Examining the Past and Changing the Future: Date Rape Culture

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Date rape is an all too prevalent issue, one that unfortunately warrants caution even today. Many believe that date rape isn’t a ‘thing’ where they live, but rape culture is alive and well in Canada. A quick Google search reveals that our very own Loyalist City amasses this social epidemic, making it an issue that not only affects our country, but one that hits home.

University Frosh Week events across Canada have been receiving bad press for condoning rape culture, especially over the past few years. Most recently, Orientation Leaders from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ont. were criticized for mocking their university’s Safe Space Policy. And few can forget the Saint Mary’s University frosh week video that went viral last year, which showed student leaders participating in a chant about male students taking advantage of underage girls in non-consensual sex.

A year after a controversial frosh week video that included a chant that boasted of male students’ preference for non-consensual sex with underage girls went viral, Saint Mary’s University in Halifax says there’s still a ways to go in the battle against sexualized violence on campus.

The question is, does Saint John have the same problem as the rest of Canada seems to with condoning rape culture? As citizens of Saint John and members of the UNB Saint John campus, do women have to fear going to bars or walking home alone at night? We are not a big city by any means, like Toronto, Winnipeg, or Vancouver, but unfortunately rape still happens indiscriminately in small towns and urban centers alike.

Trying to change the view on rape culture is the most important thing we can do as a society. Remembering that mocking safe space policies and participating in rape jokes (even those made in the context of prison inmates) is fundamentally wrong can point us in the right direction.

Being aware that sexual assault against men is something that happens is important too. Men and women have the right to feel safe in their own skin, their own clothing, and in the cases of sexual assault against significant others, in their own home—regardless of gender.

So what can be done? We can, of course, urge those who have been sexually assaulted to seek help. We can offer our sympathy, comfort, and friendship to those we know have been sexually assaulted. We can dismiss mockery of sexual assault. We can teach both men and women how to protect themselves.

One interesting means of protection against rape that has received some bad press of late is Rape Prevention Nail Polish: a nail polish that changes colour if you stir your finger in a drink that has been contaminated with a date rape drug.

A CBC article states that “a product not yet on the market has critics saying it once again places the onus on women to protect themselves rather than challenging the attitudes that permit rape culture to flourish.[1]” Of course we need to change the concept of rape culture, but prevention is not unfounded. In terms of prevention, the nail polish seems much more reasonable than some of the listed alternatives in the article.

Victim blaming is another huge concern pertaining to sexual assault. Both men and women should be able to wear whatever makeup and clothing they wish to, without harassment. Blaming someone for being “scandalous,” drunk, or flirty, does not justify rape. And of course, being drunk suggests that one cannot give their consent to sex.

Date rape is very real, and very close to home. Acknowledging that rape culture is wrong and unacceptable is crucial to moving past this issue, both within Canada and in Saint John.

[1] Tremonti, Anna M. “A New Anti-rape Nail Polish Generates Backlash as Misguided Approach to Preventing Rape.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 10 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Sept. 2014.