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How does the media impact rape and consent?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 1693 words Published: 12th May 2021

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How do cultural expectations regarding gender roles, sex and women’s bodies affect attitudes towards consent and rape?  Make sure to use concrete examples

Intro: stats/ data and definition

Media: How does the media impact rape and consent?

Over the last century as the popularity of media flourished it has become inevitable to recognise the influence it bears on the formation of self-identification and gender (Blower, 2016). In particular female self-perception and expectations of sexuality is highly directed by the media as early as 12 years old through the engagement of sexual messaging on apps such as snapchat (Garcia-Gòmez, 2017). Early examinations of propaganda during World War I provides insights into the application of mass media and its influence on passive audiences also referred to as the hypodermic needle model (Bineham, 1998). Therefore, it is not surprising to find that advertisement defines an individual’s reality (Goffman, 1979).

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The depiction of women as sexual objects, powerless and for men's pleasure is amongst themes of encouragement supporting attitudes such as ‘real men are always sexually aggressive, that violence is erotic, and that women who are the victim of sexual assault ‘asked for it’’ (Kilbourne, 1990, pp.290-291). According to Mackay and Covell (1997), social media and advisements offer platforms to spread anti-women attitudes. Yet there is a need for more empirical research to substantiate for such media imagery (Stankiewicz and Rosselli, 2008).

• Video experiment

An example is a post captioned, ‘The Booty Koozie’ illustrating a young woman with her back to the camera, faceless and clenching a bottle of Budweiser between her buttocks. Such illustrations of the female body represent the sexualised namelessness and submission men desire in order to disregard individuality in women. This is demonstrated in the growing use of hashtags such as #Shacker and #ShackerSunday amongst male college students emphasising the view women are soft sex toys for men's pleasures and become an unwelcome problem for men after sex (Davis, 2018).

According to the Entertainment Software Association (2010), there has been a growth of video games sales of 300% between 1996 to 2008. 60% of gamers are male and 25% are below the age of 18 years old, highlighting concerns on the susceptibility of the audience (Entertainment Software Association, 2010). There are now more women characters in games yet these characters are likely to appear as strippers or prostitutes highlighting the popularity for females to appear as sexualised characters or as a victim, which ‘provide a reason for social concern’ (Beck et al., 2012). These games facilitate gamers to virtually participate in violence against women, it is through this participation that gamers become desensitise to violence such as rape (Dill, 2009).

The definition of rape myths has been disputed amongst much creating inconsistency in the examination and application of such a concept (Lonsway and Fitzgerald, 1994). Burt (1980, pp. 217) defines rape myths as ‘prejudicial, stereotyped, or false belief about, rape victims, and rapists’. Social learning theories stress negative imagery of women of such in pornography and advisement holds a fundamental role in the acceptance of rape. Studies indicate sex offenders are 3 times more likely to possesses pornographic material than an average male, suggesting this is how men come to accept women as objects and view them as ‘sexual playthings’ (Walsh and Ellis, 2007).

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Social learning theory of rape emerged through theorising the work of Bandura (1972) suggesting that aggression is a learned behaviour through modelling which is strengthened by intermittent reinforcement. Social learning theory of rape is broken into 4 internal stages: (1) preservation of rape myths such as ‘women secretly desire being raped’, (2) modelling rape or violence against women witnessed in real life or mass media, (3) association of sex and violence through repetitive reviewing, and (4) desensitisation of fear, pain and humiliation of sexual assault (Ellis, 1989). Many video games have been banned due to concerns over violence as there is no limit to what degree gamers can engage in violent acts in the virtual world

Many video games have been banned due to concerns over the limitless of violence against women gamers can engage in a virtual world of gaming (Lah, 2010). An example is the game Rapelay with a set goal to rape women, yet internationally banned it still has a growing popularity and is still acceptable to many (Trip, 2010).  Regardless there still exists a massive market for bestseller games such as Grand Theft Auto which depict women as a sexual object and provides a virtual space for gamers to emulate sexually violent acts.  As Liznz, Donnersteine and Penrod (1988), highlight how sexually aggressive games and films are acknowledged to develop negative aptitudes against women.

