What is rape culture?

The term “rape culture” is often used to describe the way aspects of a society can contribute to the normalization and endorsement of sexual violence. Typically, those elements include the objectification of women’s bodies and the trivialization of coercion and sexual violation. While these elements are most powerfully disseminated through the media, the average citizen is a very able transmitter of rape culture, too. That said, the term “rape culture” can be less than helpful. The term can often prompt defensiveness, especially if audiences feel they’re being judged and implicated by every song, movie, or T.V. show they’ve enjoyed throughout their lives. It is critical, however, that we find a way of describing the ways in which our culture endorses and provides cover for sexual coercion and violence in a way in which people can hear it.

The Program

This presentation utilizes the ongoing debate over whether or not rape jokes are appropriate to explore the foundations of rape culture in a meaningful and accessible way. The Canary in the Coal Mine will highlight what factors support sexual violence within popular and military cultures, drawing on research from the fields of moral development education, bystander intervention, and sexual violence prevention education.

Research and Real Change

Created and presented by Gail Stern, Ph.D., The Canary in the Coal Mine includes research data from both the civilian and military environments and will address what steps—from little to big—will be necessary to meaningfully address the impact of rape culture on our communities.

The Takeaway

This customizable program is designed to:


Teach participants the ways in which rape jokes and other media can foster a hostile environment


Examine the connections between a hostile environment and the increased risk of sexual violence


Identify what aspects of culture and media support sexual coercion and violence


Help participants develop the skills to challenge rape jokes and other media in order to foster an environment that helps disable the potential predator’s support system

Pairs Well with these Programs