“How Rape Culture Impacts Body Image”

– A Blog Post Written by Izzy

One of the most prominent reasons why rape culture, the concept that we live in a society that normalizes and justifies rape, continues to prevail is because we are teaching the same lesson over and over. Kids are being introduced to the sexual message that the media shares at a younger age and the effect of that is beginning to be more and more prominent. Girls are being taught the wrong message about their bodies and its worth; the consequences are becoming more obvious the longer it goes on. Rape culture and the sexualization of girls teaches them that they are not allowed to be in control of their bodies and that their worth is tied to their outer beauty.

Rape culture’s biggest contributor is the notion that men, as well as others, are in control of women and girls’ bodies. The policing and criticizing of girls brings forward messages along the lines of “Boys won’t like you if you do ______.” Girls are taught that the opinions of boys and men should be considered at all times, such as when a girl is dress-coded in her high school because she is wearing a tank top. Because boys will be distracted in class by the girl’s shoulders, she must be prohibited from wearing the attire. Similarly, if a girl decides that she wants to cut her hair short or that she wants to stop shaving her legs, society will tell her that men and boys will not want her because they do not find it attractive. Rape culture tells girls that they should base their decisions on the feelings and desires of boys.

Girls are also taught that their bodies are a problem that needs to be hidden. The idea that girls who were showing “too much skin” when they were sexually assaulted were “asking for it” puts unnecessary blame on the girl rather than on the rapist. Teaching girls that they are responsible for how others react to their bodies opens up the notion that a girl’s body is inherently wrong. Girls are taught to be ashamed of their bodies because it causes boys to do shameful things.  

Rape culture tells girls that if they are not beautiful, they are not valuable. Because of this, girls will go to extreme lengths to ensure that they are deemed “beautiful.” Eating disorders and depression rates have risen tremendously in recent years as media access continues to grow. Rape culture also presents a message that beauty is an invitation for sexual advances; if a girl is beautiful, who can blame boys for touching or assaulting her? This puts many girls into a scenario that they can’t win. If they are “beautiful”, they are valuable, but not necessarily in the way that they want. If they “ugly”, they are ridiculed, excluded, and mistreated. The confusion only adds to the risk of mental and emotional issues.

Rape culture has been prevalent in society for a long time. However, because of the boom in media, girls younger and younger are gaining access to the harmful messages that rape culture brings. We, as a society, need to stop spreading the idea that girls are not in control of their bodies. We need to stop telling girls that their bodies are shameful. Girls should not be held responsible for the actions of boys or men. They should not be told that their outer beauty is the only way to measure their worth.

Unlearning all that we have been taught by rape culture is a complicated process. However, being mindful to stop teaching the same lessons to younger generations is a great first step to solving the problem.

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