Blurred Lines event debates topic of rape culture in America

Matthew Merchant

Kent State students discussed rape culture and sexual violence Thursday at “Blurred Lines: pop culture, rape culture and the line between them,” sponsored by the Office of Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services, Students Against Sexual Assault and the Women’s Center.

“What is rape culture?” asked professor Denise Harrison of the small group of students gathered in the Green Room in Oscar Ritchie Hall. The topic of conversation was Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” and the messages portrayed within both the lyrics and the music videos.

“What I often hear from others is that it’s just a song,” said Emily Buchanan, freshman pre-speech pathology audiology major, “but it’s perpetuating these ideas of rape culture.”

Suzanne Holt, assistant professor and director of the women’s studies program, discussed the idea of agency, the concept of a person acting out of his or her own will versus being acted upon.

“To have agency is to establish yourself as someone being free to make your own choices,” Holt said, and in the case of the “Blurred Lines” music video, the women appear to lack agency.

Not only are the women objectified, members of the audience said, but the lyrics also suggest sexual violence.

“With the idea of rape culture, and certainly some aspects of porn culture, there’s a kind of omissible violence,” Holt said. “What makes a video like this dangerous in its own unique way is that it’s done in fun, with a suggestion that this is hilarious fun and games.”

The concept of rape culture is so pervasive in America that several students did not realize the effect the media have on them. Holt and Harrison said rape culture places women in an unhealthy relationship where dominance is familiar.

“Rape culture is the normalization of sexual violence,” sophomore political science major John Hess said. Expressing the idea of male privilege, Hess explained how most males are raised to expect certain things from culture such as being the dominant figure in society.

For other students in the group, rape culture was less about sexual violence as it was about power and control; however, the idea of consent pervaded the entire debate.

Males in the audience expressed their opinion on verbal and nonverbal language when it came to giving consent.

“No means no,” said Harrison, after discussing what women really mean when they say no. No matter the circumstance, Harrison said, a passive ‘no’ and a definitive ‘no’ still mean ‘no.’

“There is a lack of consistency because of this rape culture,” said freshman fashion merchandising major Keri Richmond. “It’s not that (guys) don’t understand that no means no, its because the rape culture that we live in is blurring the lines for them.”

With rape culture embedded within the media students consume, some members of the audience wanted to know what could be done to solve the problem.

“What sort of overall culture are you contributing to?,” said sophomore community health education major Kayla DePew. “Making jokes about rape, or using a song that pushes the lines of rape in a fun manner, is definitely representative of rape culture and builds our tolerance of rape that we see in the media.”

Some students said they left with the goal of protesting the song while others said educating other people on rape culture is the best way to combat the issue.

No matter the course of action students plan to take, Harrison said, “the responsibility is all of ours.”

Contact Matthew Merchant at [email protected].