Rape culture is a complicated and taboo topic to tackle anywhere. The sad reality is that not many people understand what it is and what it entails. But the fact is it should be common sense for people to know what rape is, why we need to stop victim-blaming, and so on. Most especially since rape cases in both women and children have been on the rise for the past year.
This is what we wanted to discuss at our third Preen Sessions, which centered on rape culture in the Philippines. For this leg, we invited speakers Maritina Romulo and Art Acuña, as well as Preen.ph columnist Bambina Olivares as moderator, to share their insight on it. But the afternoon became more interesting when the audience also chipped in to share experiences and offered solutions to educate people.
The discussions were heated but it’s also what we need to get the conversation on rape culture going. If you missed the event, take down these pointers so you too can talk about it with the people around you.
#1 Spread the word
During the event, Maritina shared a pyramid on rape culture and consent. She said that the best way to discuss the issue is to share this with other people. “Email this to your friends and show them that this is an important topic to talk about,” she said. It’s also crucial to educate people who are not aware that rape culture exists.
Women’s activist Kat Alano also shared that it’s important to bring this conversation to those in the lower class. She suggested that they should be given materials that are easy to understand and digest what rape means. “It’s the culture that we need to break down for them. Instead of just telling them that rape is wrong, we need to identify for them who is a rapist and who is a victim, and teach them that anyone can be a rapist.”
#2 The difference between sex and rape
“Because we don’t have sex education in this country, people don’t know the difference between rape and sex,” Kat said. It sounds terrible but it’s true. As Bambina also pointed out, girls are only taught that sex is for procreation and that they are not allowed to enjoy it. That said, saying “no” to sex is also a concept that many people don’t understand.
Host and fitness coach Hilary Isaac shared that when she was younger, she was scared to say no to her then-boyfriend. “At 15, I thought, ‘If I don’t do this, that means I don’t love him anymore.’ But what do I know about love at 15, right?” Likewise, Maritina emphasized that just because you’re in a relationship or married doesn’t mean that you can’t say no to sex. Rape is rape no matter what your commitment is with another person.
#3 Rapists can be people you know
Art brought up how rapists don’t always look shady. “It’s someone you know. It can be your friend, your relative, even your dad,” he said.
#4 How it’s portrayed in the media
Designer and Grrrl Gang Manila co-founder Mich Dulce pointed out how advertisers and media should be wary of releasing content that promote rape culture. Especially in mainstream media where rape is often used as a plot device. “[We should take this discussion] out of online and bring this to mainstream media because not everyone is online,” she said. “We have telenovelas that show rape and it’s ingrained in our system already. These are the stories that are going to sell and we have to change that narrative within the whole system.”
She added that advertisers shouldn’t always capitalize on sexualized imagery that almost encourages harassment. ” If you work in advertising, it’s taking on that responsibility of saying ‘Look, this is not how we should sell this.'”
#5 Children are top priority
Rape culture can start early, which is why it’s important to start educating them while they’re young. “Every day of my life I’m teaching my [six-year-old son] if someone says no, then stop. That’s become a gospel truth to my son. Even as a joke, a tickle fight, or when you’re teasing someone. If they say you hurt their feelings, you need to stop,” Hilary shared, emphasizing that we need to instill these values to children.
Kat echoed this when she heard how vulgar some 11-year-old kids were to her and how they used sexual assault as a joke. “That’s what they’re being taught by their family members. We’re talking about people with low levels of education,” she said.
It’s also our responsibility to oversee what they watch, especially since we have a president who makes rape jokes and still have rapist TV hosts on-air. “What if a nine-year-old saw Pres. Duterte’s joke? How will he grow up?” Maritina asked.
#6 Victim-blaming and suspect-glorifying need to stop
We’ve said numerous times how clothing, alcohol, and other factors are not reasons for rape. It’s the rapists’ fault—plain and simple. But this fact still needs to embedded in a lot of people’s mentalities as their bad judgments can discourage victims to talk. Kat said that she was blacklisted when she first came out that she was raped by a celebrity. “The really interesting thing for me is I got bashed by thousands of people when I came out, in defense of the rapist. I was called a liar, poor, and it was my fault I was raped.”
When asked if women should be taught how to fight rapists, Maritina agreed but gave an important takeaway: “Boys should be taught not to rape. Period.”
Photos by Janina David
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