Maya Dusenbery, an editor of the blog Feministing, was invited by SAPAC’s Peer Education Program to speak Thursday, April 11th about the portrayal of women in the media and how it is influenced by rape culture.
Citing the recent Steubenville case, in which two teenage football players were charged for sexually assaulting an unconscious peer, Dusenbery highlighted the sympathy that both the media and members of the community held for the perpetrators. CNN reporters lamented the “promising futures” of the teenagers and focused on their emotional turmoil while being tried for their crime. In contrast, the survivor had her name publicly revealed by several news stations, was harassed via social media, and even received death threats.
Such publicity is a step in the right direction, bringing the nation’s attention to a pervasive crime that goes vastly underreported, but it is not enough to dissipate rape culture. Instead, it provides a specific narrative to what a rape is supposed to look like, which may deter survivors from seeking help if his or her assault does not fit that narrative. The high profile of this case – and others, like that of Rehtaeh Parsons – also gives these stories a celebrity status, creating an illusion that sexual assault does not happen every day, when in reality every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.
In response to a student question about how to address situations in media that perpetuate rape culture, Dusenbery encouraged the audience to get others thinking about it by starting a discussion with friends, tweeting television producers, or even starting a blog!