Remember this adorable little guy?
Pepé Le Pew is a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes character that first premiered in 1945. Pepé is a skunk who falls in lust with Penelope the Pussycat. Penelope was walking with her owner when she passed a construction site and a painter accidentally dropped a stripe of white paint on her back. Because of that, Pepé thinks that Penelope is a fellow skunk.
From the moment Pepé meets Penelope, he pushes himself on her physically. The above photo shows Penelope, wide-eyed and frightened. This photo accurately depicts how Penelope looks and acts in all of the cartoons. Within moments of meeting her for the first time, Pepé removes her leash, telling her that he is “releasing her from the bonds slavery.” In other words, he separates her from her owner—the only person Penelope knows and feels safe with. While holding her tightly so that she can’t escape, he begins kissing her over and over and saying, “We can do away with the dull preliminaries and make love right away.”
Penelope is not interested in Pepé. At all. Yet, Pepé will not take “no” for an answer. To make matters worse, Penelope is mute. She never utters a single word. All Penelope can do is fight off his advances, sometimes to the point of physically assaulting him.
Check out this cute little compilation of Pepé and Penelope:
I grew up watching Pepé. I had a cat when I was little. Guess what his name was? Pepé Le Pew.
That means that I grew up watching rape culture in cartoons and not only found it entertaining, but I actually named my cat after a skunk who stalked and sexually harassed another cat.
The definition of rape culture has evolved over the years. Rape culture is a culture wherein rape is trivialized, eroticized, and condoned. Pepé Le Pew is a perfect example of that. In the comment section of the video above, YouTube viewers argue about whether or not Pepé was guilty of sexual harassment and assault. Some of the comments are:
“Pepé was a pretentious pain in the ass! Nothing more! And that was funny as hell!”
“He has the right to kiss her because that cat is nothing but a spoiled brat!”
“See kids, sometimes you gotta take the pussy like Pepé.”
“Apparently, a lot of people think Pepé is kind of rape-y. I can see why, but to me it’s just adorable the way he fawns over her. It’s hilarious how he goes so over the top with it.”
I mean, I get it. Kinda. I don’t wanna admit that right now. Yeah. It’s just a cartoon. But come on people. Do you not see what this skunk is doing to this cat?
Wait. No. We don’t see it. Because rape culture is everywhere. It’s so ingrained into our minds that we don’t even notice it anymore. Every day, we see examples of slut shaming and rape apologists in the media and on the news. This sets an example for little girls to believe that they should allow men to do whatever they want to them. It teaches young females that they don’t have a say in the matter.
Rape Culture in Advertising
Dolce and Gabbana came under intense fire in 2007 for the following ads:
The first time I saw these ads, my initial thought was, “Dolce and Gabbana sells gang rape?” For the life of me, I could not even figure out what these ads were supposed to be selling. After Googling “Dolce and Gabbana gang rape” I found an article on The Society Pages entitled “Re-Thinking the Famous Dolce and Gabbana Gang Rape Ad.” In that article, Lisa Wade quotes one of her students as saying:
One can make the argument that Dolce & Gabanna, through these two ads, are not promoting male dominance over females. Instead, they are promoting the dominance of the men who wear these brand name clothes, but through means of controversial ideas that society takes for granted. They want people to see the superficial idea that if you wear these clothes, you will feel powerful and in control (just like these men in the ads). This works because the social construct of our society has accepted this idea of male dominance [over women and inferior men].
That’s all well and good, but if I was confused by the ad before looking it up on the internet, what about the kid whose mom keeps her magazines in the bathroom? Imagine a child seeing these ads while thumbing through mommy’s fashion magazine. Rape culture ingrained.
Do you like vodka? If so, boy do I have an ad for you:
Belvedere Vodka caught a lot of backlash for this ad which seems to be saying, “Hey. If you need a blow job from someone who doesn’t wanna do it, just physically restrain her and give her a drink.”
Did Brock Turner come up with this idea? Does he work for Belvedere Vodka? I was just wondering because Belvedere’s “apology” sounds a lot like Brock’s “apology” to the court. You know, the one about his promise to visit campuses across the United States and warn students of the “college drinking epidemic and the promiscuity that goes along with it.”
Belvedere’s Turner-esque mea culpa was tweeted as follows:
“We apologize to any of our fans who were offended by our recent tweet. We continue to be an advocate of safe and responsible drinking.”
Yeah, we’re not sorry we made a rape joke in our advertising. We’re sorry you got upset about it. Now go out and have some drinks and be safe about it.
Rape Culture in Movies
In 2007, I sat in a theater laughing my ass off at the movie Superbad starring Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and Jonathan Mintz-Plasse as high school students hell-bent on losing their virginity and becoming more popular.
At the time, I was an adult female who had been raped while under the influence of alcohol in my own home by my ex-husband. Nevertheless, I must not have even blinked twice when one of the characters said,
"You know how girls are like, Man, I was so drunk, I shouldn't have slept with that guy—We can be that mistake!"
The rape culture that I had constantly been inundated with through the media my entire life made me unable to discern a really bad, bad joke from the rest of the dialogue in that movie.
The same happened in 2011 when I laughed hysterically at a scene from Get Him to the Greek, again starring Jonah Hill. In that scene, Hill’s character is held down on a bed by a woman who repeatedly refuses to accept the fact that he does not want to have sex. She goes so far as to shove a dildo into his mouth while he is trying to say that he is not comfortable in the situation and he wants to leave.
Why did I find that so funny? What was wrong with me? I don’t find it funny now at all. Maybe that’s because it took me until 2013 to actually verbalize what had happened to me so long ago. Maybe I finally had seen and heard enough. Oh wait. It was just the fact that I was so immersed in rape culture from every aspect in life that I didn’t realize it was royally fucked up.
And last but not least…
Rape Culture in Social Media
Good lord. Where do I begin? Since I don’t want this article to become the length of War and Peace, which could very easily happen, I will focus on one of the most recent things I have seen on Twitter:
The Purge is a series of movies in which, on the same day every year, all crime is legal and the police do not enforce any laws.
At the time that I saw this tweet, 189 people liked this. 234 people liked it so much that they hit “retweet,” sharing it to all of their followers. The trivialization of rape is rampant and astounding. There are children on Twitter who are seeing these things and probably sharing them to their friends. It’s “funny” and “normal” to laugh about the prospect of having the chance to sexually violate attractive female celebrities.
Let’s get back to the children. Let’s say a child came across this tweet and didn’t know what the word rape means. Let’s say this child has the mental capacity to Google the word rape (I’m pretty sure kids come out of the womb knowing how to Google these days). So, this child looks up the word rape and finds the following definition:
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or below the legal age of consent. The term rape is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual assault.
Hilarious, right kids? So if The Purge was real, you could go out and pick one of the above women to sexually violate. Boy, is that funny.
It’s hard to believe this is ever going to end. I don’t see that happening any time soon. As a survivor, it’s exhausting to constantly see these things. The scariest part is that I was a survivor for many years who was still laughing at these things. I was raised in a rape culture where all of this was normalized. I didn’t see anything wrong with it. But I’m glad that I do now.
They say that if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out immediately. But if you put a frog in a pot of room temperature water and bring it to a slow boil, that frog will stay in that pot and die.
I guess people are just frogs. Sitting in a pot of slowly boiling water, immune to what is actually happening when it comes to rape culture.
I really want to believe that is the truth.