Do women play a role in the proliferation of rape culture?

Continuing the discussion from A rape survivor on Trump's "Locker Room Talk":

Most especially women in power? @Lucy_Gothro asked this pertinent question:

I think it’s an important aspect of this to discuss…


I would say no, unless they’re in a position of power. People of either gender can do something about rape culture if they have the power to do so.


I think if you look at this from the POV of race, and think about stereotypes like Uncle Tom, it’s easier to realize that there is an entire spectrum of responses that victims of prejudice will use to SURVIVE. As the prejudice becomes more subtle rather than overt, the range of responses mutates as well, but it’s still based in survival first. It takes a long time for a group of people to feel safe enough to be themselves.


Women like Phyllis Schlafly, most definitely; she advocated for marital rape, for example. On a more general level, I would argue that the Michelle Duggar (of 19 Kids And Counting) and her children also play a role in the maintenance, proliferation and normalization of viewing women as chattel and property of men (which are part of rape culture), due to the position of influence that their TV show gave them.

Beyond examples like that, it’s very much a perspective problem. I definitely agree with @LearnedCoward’s comment about the “position of power” requirement, but what about role models or peer groups that advocate for some or all of the rape culture conceptual array?

For example, does a young woman who has never known a different perspective because of her upbringing bear culpability for telling her younger sister that “boys will be boys” or other such concepts? Because that’s certainly “playing a role” in perpetuating it–her sister will likely trust the older sibling’s perspective, and she has a limited degree of power over how the younger sib will learn and view things, but she herself is a victim of similar indoctrination. Because, I would say, that the only difference between such a young woman and the Duggars’ older daughters is that the Duggars have a TV show, making it a difference in scale rather than a difference in kind.

So, yeah. I’ve talked myself in circles here, so I’m going to stop rambling.


What if they don’t have the power? Maybe we should define “power”? And I’m not assigning blame, but there are a lot of women out there who know their husbands/partners are sexually misbehaving and do nothing about it. I’ve met them. Their husbands/partners have lied to me about their marital/relationship status, and lied to about or simply denied my existence to their wives/partners. One of those men was the man who raped me.

Having a consensual extramarital affair isn’t rape. But to me, the woman who knows and sees and hears about her husband/partner being a letch and who says nothing to him about it, I don’t get that. Maybe it’s not explicit condoning, but it’s sure not saying, “Hey, that’s wrong, cut that out!”

I mean, I’m not a religious nut or anything, but I believe in “forsaking all others”, male, female, whatever, if you’re going to permanently partner yourself with someone; that’s honor, integrity. That includes not just forsaking extramarital sex, but ass-grabbing, cleavage-peeking/touching, and probably a bunch of other things - or is that just me? (I’m not getting into the marital aspect, that’s a whole 'nother thread - again)

And of course, the desire to do something about it has to be there. It’s a rare human that will jeopardize her/his position in order to do something to assist others, IMNSHO.


Interesting bringing up the Duggars. They were really more of a sideshow. Nobody would watch that show and run off and join the Quiverfulls. Michelle Duggar has influence over her own family, but not really anyone else. Also, though she had a fairly normal upbringing, she got married right out of high school. It’s not like she literally never knew any other kind of life, but she didn’t exactly travel the world before deciding to become a Quiverfull. Besides, when Michelle Duggar was growing up in the 1970s in Springdale AR, there was almost certainly a lot of systemic sexism, so she really never knew life without it.

There are people who never question the baggage from their childhood and pass it on to their kids, whether it be sexism, racism, homophobia, or any kind of bigotry. There’s a big problem with that, especially when they pass on abusive behavior. It’s their responsibility to end the cycle, but first they have to be aware that there’s a problem.


I was talking about systemic power.

Women in abusive relationships can’t do much except get out of the relationship, and end the cycle of abuse. They cannot change an abuser, and it shouldn’t be their responsibility to do so.


I think I believe in that for people who want that in their relationships. I think sleeping around when the agreement was monogamy is the problem. If a couple is in a mutually agreed upon arrangement to have an open relationship, that’s another thing altogether. The problem is trust and lying, I think. If you agree to be monogamous with someone and then lie about sleeping around, that’s the problem.

