Rape Culture in Media

by ethics201 on April 25, 2017 - 12:21pm

            Rape culture is a situation where rape is frequent and where sexual violence is normalized and excused in the media and in popular culture. Rape begins through the objectification of women’s bodies in the media, which creates a society where women’s rights and safety is overlooked. Examples of rape culture are: victim blaming, denial of rape, objectification of women’s bodies, and disregarding the importance of consent. The movies that show rape are not the cause of this issue but a reflection of this moral dilemma. Since rape culture is extremely normalized in our society sometimes we don’t even notice that we are viewing them in the movies we love. Since these movies are a reflection of this moral dilemma there is a message that the movies are sending to the viewers, is it a positive or negative message of the issue of rape culture? The ethical framework of ethical rationalism demonstrates that the action of creating rape scenes in popular movies demeans the tragedy of rape itself rather than raising awareness.

            Some would argue that screening rape scenes in movies raises awareness of this issue in society because showing this to a large audience will make them more concerned of this issue and will create a positive change as seen by those who stand by the framework of utilitarianism. This ethical framework focuses on the greatest good for the greatest number. Looking from this perspective, the outcome could be positive due to a number of reasons. Firstly, by putting these extreme scenes in movies, the viewers are alarmed by this and would want to put an end to this issue by raising awareness. Critics as well, who view these movies will raise awareness to a large audience because many people will read their reviews of the movie and will want to act regarding this issue. Secondly, those who have personally been victims of rape will want to share their story in order to educate people on their experiences and ways of how to put an end to this disaster. The media is one way of sharing this issue to a large audience in order for them to act upon this.  As a result, screening rape scenes in popular movies will bring a large audience to want to raise awareness in order to end this issue and to make sure it is no longer seen as normalized in society.

            Others, however, argue that screening these scenes in movies will not raise awareness but will just be another plot to a Hollywood storyline; those who stand by the framework of ethical rationalism believe this. This framework focuses on the action and the universal rights and safety of an individual. For example, sexual assault is universally wrong without the consent of the other person.  “Brinson found that 42% of the storylines suggested the victim wanted to be raped, 38% suggested the victim lied about the assault, and 46% suggested the victim was to blame for the assault” (Eastin & Kahlor, 217). As shown by these statistics, many Hollywood storylines include rape and the message that the media portrays to the audience is that the victim, either wanted to be raped, was blamed for the rape or did not share and kept quiet about the incident. “Hollywood rarely depicts forced sexual assault as rape when it occurs between acquaintances, although that’s how rape usually occurs” (Warshaw). For example, in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, Hannah Baker tells her story of how she committed suicide and how her peers helped influence her decision. Part of her story is when her classmate Bryce rapes her in his hot tub at his party, because this is such a shock to her in the moment she becomes paralyzed and cannot move or speak. She describes feeling already dead inside after this horrific incident occurs (Netflix). Hollywood films, do in fact have scenes of rape, however, they do not often consider sexual assault between peers or acquaintances as rape. 

            There is a large percentage of Hollywood films that depict rape scenes however, the message they send is not to raise awareness of this issue. Their intention might be to raise awareness however; these films actually demean the concept of rape.  In these films rape is not seen as an issue that must be stopped, it is simply a part to intensify the plot to make the storyline more dramatic. “India’s colonial history was marked by what Ranajit Guha conceptualized as ‘dominance without hegemony,’ wherein the imperial state secured authority through violence” (Roychowdhury). The majority of men want power and dominance, and often times they use violence and sexual assault in order to show the women that they have power over them. This is often shown in films just as in the series 13 Reasons Why, Bryce wanted to assert his power over Hannah in order to please himself and he did so by sexually assaulting her (Netflix).  “The quality – the sensitive and responsible way rape is being treated in some of those productions … is being applauded by members of the television industry and the academic and critical communities” (Zurawik). As mentioned previously, rape is not taken seriously in these films and is simply a plot to intensify the storyline.

            The ethical framework of ethical rationalism demonstrates that the action of creating rape scenes in popular movies demeans the tragedy of rape itself rather than raising awareness. The issue of rape must not be taken lightly and under no circumstances must be simply used as a plot to a storyline for a Hollywood film. It is morally unethical to use rape victim’s horrific experiences as a plotline to a Hollywood film, demeaning the issue of rape. Sexual assault is a serious and tragic matter that must be acted upon immediately and not be considered normalized in our society. Sexual assault dismisses the importance of rights and safety of the victims of these incidents. Instead of our society raising awareness to this issue, they’re creating Hollywood films to increase their ratings and gain profit by using these incidents as a storyline. Under no circumstances is sexual assault morally acceptable therefore; ethical rationalism is the greatest framework as it states that it is universally wrong to commit sexual assault in order to assert power as well as dominance while creating Hollywood films about this issue only demeans its importance.


Works Cited

13 Reasons Why. Created by Brian Yorkey, performances by Katherine Langford and Justin

                Prentice, Netflix Original 2017. Netflix, https://www.netflix.com/ca/

Kahlor, LeeAnn, and Mathew S. Eastin. “Television’s Role in the Culture of Violence

  Toward Women: A Study of Televsion Viewing and the Cultivation of Rape Myth Acceptance in the United States.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol. 55, no. 2, Apr. 2011,                     pp. 215-231. Academic Search Premier, doi: 10.1080/08838151.2011.566085.

Roychowdhury, Poulami. “‘The Delhi Gang Rape’: The Making of International Causes.”

                 Feminist Studies, vol. 39, no. 1, 2013, pp. 282-292. Academic Search Premier.

Warshaw, Robin. "The Gazette,” May 19, 1991, pp. F1/BREAK, Canadian Major Dailies. s

Zurawik, David, The Baltimore Sun. "Television's 'Social Conscience' Focuses on Rape." The

                Windsor Star, Nov 06, 1989, pp. B5, Canadian Major Dailies.











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