The term Rape Culture is still relatively new in mainstream conversation, more common among feminist circles, and I realised after talking to my lecturers, and having to explain what it meant, that I would have to attempt to give a understandable definition of it in my presentation. This isn’t easy, as it covers a wide range of in depth problems that are not incredibly easy to define.

The simplest explanation is that it refers to ingrained cultural practices of our society. When people blame victims, or tell women to take steps to prevent themselves being raped, instead of blaming the rapist for their personal actions and accepting that it is not the job of the victim to prevent themselves being raped (which isn’t possible in most cases anyway).

When people ask questions, such as ‘what were you wearing?’, ‘why did you drink so much’, ‘why did you walk home alone?’, ‘are you sure you just haven’t regretted sleeping with them?’, that is rape culture. It ignores the basic human right to expect to be safe regardless of your personal situation, whether you are alone, drunk, or dressed in revealing clothing.

The best explanation of Rape culture I have found is here

Shannon Ridgeways explanation of the Term Rape Culture, coupled with evidence of moments of Rape Culture within our culture, gives an easy to understand definition.

We understand the word “culture,” from a sociological or anthropological viewpoint, to be things that people commonly engage in together as a society (ranging from the arts to education to table manners), and we find it difficult to link the word “rape” in with that concept.

We know that at its core, our society is not something that outwardly promotes rape, as the phrase could imply. That is, we don’t, after all, “commonly engage” in sexual violence “together as a society.”

To understand rape culture better, first we need to understand that it’s not necessarily a society or group of people that outwardly promotes rape (although it could be).

When we talk about rape culture, we’re discussing something more implicit than that. We’re talking about cultural practices (that, yes, we commonly engage in together as a society) that excuse or otherwise tolerate sexual violence.

We’re talking about the way that we collectively think about rape.

More often than not, it’s situations in which sexual assault, rape, and general violence are ignored, trivialized, normalized, or made into jokes.

One thing I have always believed, is that when you tell someone to take precautions to prevent themselves being raped, what you are basically saying to them is ‘make sure the other person is raped’. There will always be someone more vulnerable, more drunk, walking down a darker road. This idea that you taking precautions will prevent someone choosing to rape you makes no logical sense yet it is a belief entirely ingrained in our society.

I chose to focus on it as it is a problem that is personal to me and I believe it is an issue that needs to be discussed more, especially as it is virtually unspoken of in regards to photography. Sexism is spoken about, but how photography influences the prevalence of rape culture in our society has not been mentioned, and I believe it should, as it has a profound affect on our every day lives, particularly through the saturation of images in news, media and advertising.

Though my opinions of Rape Culture and my initial research into its definition is not related to photography, it is necessary to define the groundwork of my research before focusing on how it related to photographic practices.