What Happened to Emily Ratajkowski Happens to Too Many Women
Rape culture is real, and it's doing well
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I felt the coolness & foreignness of a stranger's hands cupping my bare breasts from behind. I instinctively moved away, looking back at Robin Thicke. - Emily Ratajkowski, 'My Body'
A few days ago, supermodel Emily Ratajkowski claimed that she was sexually assaulted by R&B singer Robin Thicke while filming the video for the 2013 song 'Blurred Lines.'
The allegations, first reported in the Sunday Times newspaper, feature in Ratajkowski's forthcoming book 'My Body.' The video's director, Diane Martel, confirmed that she recalled the alleged incident.
Should anyone really be surprised?
When 'Blurred Lines' came out eight years ago, it was immediately branded as 'the rape song.' It even got banned in some places for its message on consent and glorification of rape culture. Its main line - repeated 18 times - 'I know you want it' is quite creepy, to say the least.
The song's video was also largely met with backlash from viewers who felt it 'seemed to objectify and degrade women.'
And as it turns out, making of it fostered an environment where sexual assault could happen.
Emily's story isn't unique
I pushed my chin forward and shrugged, avoiding eye contact, feeling the heat of humiliation pump through my body. I didn't react - not really, not like I should have. - Emily Ratajkowski, 'My Body'
What happened to Emily, sadly, happens all the time.
The majority of women experience some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. In the workplace, in school, in public spaces, or even at home. Hollywood, music and modeling industries are no exceptions. If anything, I'd say a woman's likelihood to get assaulted increases in those environments. Because their unique power structure provides sex predators a potent bait to attract young victims. And then it covers up their abusive behavior.
I know because I've been there.
I worked as a model for several years, and I'm no stranger to being treated like a piece of meat by entitled male photographers, designers, and model scouts.
During one of my commercial shoots for a regular client, the photographer said he wasn't happy with my poses. He then came closer and started touching me all over my body under the pretext of 'giving me posing tips.' It made me feel extremely uncomfortable - and just like Emily - I didn't know how to react.
I felt embarrassed and humiliated. I was paralyzed. I wasn't sure if it was normal or not. I kept thinking to myself, was it because I smiled at him earlier? Should I have said something? Does it happen with all the other models?
Even though I hadn't said anything on the day of the photoshoot, I later reported this incident to my model agency. They told me they'd take care of it. Days later, I found out I was removed from the job. Which - by the way - was my highest paying one at the time. And yes, the photographer stayed.
I don't regret reporting it, although it got me fired. But I do regret not doing more about it. Perhaps getting in contact with other models or contacting the client directly. I didn't do any of that. Why? Well, part of me thought I perhaps deserved that. Or that it doesn't happen to anyone else, so it must have been a 'me' problem.
But it wasn't. And this shit still keeps happening today.
Every other week there is a news story about sexual allegations against an actor, politician, musician, or other rich and famous celebrity. Too often, their behavior is normalized and excused. And victims are told we 'overreact' or 'make it up.'
Well, we have the rape culture to thank for that.
Yes, rape culture is real
Rape culture is a sociological concept that describes how rape and sexual violence are pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes. It's a culture that protects rapists, promotes impunity, shames victims, and demands that they make unreasonable sacrifices to avoid sexual assault.
Don't wear revealing clothes. Don't smile back. Don't drink. Don't walk alone at night. You know the drill.
But if you say that a woman wearing revealing clothing or even being naked deserves to be sexually assaulted, you're implying that a woman's body is inherently deserving of rape. That women are inherently deserving of rape. And so, we need to make sure our body is hidden in order not to deserve it.
That is misogyny in its purest form. And, not incidentally, these are the very same assumptions religious modesty culture is built on.
Why do so many sexual assault survivors decide to stay silent? It's precisely because of this victim-blaming mentality. We internalize harmful messages from broader society that it's somehow our fault. Or that we're making it up and are just looking to accuse someone falsely.