I guess there are a number of things going on here, or that could be going on. The woman could genuinely not know, or be willfully lying to herself, because the truth is too painful for her. She could be also a victim, if the partner is abusive. She could be acting the same way, in terms of sleeping around. [quote=“Lucy_Gothro, post:5, topic:87293”]
It’s a rare human that will jeopardize her/his position in order to do something to assist others

Sure. And there could be many reasons why this is the case… actual love for the other partner, fear, selfishness among them. Also, some women blame, not their partners, but the person the partner is cheating with.


They don’t (in general, specific cops, DAs, vigilante gunwomen, etc. do exist) have the sort of institutional power to directly stop it; but it seems pretty uncontroversial to suspect that they do plenty of acculturation and enforcement work; much as is the case with beauty standards, fashion policing, and similar.

In the absence of institutional power, there is a lot less that can be realistically expected in situations where someone exploiting a position of power is a factor; but the fact that, say, someone can have credible assertions of rape against them and not be a pariah in all their former social circles pretty much requires substantial willingness among women(and men) to be at least permissive bystanders.

I remember visiting a friend in college. One of the fraternities at their school had a dubious reputation (if you said “The date rape frat” everyone knew exactly who you meant). They did not seem to have any problems with attendance at their parties, despite this. Had they been “The NAMBLA frat” is would probably not have been the case.


Very well-put. Thank you for making clarifications that I, in my haste to get my thought typed out, didn’t think to make.


No worries! I’m enjoying reading your POV!


I think you have to be careful not to conflate cheating with honest and open non-monogamy.

Personally I’m in a very loving long term non-monogamous relationship. I’ve been with my partner for 17 years. If I had to be monogamous with someone it would be him, but it’s not an idea that I’ve ever found romantic.

Monogamy personally brings up weird issues about autonomy and ownership although I don’t project my issues onto people who choose it.

I worry though when people insist that it is the only way to conduct a relationship. I think it discourages deliberate boundary setting, and actually gives cover to cheaters by setting up a false dichotomy between free love and faithfulness.

And to bring it back around, one reason I have a huge problem with traditional relationships is the idea that it’s somehow my job to control my man. I shouldn’t be more responsible for his behavior than that of my other friends, which would of course include rejecting an actual sex offender. I don’t stay friends with people I know have hurt others to that degree.


I’m an ol’ mossback in some ways, and need to be gently reminded that the definition I’ve had in my mind for “marriage” isn’t what’s really happenin’ any more, though allegedly it’s still popular. So thanks for bringing that up. I do know a fair share of “polys”, but we aren’t a part of each others’ everyday lives. What works for me (right now, nothing, lol) doesn’t work for them, and vice-versa. I pretty much want everybody who wants to be happy, be happy, as long as no one whosoever gets hurt.

I know a lot of folks who are still friends with the man who raped me. It’s not like they know; they’re mostly men, and I have the sneaking suspicion I’d hear the word “bitch” more often than I’d like. However, I could be underestimating them. I feel like a coward. But I don’t need the trouble that it would cause.


While I have chosen monogamy, I don’t think that’s what honor and integrity are. I think integrity is not having dissonance between your values and actions, and honor is keeping your word and promises. A polyamerous, open, swinger, ect relationship is no more or less inherently honorable than the monogamy between my wife and I.

And while I agree that it’s not the healthiest thing to allow your spouse to dishonor you by ignoring duplcity on his or her part, I myself don’t believe it’s my place to judge what a person tolerates in their relationships. Rather, my role as a friend is to be supportive of them so they know they have allies whatever they choose, and that they’ll have that support regardless of whether their choices are the same as I would make. My role as a human being is to listen and support them if they’re being abused, whether or not they are my friend.

When it comes to relationships, I think it’s very dangerous to put any onus on women (or any spouse or lover), for the behavior of the other. But then I’m a believer in personal responsibility. So while, for example, I’m appalled at Melania Trump’s choice of husband, or indeed at anyone who would choose to associate with Trump, the only people I hold accountable for Donald Trump contemptible character are Donal Trump and the people who raised him.

