Is Pop Culture Creating a Rape Culture Among Youth?

Usually when you think of a rapist, you tend to think of an adult man lurking on a dark street corners or in a dodgy alley. Did you ever think a rapist could in fact be an adolescent youth under the age of eighteen who sits across from you in class? Well according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics nearly 10% of American youth cause sexual violence

Image Courtesy: dailymail.co.uk

Image Courtesy: dailymail.co.uk

What was even more disturbing was that the thrill of getting away with it often overrode the crime being committed.

“Two out of three of our perpetrators said no one found out, so they didn’t get in trouble,” said study co-author Michele Ybarra.

Ultimately the blame for such callous behaviour has been put on the lack of sexual education at home in in schools throughout the United States. While this is true and education truly is one of the ways that we can clearly define gender roles and explain the concept of inalienable human rights regardless of sex, there are more influences over the youth of today that permit acts of sexual violence.

The lyrics in popular music for one, has instigated notions of sexual violence for as long as I can remember. To be clear, sexual violence according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is defined as “any sexual act that is perpetrated against someone’s will”. It encompasses a range of offenses, including a completed non-consensual sex act (i.e., rape), an attempted non-consensual sex act, abusive sexual contact (i.e., unwanted touching), and non-contact sexual abuse. Now back to the music.

Image Courtesy: independent.co.uk

Image Courtesy: independent.co.uk

The recent summer hit, Blurred Lines by artist Robin Thicke, has drawn harsh criticism from feminist groups and women worldwide. Sexual abuse tends to leave the victim feeling powerless. The “I know you want it” lyrics seem to perpetuate these victim-blaming reactions that leave many of us feeling powerless long after the abusive incident. To be clear, no victim be it male or female is asking to be raped. Furthermore, just because the victim was “asking for it” does not mean that sexual violence of any kind is OK. In fact, this particular song instigates that men cannot be held accountable for the ways in which women tempt them- nor should they be forced to.

To those who say that music is how your interpret it and Robin Thicke wasn’t instigating that a rape culture is permissable, I say –  true. However, he was also quoted by GQ magazine saying that it was “a pleasure to degrade a woman.”

“I’ve never gotten to degrade before. I’ve always respected women,” he said.

While this song may have be an exciting social experiment for him, to many victims of sexual abuse it was more than a slap in the face.

Melinda Hughes, wrote an article on policymic, criticizing the degradation of women as sexual objects by this very song.

“In the video, the men are given all the power and control. The models dance around with vacant expressions. The three fully-clothed men touch and gawk at them… (and) as a result, the women seem more like sex dolls for the amusement of the men than actual women,” she wrote.

When the value of women is continuously contingent on whether a woman fits the ideal of sexual beauty, we create a society in which the goal of a woman is to be sexually appealing. This notion is exactly what is diluting gender roles and creating “blurred lines” as such among our youth today. However, the reality is quite clear, sex without definitive consent can amount to rape. Recognizing the influence of pop culture is a huge step in eliminating sexual violence amongst the young. Just because something is popular does not make it right.

Having that said, I do agree that the kids these days need to have a firmer sexual education program. According to an article on healthday.com, children in the US are simply not getting the education they need at home or in school about sexual relationships.

“In this country, we aren’t talking at all about healthy sexual relationships,”  said Susan Tortolero, a professor of public health at the University of Texas.

“Most of the time, we’re just telling kids not to have sex. People don’t know how to talk about sex, so almost always people are having sex without explicit consent. If we could teach kids how to give explicit consent, then they might be more protected.”

What do you guys think? What is to blame for the scores of young children/youth committing sexual crimes?

We have a voice, lets use it.

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Is Social Media Ruining Teenage Girls?

Social media has become an all-consuming culture that people all over the world can’t get enough of. However, it seems to be doing much more harm than good. According to an outstanding expose by Vanity Fair entitled Friends Without Benefits, not only has social media distorted gender roles for young people but more importantly, it has given young boys “the right to expect everything from social submission to outright sex from their female peers”.