Weisz and Earl (1995) examined such conclusions in the study of 193 mixed gendered students. Each participant was shown one of four different types of videos sexually aggressive against women, sexually aggressive towards men, physically aggressive and a neutral video. Following this all participants observed an enactment of a rape trail, it was noted male participants who viewed sexually aggressive videos irrespective of the victim, ‘tend to have attitudes more acceptable of interpersonal violence, be more attracted to the idea of sexual aggression, and less sympathetic to victims of rape when compared to females’ (pp.80). These findings of Weisz and Earl are concerning as it has been established that 60% of gamers are males (Entertainment Software Association, 2010).

While Kalhlor and Morris (2007) assessed the deception of rape myths on prime time television by studying 96 female undergraduate students. Study findings illustrated students who watched Television were more likely to believe that rape accusation were more likely to be false than true.  These finding can be mirrored as it was found that participants who viewed movies with a sexual aggressive theme were more accepetant to rape myths (Emmer-Sommers, Pauley, Hanzal, and Tripletts, 2006). Conversely Mckee (2007) finding illsiatred no correlation between the acceptance of negative attitudes and the consumption of proranagrapic materals, depite the fact that, as recently noted, imaiages of aviolent nature were more likely to change attidudes towards women than sexual immaiges (Scott and Schwalm, 1998).

In the November 2002 issue of Elle, an advertisement title reads ‘Dior Addict’, illustrating a female model in her underwear covered in sweat enduring withdrawal symptoms as her barllett is exposing most of her breast


  • Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American Psychologist, 37(2), pp. 122-147.
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  • Bineham, j., (1998) ‘A historical account of the hypodermic model in mass media communications’, Communication Monographs, 55, pp. 232-245.
  • Bowley, L., (2016) ‘It’s because I am a woman: Realising identity to reconstruct identify for the female autobiography inquiry’, The Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 22, pp. 88-101.
  • Burt, M., (1980) Cultural myths and supports for rape, Journal of personality and Social Psychology, 38, pp. 217-230.
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  • Ellis, L., (1989) Theories of rape: Inquiries into the causes of sexual aggression. Hemisphere Publishing Cooperation.
  • Garcia- Gòmez, A., (2017) ‘Teen girls and sexual agency: Exploring the intrapersonal and intergroup dimensions of sexting’, Media, Culture and Society, 39, pp. 391-407.
  • Goffman, E., (1979) Gender Advertisement. New York: Harper and Row.
  • Kilbourne, J., (1999) Can’t buy my love: How advertising changes the way we think and feel. New York: Simon and Schuster, pp. 290-291).
  • Lah, K., (2010) RapeLay video game goes viral amid outrage. Available at: http://articles.cnn.com/2010-03-30/world/japan.video.game.rape_1_game-teen- age-girl-japanese-government?_s=PM:World (Accessed: 05. November 2019).
  • Lonsway, A., and Fitzgerald, L., (1994) Rape Myths in Review, psychology of Women Quarterly, 18, pp. 133-164.
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  • Trip, P., (2010) Rape game “Rapelay” gets viral online: Japanese role playing game is infuriating women’s rights groups. Available at : http://www.the33tv.com/news/kdaf-rapelay-viral-online-story,0,4322239.story (Accessed; 05 November 2019).
  • Walsh, A., and Ellis, L., (2007) Criminology: An interdisciplinary approach. Thousand Oak SAGE.
  • World Health Organisation, (2012) Understanding and Addressing Violence Against Women. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/77434/WHO_RHR_12.37_eng.pdf;jsessionid=6AE40D1F2BED47FE7ACC5F6E883E79E5?sequence=1 (Accessed: 04. November 2019).


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