Rape Culture in Pop Culture

By Lindsay Der

A shocking amount of our country’s beloved movies and songs unintentionally– or intentionally– promote the already pervasive rape culture in our society. Rape culture is defined as “a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse” by the Oxford Dictionary. Popular culture possesses a huge role in the spread of rape culture, which results in the staggeringly high statistics of sexual harassment crimes. Movies brush past occurrences of sexual assault for the sake of the story or create a joke out of the serious issue. In the 80’s hit movie, Revenge of the Nerds, one of the “nerds” impersonates another character and tricks a girl into sleeping with him, since she believes she’s having sex with her boyfriend. The movie laughs off the instance, displaying the act of rape by deception as a victory for nerds everywhere! Morally disgusting in the 80’s and illegal now, rape by deception is normalized by the film and viewers, seeing no repercussions, regard the action as harmless fun for the good guy. Songs mention problematic modes of sexual harassment or romanticize illegal activities that contribute to rape culture. A more recent example of normalized sexual harassment in the media, in the song “U.O.E.N.O.” by Rocko, featured artist Rick Ross raps about the common phenomenon of date rape, describing spiking a girl’s drink with molly without her knowledge. Since the release of the song, Ross has made multiple statements attempting to clarify the lyrics and denounce date rape. Still, no matter the intention of the lyrics or any post-release apologies, the ideas in the song have already infected the minds of listeners. Every failure to condemn instances or mentions of sexual harassment in pop culture results in the growth and spread of rape culture. Iman Rappetti, the host of POWER Talk, likened the subversion of rape culture to the adjustment of our senses to the foul stench of sewage. Initially shocking and pervasive yet, soon, easing into your life, until unnoticeable, rape culture actually feeds into our psyche and we subconsciously integrate its ideas into our thoughts. Especially for young, impressionable audiences, the normalization of sexual harassment in pop culture represents a great danger of completely rewiring the way viewers and listeners perceive forms of sexual harassment. Thinking critically and maintaining an awareness of the media you consume can help reduce the effects sexual harassment in pop culture may have on your mind and contribute to the termination of rape culture.