In an essay for Medium, Adult Magazine editor Sarah Nicole Prickett argues that we should rename the term “rape culture,” which has been used on blogs, in articles, and in every day conversation to categorize everything from unwanted attention and street harassment to sexual abuse and assault.
According to Prickett, the term, which seeks to explain how a myriad of factors, cultural practices, and attitudes leads to the sexual objectification and abuse of victims (both male and female), has been so watered down it’s time for a new name.
Her suggestion? Dick culture.
Many bourgeois living-room feminists—from Susan Brownmiller to Jill Filipovic—believe that all rape is about power and not about sex. Contrarians, like Paglia, argue back that it is a primitive sexual act. Rape may be a sexual act, but much of consensual sex, too, is about power, and in any case I am not interested in what motivates a rapist. I am interested in what permits him.
One answer to this is “rape culture,” a term that, as the journalist Denise Balkissoon has pointed out, seems to cover everything from insensitive comments to the cover-up of rapes in the U.S. military to the sale of child brides in Afghanistan. But no matter how many Americans are murdered every year, and no matter how many times we say we “could just kill that guy,” we don’t talk of “murder culture.” We talk of “gun culture.” Accordingly, when we talk about rape, we should rage not against “rape culture” but against “dick culture.”
When I say “dick culture,” I mean: The inordinate pride men feel in owning and wielding their dicks. The idiotic contests they hold to see whose dick is more powerful, can shoot off harder, go farther. The way both men and women will say “he was thinking with his dick.” The spasmodic reaction of a dick-bearing man when one suggests that, given the yearly number of dick-related injuries per capita, the use of his dick should be restricted. Every man with a dick believes he is a responsible dick-owner. Dicks don’t kill people, he says. You can’t take away our dicks. Yet there are always so many “accidents!” I am no handmaiden to the nanny state, but you have to admit: a ban on dicks seems like the most pragmatic solution.
While I understand her sentiment, I’m not sure a simple renaming will result in a drastic shift. Nearly 240,000 people will still be sexually assaulted every year, men and women will continue to be harassed while they attempt to move through the world unmolested, and the majority of survivors will never see their rapist convicted of a crime (peace to R. Kelly).
No matter what we call it, rape culture by any other name is still horrible.