What Can Brock Turner Teach Us About Rape Culture: Written By Alexander Fred

Alexander L. Fred
After Brock Turner was convicted of raping an unconscious woman next to a dumpster, he was sentenced to a mere 6 months in jail, of which he served only 3. His conviction alone is a rarity. As RAINN reports only 7 of every 1000 rapists will receive a felony conviction once charged, lower than the rate for both robbery and assault/battery. After conviction, whether the sentence will be just remains an entirely different question all together. As Turner’s case illustrates, these sentences are rarely sufficient. And this is emblematic of rape culture.
By “culture,” I mean everything that belongs to a specific group of people (i.e. a social arrangement) in space-time. These cultural edifices stretch across long periods of time, usually many generations and several centuries. To claim that rape culture exists it to claim that everything that belongs to a group of people in that culture is, in some way, affiliated with rape. Now this is a large claim, but I do not think that it is false. Culture includes all political structures and the laws that uphold them; economic systems; modes of artistic expression; social rules, roles, norms, and expectations; morals and ethics held in common by that group of people; behaviors that are widely accepted as normal; the use of specific words and phrases; cuisine; and much more. The question then is this: do all of these things support rape?
As a man, I believe they do. When I hear my fellow men talking about going out to a bar, usually women are discussed as objects upon which the male-predators wish to prey upon. Whether they have to “get her drunk” to get her to have sex with them, engage in coercive behaviors, or force themselves on her, the widely accepted cultural notion is that women are meant to be hunted in order to be fucked while men are to be predators who do the preying and fucking (even if that means raping). Adam Levine sings in “Animals,” a song by Maroon Five for which he is lead singer, “Baby I'm preying on you tonight/Hunt you down eat you alive/Just like animals,” “Maybe you think that you can hide/I can smell your scent for miles,” and “So what you trying to do to me/It's like we can't stop, we're enemies/But we get along when I'm inside you, eh/You're like a drug that's killing me.” First, he says that he is preying on her and then he tells he she’s can’t hide from him because she’s his drug and it’s her fault that he is stalking her. He stalks her, rapes her (if she won’t consent to her abuse), and then blames her: the exact cycle we see repeated over and over throughout our cultural practices, and the exact pattern we saw committed by Turner and his family.
When I once showed this song, and the atrocious music video, to a group of male friends, each denied that his words were meant to be taken at face value. They weren’t real; he didn’t mean what he said. He ws just playing around with his words making jokes. These are the sort of things my male friends said to me. After I showed them other examples from Robin Thick’s “Blurred Lines” in which consent is disregarded altogether in order to justify rape and Drake/Lil Wayne’s “YOLO” in which both sing misogynistic lyrics as if to make clear that, while all live only once, only men have privilege during that life some of my male friends began to see that the music industry (an outlet for artistic expression) was little more than a propaganda department used to condone, justify, and empower male rape and sexual violence against women.
Turner’s behaviors take the messages from those songs and make them real. He was the predator, the rapist, the one stalking the unconscious woman. After the event, his family and others justified his actions. His father called it “20 minutes of pleasure” for which his son should not be punished, but there was no pleasure for the woman. She wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. In rape culture, the victim is always blamed and her story degraded in order to elevate the man to higher esteem. In truth, for Turner, there was only a blurred line of consent, so “YOLO.”
And this is how our culture, in one way become infected with rape. It does not matter if the woman wants to have sex, and as Turner, illustrates, many men will go to whatever length to get their pleasure. Further, this is what our media tells us. It may be very well true that Turner was not born evil but made evil by Adam Levine, Robin Thicke, Drake, Lil’ Wayne, his parents, and many other cultural influences. Our culture teaches men to rape, and, thus, we exist in rape culture because men follow out those teachings as if they were good, holy, and right when they are truly evil, profane, and wrong.
Though I wish I had more time to extrapolate on this concept, and to explore the notion that hook-up culture and rape culture are not distinct but one-in-the-same, I do not have the room to do so in this short article. So I will conclude with a metaphor:
The denial of rape culture’s existence is categorically similar to the denial of climate change that has occurred over at least the last fifteen years. First, when global climate change was hypothesized, the radical Right denied its existence altogether. When catastrophes associated with this phenomenon matriculated, the debate between whether it was natural or caused by humans ensued distracting us from the actual issue. Finally, after much destruction and death, the cause became irrelevant and the phenomenon itself had to be acknowledged in order for the human species to survive in the midst of it.

Likewise, we are still in a phase of rape culture denial by many male supremacists and defenders of patriarchy, likely because cultural structures have taught these individuals that it is normative to both rape and then to deny the existence of rape culture in order to justify their actions. It is likely that debates over the cause of rape culture will eventually ensue until, finally, it is realized that, instead of debating about whether it exists or what it caused it, the most important act that we can commit is to stand against it. Rape is too present in our society to be ignored, and to claim that it is not cultural is lunacy. Whatever one’s sex or gender, this needs to be acknowledged for healing to occur and for human civilization to rise from the ashes of this blazing fire.


  1. Excellent piece ---well written...thank you

  2. Thank you for this work on rape culture. more men need to do this self/social reflection so one might hope they would evolve into a parallel group of men that may think, but don't interact with their culture in this way. or even another parallel group of men that don't act OR think in this way. Yes, it's too late to reason why, just change the behavior. men - come forward.


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