As someone who was happily polyamerous for most of my adult life (and just to avoid confusion, while there’s nothing wrong with promiscuity, poly is not the same as promiscuity), I was initially surprised how many other polys there were and are. And most don’t lead obvious alternative (although I kind of don’t like that word because it implies one way is more normal than others) lifestyles. I think they’ve always been there. But even this day and age, and even as a SWM, I was careful who I discussed my relationship status with when I was poly, because there’s still a lot of unexamined prejudice even in our relatively liberal society against it. So it was probably always happening, but only recently has there been some openness about it. At the same time, precisely because a lot of people conflate polyamory with promiscuity and unfaithfulness, I think even nowadays people are wise to be cautious, lest the faux family values crowd turn on polys in the moral panic generated by amoral patriarchalism such as Ashley Madison and the like.

You’re a survivor, and you set the terms for that. IMHO, you’re under no obligation to gamble on the goodness of others.


To me, honor and integrity means keeping one’s word to the best of one’s ability; I’m sorry if you thought I meant it applies strictly to monogamy. If I say I’m going to do something, I’d better do it, because of the standards I set for myself.

Okay, example: My parents were married in 1951, he was 28, she was 25, second time for both. My father and mother had a fight back in 1974 over parental responsibility. He told her he was going to divorce her and put her on welfare; she refused a divorce. He had already started an affair at that point in time that my mom, my brother, or myself knew about. And when we did figure it out, we never talked about it. Dad cheated on Mom, and the two kids (15 and 9 at the time) had no clue. This went on for over twenty years. My dad even moved my mom into his mistress’s house when she and her husband moved out of state.

When someone’s lack of personal responsibility directly impacts the lives of others in a negative way, I tend to become judgmental. But that’s just me.


No. Your first comment sort of sounded like that, but your follow-up reply to @nytespryte clarified. And I should have framed it as a question, but as I said, I felt you answered that question in your follow-up reply and I was just adding my own experience to that. I think we’re in complete agreement on that.

I am perhaps slightly oversensitive about it because I’ve known many people I respect and even admire who nonetheless just had been raised in a environment where anything other than couples choosing monogamy was immoral. So I tend to speak up whenever I hear words that might reflect that well-meaning but perhaps unconscious bias - particularly when it seems like it’s someone who’s open to reexamining any assumptions they might have (which you certainly come across as) - so as to illuminate the difference between polyamory and cheating. That said, I do apologize if it was a slight derail.

What your dad did to his family sucks and you have every right to be judgemental about it. I’m sorry you had to go through that. While women sometimes do that to their families too, we live in a society that generally condemns them while giving men, especially SWM, a free pass, and often even blaming the victim to which he is unfaithful. That’s what I was trying to say by calling Ashley Madison a glaring example of amoral patriarchalism.


I dated a self-proclaimed poly, though during our relationship he never saw anyone else, but it would’ve been okay if he had because I knew what he was.

I believe my mother was culpable, too. In 1974, she probably could’ve taken my dad for everything he had in a divorce, which may or may not’ve been messy. And I wonder sometimes: Was he cheating because Mom wouldn’t “do” something? Things that she told me after his death kind of lead me to think not; women of her generation were still fairly prudish to a degree. At any rate, the whole situation colored my life, probably still is, and they’re both dead (Mom very recently, in June, so I’m still grieving), and the mistress and her husband are dead, and it’s over.

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I don’t think I ever told people I was polyamorous when I was. I just always made sure prospective partners knew I was not offering monogamy and didn’t expect it of them. And, frankly, whenever I got the feeling that they said they were okay with that but saw it as a compromise, I just wouldn’t get involved in physical intimacy with them, because I didn’t want them to be uncomfortable or resentful. In this way, I was able to find partners like me, who weren’t interested in monogamy but were still interested in intimacy. Honesty and forthrightness have always been my guiding principles. I’ve also always been attracted to strong self-determined women so that also helped guide me to people who wouldn’t hesitate to voice what they really wanted out of a relationship. But I think that being such was a lot more costly for our parents when women were routinely denied much of the agency now recognized (albeit imperfectly) in the West.


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