A guest blog article by Brian H. (student, world citizen)
Social norms develop as a result from the collective ideas of a society at any given point in time. Without looking at a particular group or society, it is impossible to conclude any social norms, whereas social norms can dictate how societies develop and function. There is a recurring idea found in each generation that the next generation is somehow lesser prepared, less knowledgeable, and has degraded moral compasses. Some people argue that this is a recent phenomenon: “The very shaping of history now outpaces the ability of people to orient themselves in accordance with cherished values. And which values? Even when they do not panic, people often sense that older ways of feeling and thinking have collapsed and that newer beginnings are ambiguous to the point of moral stasis” (Mills 2). Rape culture, as well as many other social issues, is not the result of new, deteriorated societal norms. Rape culture has always existed, but is now coming to light as we develop the capacity to think clearly about it.
The idea that rape occurrences and rape culture are only recently on the rise comes from the amount of minds that don’t think about life’s circumstances from a sociological perspective. Twenty to thirty years ago, many occurrences of rape were not ever reported and the rate of reporting has not increased a lot since then; however, with the help of programs that were designed to help victims feel more anonymous and safe from public ridicule, many more rape victims have come forth to report their incidents in a short amount of time. This has led many people to imagine that today’s society is much more over-sexed and that sex occurs much more frequently than it used to. Sex may be occurring at a greater rate among certain demographics, but the increase in frequency is over stated. Sex was happening back then just as it is happening now, society is just less afraid to talk about it. Yet people will argue that rape culture is an invention of liberally minded whiners looking for something to harp on, or that it has only become an issue in the last couple of years. Rape culture has existed for a long while and continues to exist.
In “The Accused” (1988), there is a backlash from society against a woman who is only trying to find justice for her rapists and those who cheered it on. Her case against the criminal solicitors is even deemed as “precedent setting” by the media. In “Sleepers” (1996), four boys growing up in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC demonstrate that even after experiencing rape and abuse at the hands of reform school guards, the societal norm of their time pushes them to keep quiet about what they experienced. That is a large part of what rape culture does. These movies don’t take place in the twenty-first century, nor were they even produced in the twenty-first century. The end of “Sleepers” even acknowledges that the State of New York denies that there are any records of this sort of behavior in their systems and they also deny this behavior ever occurred. With no records being kept of what happened then, it can be easy to look back into the past and draw conclusions that nothing “out of the ordinary” occurred when, in fact, it happened.
It can be a crutch in every generation to think that today’s generation is somehow going to be the end of civilization as we know it. It gives the other generation validation for its actions and the feeling that they figured out the correct way to live along the way. When people start accepting that life today is no worse off than it was years and years ago, there can finally be an open discussion that allows people to look at the issues from every angle. The root of the problem is only waiting to be discovered by fair eyes.
Mills, C. Wright. 2000 (1959). The Sociological Imagination: 40th Anniversary Edition. Oxford University Press.