In an inherently patriarchal country whose historic accounts and upbringing had taught its citizens to put little repute for women and their struggles, it cannot be denied that the subject of sexual violence may still be put away in a box labeled as ‘taboo’. The reason of suppression may as well be translated as a form of cover-up in the long history of sexual aggression that had been committed, oftentimes by normal citizens, but mostly by those in power, for a long time now.
A very hard pill to swallow is this: We have been, are all, and will all be contributors in rape culture. Our tolerance and indifference paired with our internalized acceptance of rape as inevitable, and our conscious decision to remain complicit in situations of injustice for fear of being inconvenienced are all factors that help in its pervasion.
The existence of rape culture is heavily evident these days. With reports filling the news every day, it’s hard to address every single case that comes to light with the same amount of vigor.
Filipino machismo and toxic masculinity
The phrases “Men are trash” and “Boys will be boys” can be double-edged swords. Insisting the biology behind the damaging phrases give men less obligation over their actions—perpetuating male entitlement and unaccountability.
After going MIA for weeks, Duterte has once again broke the nation with one of his misogynistic remarks in the guise of jokes. “They say they are many rape cases in Davao,” the president said. “As long as there are many beautiful women, there will be more rape cases.”
Though heavily condemned by many, some still choose to turn a blind eye to its misogynistic undertones. Acceptance of such only feeds rape culture, especially when those who do hold influential positions. Case in point: Harry Roque.
“I don’t think we should give too much weight on what the President says by way of a joke,” the presidential spokesperson said.
Duterte’s constant demotion of rape as something trivial and Roque’s passiveness over the former’s inappropriate remarks cannot be separated from the promulgation of rape culture in the Philippines. When society allows men like him to get away from the consequences of their immoralities and moral corruptions, the system creates an unwritten rule for every man in the country that cuts them off from all possible repercussions of committing such offenses as to create an illusion of equality.
Acceptance of such behavior leads to a cycle of leniency and free-passes for unacceptable and immoral behaviors of the male population. By doing so, we give females more reason to live in perpetual fear.
With every rape joke thrown to elicit laughter, uninvited catcalls to indecent proposals sent, and unsolicited dick pics disguised as romantic conquest, and our inactive encouragement in the form of tolerance, we are only breeding the airborne virus of rape culture.
When your initial master plan in ending rape-culture includes women compromising their right to freedom and liberation—depriving them from dressing the way they intend to, suppressing them from embracing their sexuality, forcing them to act in a way that doesn’t invite men to assault them—you are putting the burden of crime in the hands of the victims.
Sexual violence is one of the very few concepts that lack any gray area. The topic of sexual abuse and rape should never be subjected to any critical assessment for every situation only calls for one offender: the perpetrator.
With the stigmatization of sexual violence and prevalence of victim blaming, sexual predators can easily find themselves free from any form of vilification with their victims as their scapegoats.
In every case of sexual allegation, victims are always unnerved and thrown off with the question, “Why did you put yourself in such situation?”
“This is rape culture, which breeds the harmful notion that male-incited sexual violence is inevitable because that is what we’ve come to expect of them, and that the woman’s job is to stay alert, vigilant, and avoid tempting the proverbial beast resting inside every man,” Chang Casal of CNN Philippines declared.
The blurry line of consent
Some instances, though, can be blamed and linked to the lack of education and awareness present in our system. When authorities suppress any form of dissent revolving around sexual violence, any information related to that subject matter is made almost inaccessible.
What further blurs the line of consent can be blamed to the preconceived notion and outdated belief system that Filipinas are (or must be) “pakipot” and thus, every “NO” from them shouldn’t be taken as such, but rather as an encouragement to be more assertive in winning them over.
Media depiction of such culture promulgates rape-culture by encouraging men to overstep one’s boundaries and to romanticize any form of rejection from the object of their eyes.
Changing the system can be dragging, especially for students with no means of further expanding their platform. And so, they just momentarily accept the system fed by the social construct and thus, settle with less sustainable ways of addressing the issue like tweeting and occasionally sharing pubmats, and infographics until such time when they can finally make a big enough difference.
Band-aid solutions don’t create a better living condition for the oppressed side in this narrative, if we want to fix the root cause of the issue, we must address the inherent systematic and cultural lapses that have watered the internalized misogyny that are present in all of us.