Culture of Sexual Violence

One of the proposed reasons for the high rates of sexual violence on college and university campuses is the predominance of a culture of sexual violence in post-secondary institutions, also sometimes referred to as ‘rape culture’.

Research suggests that the campus environment is conducive to this culture through several characteristics: the acceptance of rape myths, the promotion of hegemonic masculinity, and peer support for rape-supportive behaviours. In particular, rape myth acceptance is a frequently used measure of this culture.

Hegemonic masculinity

Hegemonic masculinity: in gender studies this is defined as a practice that enables the perpetuation of men’s dominant position in society.

Intersectional Analysis

In her intersectional analysis, researcher Alisa Kessel from the University of Puget Sound defines this culture as a set of “collectively reproduced myths, discourses, and practices that individuals use to assign interpretations of rape victimhood and perpetration, innocence and guilt, and power and powerlessness that, in turn, reproduce a culture that normalizes rape and other sexual violence as an effective (though outwardly condemned) way to reinforce relations of subordination.”

It has been established that men on campus have a higher rape myth acceptance rate than women, though evidence suggests that many college women also use rape myths and norms within their peer groups to interpret rape scenarios. Accordingly, one study found that college students in the United States had inconsistent knowledge of sexual assault, having both accurate and problematic understandings of sexual violence. In another meta-analysis of rape myths, rape myth acceptance was also correlated with other “isms”, such as racism, heterosexism, classism, and ageism.

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