Red Zone: Pop culture meets rape culture

Think of some of the first things you do when you wake up. Checking your cell phone is most likely on this list. Whether it’s responding to text messages, going through your Twitter feed or putting in your headphones to listen to that album you’ve been stuck on all week. We all soak in pop culture through our cell phones like a sponge, from early morning to late at night. This is not new information. Our society knows it’s reliant on technology, and even embraces it. Something that seems to go often overlooked, however, is exactly what type of images, song lyrics and Facebook posts are being absorbed, and the effect it is having on our perception of what is morally acceptable.

The idea of ‘rape culture’ has absolutely become a topic people want to be more educated about, but is portrayed in our pop culture as a topic that isn’t taken as seriously as it should be. Young adults are the masters of the internet —- they are the ones who grew up as the internet grew up beside them. Without a doubt, this makes them the generation that’s mainly hit with this ambiance of pop culture, and what is trendy versus what is not.

Photo credit: Jian Bautista

It is no surprise, then, that college students on campuses have been some of the main targets for being victims of rape. What links this warped perception of what rape is and the reality of the situation? The correlation between the two lies with the middleman: the texts we respond to, the Twitter feeds we check up on and the albums we can’t get out of our heads.

Claudia Lampman, director of UAA’s department of Psychology for the last 25 years, specializes in gender, sexual harassment and women in the workplace. She has done media research on sexual harassment, and how music lyrics and television shows affect our perception of rape.

“It seems to me that we are seeing a resurgence of some stuff that appeared to have gone away for a couple of decades,” Lampman said, speaking on vulgarity and how women are portrayed in some types of music.

A more specific example of this idea is a popular song, released by Robin Thicke in 2013, titled “Blurred Lines.”

congratulations from UPD to UAA graduates

- Advertisement -

“That song single handedly brought back a certain way of thinking, which is the idea that no doesn’t always mean no,” Lampman commented about this track. “To be okay with those lyrics, definitely contributes to what feminists would call a rape culture, a culture that is accepting of violence towards women, or accepting of this notion that ‘rape’ is blurry.”

Young adults are not the only ones who have these concepts put in their heads either. Jamie Whiteman, a former UAA student who works in the field of education, was quick to comment on what she hears from younger kids as well.

“They will at times sing some horrific lines that they heard off of the radio, concepts they shouldn’t even have learned about yet, like consent not being honored,” Whiteman said.

Being on the receiving end of these concepts and ideas media throw at us is one perspective, but to be immersed and a part of that media is a whole other side. Jasmine Alleva, a current student at UAA, is also a model, currently signed to Ford Models in Chicago. She has been in the industry for multiple years now, and has gained quite an opinion on what it is like to be treated as a professional versus what it is like to be looked down on because of her career.

“The modeling industry has gotten in trouble for promoting rape culture. Photo series where a woman is surrounded by six men, all doting on her sexual attributes, rather than what she is wearing. Perfume ads have nothing to do with perfume,” Alleva said.

It is completely transparent and easy to conclude that nearly every aspect of today’s pop culture acknowledges what rape is. Furthermore, our culture condones it through songs, music videos and social media.

UAA sociology professor Nelta Edwards has done research on the toleration of rape in music and television in her years of teaching, and has therefore become quite knowledgeable about the topic.

“When people are asked where they feel most likely to be raped, answers are often in alleys or dark streets. In reality, 90 percent of rape happens to victims in college who have known their attacker previous to the incident, and these incidents are likely to happen at a fraternity party than anywhere else,” Edwards said.

What Edwards explains noticeably traces back to society’s pop culture. There are dozens of movies where two college kids are at a fraternity party and they end up going home together. This idea has been broadcasted via television for years. There is no way to necessarily get around the constant wave of ideals that make rape acceptable or not acceptable in the media, but there is always the ability to gain knowledge about it. From there, it becomes easier to ride the wave and make it out more intelligent and educated on the topic of rape, and how to stop it from happening.