Re-posted to add to the discussion about sexual assault in the aftermath of the Steubenville rape trial, the Senate hearing on rape and harassment in the military, and the controversy at Occidental College.

This screenshot of the front page of The Sun is an excellent example of the eroticization of violence against women and our insistent denial of it:

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The article is a condemnation of a video game in which the goal is to rape a mother and her two daughters (and force them to have abortions if they get pregnant).   They call the game “sick” and “shocking,” but also include a huge picture of the virtual rape victim sexily stripping down to her underwear.  Twisty, at I Blame the Patriarchy, observes that “…in terms of screen real estate, titillating images take up more space on the Sun’s web page than actual copy…”

Notice, also, the “related story” about a girl murdered who had reported rape threats and then, to the right of that, a dating advertisement featuring a couple of girls making bedroom eyes at the viewer.

This is what rape culture looks like: a story about a video game that encourages players to rape and otherwise torture women and girls, alongside titillating images from that very game; a story about a ”girl” who had actually been murdered, alongside a photo of her looking invitingly into the camera; and a dating website.  With this material like this, we learn that sex, violence, and women aren’t separate concepts.  Instead of learning to think about sex, violence, and women, we learn to think about, and fantasize about, sexviolencewomen.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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