion about myths, Harding reinforced that rape myths all follow a pattern. This pattern entails victim blaming, disbelief, exonerating perpetrators and believing only certain types of people are raped.

Her discussion about victim shaming began with a comparison of rape as a collective problem versus an individual problem. As a society, we reject rape and promote incarcerating perpetrators. Yet, when faced with a rape case, society does not react with such passionate behavior. Instead, the victims are interrogated about where they were, what they were wearing, who they were with and how much they drank. By asking these questions, it insinuates the victim asked for, and behaved in a manner, whereby they wanted to be raped. These insinuators imply victims deserved to be raped.

Senior Kelley Ostrander found Harding’s presentation relevant to campus.

“I think that the most powerful part of her lecture was when she discussed the myths around sexual assault and how those feed into a culture of shaming and silencing survivors,” Ostrander said. “I see many of those myths at play at Wake Forest, not only through our campus culture, but also the policies trying to address sexual assault. So hearing her discuss the harm those myths can cause hit home.”

Freshman Caroline Friezo agreed with Harding’s victim shaming belief.

“I think victim shaming is definitely a big part of our culture and society,” she said. “It’s sad to say, but it’s so normal to hear people be like ‘oh what was she wearing or how much did she drink’ but I really don’t think those things should matter. No one goes out with the intention of being hurt or assaulted. One thing she said that stuck out to me is that the definition of rape states how it is something that is unwanted, so how can women be asking for something they don’t want?”

Harding’s three ideas coincide with each other in that as a society we are in disbelief women could claim to be raped and due to that, perpetrators are exonerated. People think women make up rapes because they are embarrassed they had sex and consequently, accusations are ignored. By promoting this disbelief, victims are discernible and perpetrators are protected — another addition to the rape culture. Many times, society rejects these accusations because they do not want to believe the man is a rapist. It is hard for people to alter their positive opinions about someone they know to negative ones. People are often in denial about who is a rapist because of the preconceived notion that rapists are strangers in allies and monsters but in reality, they are ordinary people. Harding promotes that just as rapists are ordinary people, so are victims. She repeated there is no one single type of person who is raped.

Senior Sara Brigagliano reflected on this exoneration and blaming.

“It is so sad society views women as trustworthy,” she said. “It’s hard enough for survivors to have to explain what happened, the least we can do is believe them.”

Harding’s presentation on rape culture concluded with solutions. She enforced that rape is not wanted and is not deserved. Women are people and not objects. Men do not deserve anything sexual. They do not deserve to treat women’s bodies like objects. These aspects are important to remind all members of society.

Harding talked about the ways in which to have a positive change. She declared: victim blaming and slut-shaming needs to end as does objectification, a trivialization of rape, justification for toxic masculinity, and a rejection for heteronormativity. Instead, people need to education themselves, intervene as bystanders and hold open conversation about drinking and rape on campus. She hopes there will be positive changes in the future through a use of these mechanisms.