It is estimated that nearly 80% of rapes and other sexual assaults go unreported in the US. In the UK, that figure is even higher - 85%. Sexual assault is the most underreported crime. And even out of those assaults reported to the police, only a tiny fraction of perpetrators will be arrested or convicted. The vast majority will never spend a day in prison.
You can't look at those statistics and claim sexual violence is taken seriously by the criminal justice system. It isn't. Because society doesn't take it seriously, either.
So am I surprised that Emily Ratajkowski waited eight years to say something? Not really. Many - if not most - models, actors, and celebrities who were sexually assaulted will probably never speak up about it. But I'm also guessing her career wouldn't have progressed the way it did if she had said something sooner when the video was released. She didn't. And only she can decide whether that choice was worth it.
How rape culture sounds like
You don't need to look far to see examples of rape culture. It's all over entertainment, media, and politics. It manifests itself in common social beliefs, attitudes, and morals. It's present in situations where sexual assault, rape, and general violence are ignored, trivialized, normalized, or made into jokes.
If you want to know how it sounds like, look at the quotes below. All of which are said by politicians, business people, and celebrities - people with a considerable degree of power and influence.
Some girls rape easy. - Roger Rivard, former US state representative
Rape is kinda like the weather. If it's inevitable, relax and enjoy it. - Clayton Williams, oilman
Rape victims should make the best of a bad situation. - Rick Santorum, former US senator
What did they expect. - Liz Trotta, journalist (referring to women who are raped in the military)
We also need to start talking about the power that women have to control the situation. - Eddie Bernice Johnson, US congresswoman
I love sci-fi and fantasy because I can rape beautiful women. - Jason Momoa, actor
Rape victim, 14, is 'as much in control of the situation' as the rapist and acted 'older than her chronological age.' - G. Todd Baugh, US district judge
And the list could go on.
Whether it's victim-blaming, trivialization and glamorization of sexual assault, sexually explicit jokes, misogynistic language, objectification of women's bodies - that's all part of rape culture.
It permeates our society at individual, one-on-one levels, as well as in systematic, structured ways. That is, after all, exactly how oppression works.
We can, and should, stand against it
The uncomfortable truth is that rape culture isn't held up by rapists. It's held up by devil's advocates, gaslighters, and, most of all - rape apologists. Yes, people who say similar things to the quotes from the paragraph above.
Rape apologists defend rapists with full knowledge of the crimes they have committed. They slut-shame. They say sexual assault victims 'were asking for it.' They argue that a minor can consent to sexual activity. They claim a marital rape isn't really rape. Or that men can't be raped or only 'weak' ones do.
Rape apologists are almost as dangerous as the rapists themselves because they protect the violence and even assist in perpetuating the assaults further.
It's a disgusting mindset that should no longer be tolerated.
Because rape culture affects nearly every woman and many men - particularly younger boys. It creates a society that disregards our rights and safety. It tells us to limit and moderate our behavior. To live in fear.
And yes, men get raped, too. Sadly, rape culture and toxic masculinity don't care about male victims. Or believe them.
But we can, and should, fight against it.
By avoiding using language that objectifies or degrades women. By speaking up when we hear someone else making an offensive joke or trivializing rape. By taking sexual assault victims - including male victims - seriously and being supportive. By ensuring that sex education includes consent.
And by thinking critically about the media's messages about women, men, relationships, and violence. 'Blurred Lines' might be 'just a song,' but we can't deny the impact mass media have on shaping our culture - especially when it comes to younger generations.
Sometimes it's more than a song. Sometimes it is a symptom of societal decay. And simply ignoring it won't make it go away.
This story was originally published on Medium.
About the Creator
Sometimes serious, sometimes funny, always stirring the pot. Social sciences nerd based in London. Check out my other social media: www.linktr.ee/katiejgln
There are no comments for this story
Be the first to respond and start the conversation.