Image Courtesy: aboutourkids.org

Image Courtesy: aboutourkids.org

The twenty-first century generation of children are a generation like no other. Strapped with the latest gadgets and smartphones, majority of them hardly come up for air, let alone engagement with the world outside their social media reality. Instead of developing long-lasting friendships and relationships, kids these days are preoccupied with how many “likes” they get on Instagram and how many followers they have on Twitter.

While this may seem harmless to many people, a new generation of apps, readily available to kids as young as 13 can be threatening in more ways than one. Tinder, a mobile dating app is one of the most commonly used app for teens to “hook up”. No, not get to know each other but solely “hook up”. In fact, apps like Tinder and Grinder have been accused of being too “time-consuming”. The almost 5 minutes you take to analyse a person’s profile and decide whether he/she is good enough for you to “hook up” with is seen as a rather long time stamp when a new app called Pure, offers its subscribers sex in an instant.

If this isn’t astonishing enough for you, not to worry, it only gets worse.

Once you become a member and you decide you’d like to hook up, you submit a request. You say if you’re looking for a man or a woman, and if you can host or travel. The app then presents you with some optional matches. Your photos are only visible to your matches, and no nudity is allowed on your profile photos. If you like a match, you choose him or her. If you both choose each other, you get connected. From there, you can request more photos of your match’s face and body.  According to the application’s website, “If you want to see more pictures, just request them. No prior chat necessary”.

In fact, according to the Vanity Fair article, the reason for hooking up is less about pleasure and fun than performance and gossip—it’s being able to update (on social media) about it. “Social media is fostering a very unthinking and unfeeling culture. We’re raising our kids to be performers.”

Image Courtesy: examiner.com

Image Courtesy: examiner.com

To me, the fact that such young people willingly utilized or would be willing to utilize such apps was baffling. I simply could not wrap my head around the fact that young girls, fully aware of the dangers lurking online, would be more than happy to participate and engage in a social medium like this. Upon further reading, I started to understand that majority of the girls who actively participated in social media were looking for one main thing, approval and validation. The number of likes they got on pictures, or the number of requests they got to “hook up” in some sense not only validated their self-worth but, their social status. In fact, one of the questions posed to the girls interviewed for the article in Vanity Fair, was whether or not “they knew girls who posted provocative pictures of themselves”. They all answered yes.

“More provocative equals more likes,” said Greta.

“It attracts more guys and then it makes other girls think about doing it just for the attention. They’re attention whores,” said Padma, frowning.

“I think some girls post slutty pictures of themselves to show guys the side to them that guys want to see,” said Zoe. “It’s annoying.”

“Girls call them sluts. Boys call it hot,” said Padma.

Greta shrugged. “I call it hilarious.”

Firstly, when did  attracting men or boys become dependent on how provocatively you portrayed yourself? Secondly, if women themselves insist on perpetuating certain underhanded stereotypes of the female gender, how can we as women, expect men to not feed off this stereotype? And lastly, if these young women’s sense of their own agency is so detached, how can we expect young men to show the adequate respect that is due every woman?

Image Courtesy: self.com

Image Courtesy: self.com

This post is not to disregard the enormous good that social media has done in its attempts to discourage and eliminate sexual violence among the youth. In fact, the app Circle 6, the winner of the White House’s “Apps Against Abuse” technology challenge, allows users to reach a group of six trusted friends with clear messages for help in one to two clicks of a button. It is designed to help men and women create support networks and communities on whom they can rely for help in both immediately threatening situations and more entrenched, relationship-based ones.

However, the bigger and more important question we should ask ourselves is how effective will apps like this be in preventing sexual violence?

What do you guys think? What are the rewards for upholding our socially scripted roles, and what are the penalties and punishments doled out for those who transgress unintentionally or willingly? Can these penalties be dangerous?

We have a voice, lets use it.

Do note that every once in a while, I will explore issues outside the exclusive realm of sexual violence, that I feel deserve a great amount of attention. Do Check out “Hot Topics” for more prolific issues around the world.