I am writing in response to Tim Adams’ opinion article, “Challenging the Rape Culture Myth.”
I would first like to acknowledge that Adams importantly points out the fact that serial perpetrators are often overlooked in our social narratives about sexual violence. This oversight manifests in the daily blaming of assault survivors for the crimes committed against them. When we advise women in “risk prevention,” we allow serial perpetrators to escape the public eye in favor of the mythical “man in a ski mask” who lurks in the bushes, waiting for an unwary victim.
Where Adams is misled is in his assertion that teaching our sons not to rape is not a valid approach to the issue of systemic sexual violence. Firstly, we must teach our sons not to rape because we teach our daughters not to be raped. As someone who is male, I understand that when we employ the phase “teach our sons not to rape,” it is not a criticism of individual men, but of the cultural narrative of masculinity that does not teach men about sexual assault the way it teaches women.
Secondly, the unavoidable truth is that there is gender bias in the incidence of sexual assault. Women are more likely to experience sexual violence than men, even when we account for the fact that men’s rape statistics are probably underreported. Additionally, males are overwhelmingly more likely to perpetrate than females. This crime occurs with a gender bias because the crime itself is created by gender disparities in our society.
Moreover, Adams fails to realize that “teaching our sons not to rape” is not the end-all-be-all solution to this epidemic. Activists and advocates such as myself discourse and educate daily in an attempt to understand the systemic roots of this type of violence, and they are many and deeply culturally ingrained.
Adams’ assertion that rape culture is a myth is simply not true. Rape culture disguises serial perpetrators even as it excuses men like Brock Turner. I live on a college campus; I experience rape culture on a daily basis. It is epidemic and ever present, especially for young people in our college town. And, as a scientist, I would like to assure Adams that teaching our sons about sexual assault, just as we teach our daughters, is a viable solution to this very real problem.