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Rape culture is a sociological concept used to describe a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. There is disagreement over what defines rape culture and as to whether any societies currently meet the criteria for a rape culture.
Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence, or some combination of these. The notion of rape culture has been used to describe and explain behavior within social groups, including prison rape, and in conflict areas where war rape is used as psychological warfare. Entire societies have been alleged to be rape cultures.
Women have historically been considered second-class citizens who were not thought to deserve the same rights as their male counterparts.Rape laws existed to protect virginal daughters from rape, often through their fathers. In these cases, a rape done to a woman was seen as an attack on the estate of her father because she was his property and a woman's virginity being taken before marriage lessened her value; if the woman was married, the rape was an attack on the husband because it violated his property. The rapist was either subject to payment (see wreath money) or severe punishment. The father could rape or keep the rapist's wife or make the rapist marry his daughter. A man could not be charged with raping his wife since she was his property. Author Winnie Tomm stated, "By contrast, rape of a single woman without strong ties to a father or husband caused no great concern."
In the United States, during slavery, the law focused primarily on rape as it pertained to black men raping white women. The penalty for such a crime in many jurisdictions was death or castration. The rape of a black woman, by any man, was considered legal. As early as the 19th century, American women were criticized if they "stray[ed] out of a [dependent] position...fought off [an] attacker...[or] behaved in too self reliant a manner..." in which case "the term rape no longer applied...". Similar to rape myths and double standards applied to women today, description of rape in the 1800s depicted women who needed to behave or else face the inevitable consequences.
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