Not a Rapist? Good. Do You Laugh at Rape Jokes? You Enable Rape Culture.

Image credit: Tasha Sturm/Cabrillo College/asm.org

Julius was a military physician working for the German army in the late 1800s. His job was relatively simple: cure tuberculosis. Working alongside preeminent bacteriologist Robert Koch, he discovered and helped develop the ideal method and conditions for growing bacteria. 

This was no easy feat. (Most) bacteria requires an ideal culture in which to grow. Without warmth, moisture, oxygen, and a neutral pH, most bacteria will die. 

For his contributions, they named the Petri dish after him. 

To be clear: Julius Petri didn’t invent tuberculosis or any other bacteria. Bacteria may be the oldest life form on the planet. Before humans knew what bacteria was, it killed more of us than any predator. Fortunately, thanks to people like Julius Petri, we can identify and defend ourselves against deadly pathogens. This saves billions of lives and is largely responsible for the population growth of the 1900s. 

Rape is not dissimilar. 

Sexual violence (largely against women) has been around since the dawn of time. It may sound simplistic to say: we can end rape. But remember: medieval Europeans believed “miasma” or “night air” caused the Black Death. Discovering the culture that allowed bacteria to thrive (like an appalling lack of basic hygiene) was the first step in developing active anti-bacterials. 

The same is true of rape. 

The way to end rape is simple: Men, stop raping.

But just because the solution isn’t complicated, doesn’t mean it’s easy. The warm, moist, nutrient-rich culture that rape needs to thrive is fed everyday by men (and women) worldwide, intentionally or not. Some of the things that feed rape culture include:

-Entertainment that normalizes violence against women
-A basic misunderstanding of consent
-Cat-calling and street level harassment
-Victim blaming
Rape jokes and rape-joke defenders
The list could go on and on.

Women reading this: please feel free to add anything that contributes to rape culture in the comments. 

To be clear: it is unfair to equate those who contribute to rape culture to actual rapists. They didn’t invent rape any more than Julius Petri invented bacteria. 

To be crystal clear: rapists feel validated, safe, and protected because of rape culture. If you in any way contribute to the environment which normalizes violence against women, you may not be a rapist, but… You are the warm petri dish that allows rape culture to flourish. 

This is why rape jokes are a litmus test. Remember, it’s not alkaline or acidic conditions that allow bacteria to thrive, it’s NEUTRAL. Think taking a passive, “this doesn’t affect me, stop taking everything so seriously, lighten up it’s just a joke” attitude doesn’t hurt anyone?

Think again. 

Today we know to wash our hands (we know this, right?), how to handle decaying organic matter, and the benefits of active antimicrobials. You can still die of Cholera, but unlike your ancestors you don’t have to.

Same is true of rape.

We could (mostly) end rape if we really wanted to. Pathogens require a host, and transmission. (Hopefully) no one reading this will ever be a rapist. This does not absolve you of your responsibility.

Rape (and most gender-based violence) is a male problem. If you come in contact with misogynists or misogyny, wash your damn hands. Wash your hands of anyone and anything that contributes to the conditions which allow rape culture to flourish. Choose to be actively anti-violence against women. Choose to stop contributing to rape culture. 

Never be the reason a rapist feels justified or safe.