In One Video, These Students Remind Us What's Really at the Root of Rape Culture


It's no secret that toxic masculinity — the set of aspirational tenets that encourage men to feel entitled to women's attention and bodies — is a major problem. But one group of students is tackling the issue with an incisive new video that both expertly outlines the root of the problem and gives advice on what everyone can do to fix it.

In the video, Vine star Chaz Smith joins the One Student project to address the ways men can help cultivate a culture in which women's bodily autonomy and agency are affirmed and respected. The video uses the analogy of playing sports to make a striking point about the ways women are encouraged to "play it safe" while men are lauded for "going for it."

"Because [men are] told to play offense," Smith says, "We feel that we are entitled to aggression — so girls and women are told to be aware, self-defend. We are told that we have urges, urges that we can't control ... Our actions are excused, forgotten, forgiven and almost always blamed on women."

"It's men," Smith says, referencing why girls are cautioned to stay on the defensive. "That's right: We are the source of the problem. Boys and men."

"Guys, we are not the offense, and women are not the defense," Smith continues. "This game should not go on if she does not want to get to home base."

The video is an important reminder that men can and should hold each other accountable. Because whether it's on the street, on a date or in a bedroom, some still don't seem to understand the meaning of the word "no."

Smith also points out the double standard wherein men who engage in sexual activity are often cheered on, while women endure the stigma of being labeled "sluts" or "hos" for their sexual behavior. Even worse, as the video highlights, when women report or talk about sexual assault, the tendency to slut-shame can give way to blaming victims for what happened. This cultural thinking results, in part, in men rarely being held accountable for rapes, and many women not reporting their rapes at all. 

There's hope: The students also share some of the things anyone can say after learning that someone they know has survived a sexual assault. 

The video is especially timely in the wake of recent news that the campus rape crisis crisis has taken another harrowing turn: Following the release of the controversial erotic flick Fifty Shades of Grey, a 19-year-old student at the University of Illinois at Chicago was arrested on sexual assault charges for reportedly acting out scenes from the film. When the woman asked the male student to stop, he reportedly reacted with increased hostility and violence. 

Sexual assault and harassment impact people of various genders, but women are disproportionately targeted. Taking the time to question conventional meanings of manhood and masculinity could make all the difference between moving from a culture that excuses rape to one that demands consent. 

h/t Huffington Post