In the month of November 2018, a seventeen-year-old girl from Ireland reported that she was raped by a twenty-seven-year-old man. Rape culture is already laced with many downfalls, including people’s need to defend rapists with fallacious arguments. The patriarchy is a dominant ideology that is prevalent globally and cripples society by mistreating and silencing women.
A product of the patriarchy is toxic masculinity. One of the main forms of toxic masculinity stems from the problems that occur from rape culture. In many rape cases, men treat women with violence and sexual aggression. This twenty-seven-year-old man raped a seventeen-year-old girl and was allowed to walk as a free man without any type of punishment. Not only that, the young girl was in fact blamed for the rape because of what she was wearing at the time. This nonconsensual sex was deemed sexual because of the underwear the girl had on. Toxic masculinity is a problem within rape culture because it encourages victim blaming, sexual aggression, and allows men to get acquitted in hopes of silencing women. This is a disturbing and pressing issue that desperately needs to change for the sake of all victims.
Following this case in Ireland, several news sources have reported information on just exactly what went down in the courtroom this November. According to The New York Times, “the defense lawyer asked the jury to consider the underwear worn by the 17-year-old woman at the time prosecutors said she was raped in a muddy alleyway by a 27-year-old man.”
Toxic masculinity is demonstrated when heinous acts, such as nonconsensual sex, are performed by men, and then the woman is subsequently blamed for his actions against her. Victim blaming is a problem across many aspects of life, but it is especially significant when it comes to rape culture. Victim blaming within rape culture consists of blaming women for their sexual assault on things such as their clothing, their level of intoxication, and whether they were alone at the time in a suspicious area. Women are left with traumatic physical and emotional pain. They are forced to live with and carry this trauma for the remainder of their life when they did nothing wrong. Some don’t even get to keep their life.
All victims of rape are victims. The seventeen-year-old girl from Ireland was in fact wearing a thong, but that doesn’t make her any less of a victim. She was still forced into nonconsensual sex. The defense lawyer requesting the jury to take into consideration what the girl was wearing prior to her attack is the epitome of victim blaming. As long as society stands by and allows for victim blaming to take place, it is encouraging this destructive behavior. It should not matter what undergarments this young woman was wearing. Provocative clothing is not an excuse or invitation for another human being to take advantage or violate another.
Even if this defense lawyer was making a valid point, which she clearly wasn’t, the seventeen-year-old Irish girl was not parading around in her underwear. Her rapist had to rip her clothes off her body to even see that she was wearing a thong. By this logic, this man still should have been found guilty, as she was not solely wearing a thong. However, it should not matter if the victim was wearing just a thong. As stated previously, the type of clothing one wears does not determine whether sex is consensual. Victim blaming is a key part of rape culture within toxic masculinity, and it desperately needs to be changed so that the person who commits the crime is the one blamed for the action.
By allowing victim blaming to be a legitimate reason, society is encouraging sexual aggression. Aggression is a large part of toxic masculinity, and it enters into an even more dangerous realm with sexual aggression. CBS news discussed the rape of the Irish girl, stating, ‘’Bringing rape myths into a sexual violence case is to bring misogyny into a sexual violence case,’ Clíona Saidléar of Rape Crisis Network Ireland.” Rape myths, such as victim blaming, contribute towards sexual aggression. With cases such as the one that took place in Ireland, sexual aggression is not punished. Instead, this sexual aggression is dismissed and those who perform acts of aggression are given the impression that their actions have no consequences.
Toxic masculinity allows men to treat others poorly and have no reprimand for how this maltreatment. The twenty-seven-year-old man dragged the seventeen-year-old girl through the mud and proceeded to rape her in a field. Supposedly, the couple met inside a club. The girl says one story, and the man says another. She reports it was rape, while he says that it was consensual sex.
According to The Washington Post, “a witness said he saw the pair on the ground, and that the man had his hand on the victim’s throat.” An eye witness saw the man performing sexual violence, and still this wasn’t enough to sway the jury. This young girl was being choked in a muddy field, and they excused her rapists’ sexual aggression because of what she was wearing. If an eye witness sees an act of violence, and the legal system dismisses it in favor of the perpetrator, then this type of behavior isn’t discouraged.
In fact, it shows men that they can treat women this way and get away with it. By dismissing this account of sexual violence, the jury played right into the toxic masculinity embedded in this patriarchal society, enhancing the belief that aggression is merely a trait of a man that one cannot change.
With the encouragement of victim blaming and accepting sexual aggression, it should come as no surprise that men are often acquitted for their crimes, and it’s all to blame on toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity boasts up men with harmful traits and oftentimes society allows this toxic behavior to become acceptable. Men with destructive behaviors are waved aside because society has decided that toxic male traits are synonymous with just being a man. There was significant evidence that the man from Ireland raped the teenage girl.
However, according to The Washington Post, “a jury of eight men and four women later found the defendant not guilty.” Despite the girl’s story and an eye witness, this man was acquitted and walked away free. He blamed the victim and got away with his sexual aggression. Even Fox news, a more conservative media source, wrote a report on the outrage. They stated, “the underwear in question was shown to jurors.” This Irish court made a seventeen-year-old girl who claimed to be horrifically raped, show the underwear she was wearing the night it happened to a jury that consisted of mostly men.
This girl was sent through the humiliation of being forced to show her underwear to a group of people she doesn’t know, be reminded of the memories of that night when this man viciously raped her, and then they used this information against her. All of this happened, and yet the man doesn’t get into any trouble. This system is allowing men to manipulate it and keep women silenced. Why would any woman want to come forward and say she was raped if the court room will make her parade her underwear around and then blames her for provoking the man? This corrupt system is tainted by toxic masculinity and it has silenced too many women for far too long.
Rape culture is a popular topic among news in the last couple of years. Many women are coming forward with their stories of being sexually assaulted or abused, and more cases are shying away from victim blaming. However, as this case in Ireland shows, toxic masculinity is still a big issue that women are facing. Societies have allowed the image of man to take shape into something synonymous with a monster. Violence is acceptable. Toxic masculinity encourages victim blaming, sexual aggression, and allows men to get acquitted in hopes of silencing women. This behavior needs to end, and many women have started making their voices known. They have refused to have their voices silenced any longer. Upon hearing the news of the seventeen-year-old girl, people from Ireland began protests.
Many people were unhappy about how everything was handled and “the outrage has included a female lawmaker brandishing underwear in parliament and women posting pictures of their thongs online with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent.” (CBS news) This is how women and supportive men are making their voices heard. They are sharing their stories and more importantly, their anger. People should be angry at the injustice inflicted upon this girl in Ireland. The jury humiliated this young girl and forced her to watch as her rapist walked away as a free man. Voicing opinions is helping society take a small step towards fighting the patriarchy and tackling toxic masculinity. In an editorial article from the Irish Times, O’Connor writes, “After the sarcasm/anger stage came the despair. It was fueled by imagining a maternal conversation with daughters coming into teenage hood and the sort of ‘advice’ necessary, based upon what gets said in courtrooms, on underwear choices.” Victim blaming must be put to an end. Sexual aggression must be discouraged.
Movements such as these are key to showing men with toxic traits that their behavior is not okay and that one day, there will be consequences to their actions.