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Rape Culture

Joyce Williams

Subject Gender Studies
Sociology » Sociology of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Rape culture is a concept of unknown origin and of uncertain definition; yet it has made its way into everyday vocabulary and is assumed to be commonly understood. The award-winning documentary film Rape Culture made by Margaret Lazarus in 1975 takes credit for first defining the concept. The film's narration relies heavily on jargon such as “rapism” and “phallocentric society” and is more illustrative than definitive in dealing with rape as depicted in movies, music, and other forms of entertainment. Authors of the popular Transforming a Rape Culture define the phenomenon as “a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women … a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent” ( Buchwald et al. 1993 : v). An earlier definition was offered by Herman (1984) , who characterized the US as a rape culture because the image of heterosexual sex is based on a model of aggressive male and passive female. At the other end of the continuum of definitions are efforts to define a rape culture empirically, such as are found in the work of Baron and Straus (1989) and Ellis (1989) . Some empirical works on rape theorize its emanation from a subculture of violence, for example societies with high homicide rates also tend to have high rape rates ( Amir 1971 ; Baron & Straus 1989 ). Other researchers have stressed that social ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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