Rape Culture Film

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Rape Culture is a 1975 film by Cambridge Documentary Films, produced by Margaret Lazarus and Renner Wunderlich. It was updated in 1983.[1]

Opening Titles

In January 1975, Judy Norsigan outlined how the film illustrated the concept of "rape culture", through the voices of men and women, including rapists, victims, prisoners, rape crisis workers, and the media.[2][3]

The film featured "Prisoners Against Rape Inc" (PAR)[4] (Lorton Reformatory, Virginia) a not-for-profit organisation founded by William Fuller and Larry Cannon on September 9, 1973 in conjunction with women fighting rape.[5][6] The prison administration "approved" self-help status.[7]

PAR was set up after Fuller wrote to the DC Rape Crisis Centre in 1973 and asked for assistance. The DC Rape Crisis Centre had opened in 1972 in response to the high incidence of rape against women of colour. Fuller acknowledged his history of rape, murder, and prison rape. He wanted to stop being a rapist. This resulted in a co-operative effort.[8]

The women from the DC Rape Crisis Centre who initiated work with PAR were Loretta Ross, Yulanda Ward and Nkenge Toure.[8] Ross has said that whilst the relationship was seen initially as controversial, it was one of the more interesting aspects of her work at the DC Rape Crisis Centre. In 1974 PAR published a book titled "Prisoners Against Rape:Capitalist Economics Breeds Rape, Robbery, Murder, All Other Crimes"[9]. They were also working with the Feminist Alliance Against Rape (FAAR) "with the short-term goal of getting these men out into the community to do speaking and to educate other men. We also hope to work with them to conduct consciousness-raising and political education in prisons and halfway houses."[10]

In interview with Joyce Follet, Ross observed that in the work of the DC Rape Crisis centre they could bandage up women all they wanted to, but if they did not stop rape what was the point.[8] Maragaret lazarus, the films producers said of this relationship that the work was "groundbreaking".[11]

The film featured Mary Daly, radical feminist philosopher, academic, and theologian, and Author and Artist Emily Culpepper. They discussed rapism as an intellectual concept, and phallocentric morality and "its "unholy trinity of rape, genocide and war."".[3]

Doreen McDowell, a rape victim, talked of her experience, how sex fantasies play a part in rape, and how male identified behaviour in women maintained a "state of siege"[3]. Powerful statistical evidence, refuting rape myths, law enforcement and legislative views of rape were presented by Joanna Morris, author and statistical co-ordinator for rape crisis centres across the USA.

The film also looked closely at the mass media, how film-makers, song writers, writers and magazines perpetuated the attitudes to rape, which normalised it and even perpetuated rape myths and stereotypical behaviour around rape. Gone with the Wind, Alfred Hickcock's film Frenzy, and Hustler magazine were some of the media used to illustrate the normalisation of rape.

In describing the film, the producers say that it attempts to give real and accurate limits to rape and expand society's narrow and sexist concepts of rape.[12]

Lazarus has said of the film's title that it came from long discussion about what the film was trying to illustrate.[13] She has also expressed the view that the film is the first time "rape culture" was used in its widest accepted sense.[1][11] Dr Joyce E. Williams, writing for Blackwell Publishing Inc, Willey-Blackwell also attributes the definition of rape culture to the film.[14]

Mention of the film in the congressional record, January 1978, is the first know occurrence of the term rape culture in American politics.[15]

See also


  1. ^ a b Rape Culture - Cambridge Documentary Films, Website, Archive WebCite - 22 Dec 2012
  2. ^ Norsigian, Judy, Women, Health, and Films, Women & Health, 20 January 1975, Vol 1, issue 1, 29–30, doi=10.1300/J013v01n01_07 Page 1
  3. ^ a b c Norsigian, Judy, Women, Health, and Films, Women & Health, 20 January 1975, Vol 1, issue 1, 29–30, doi=10.1300/J013v01n01_07 Page 2
  4. ^ Legacy Business Registration Details - District of Columbia Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs.: Company Name:PRISONERS AGAINST RAPE INC., File Number:751827, Filing State:District of Columbia (DC)
  5. ^ Fuller, William; Cannon, Larry Cannon, Prisoners Against Rape, Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter and Aegis: Magazine on Ending Violence Against Women, 1974, Sep/Oct, WebCite 24 May 2012
  6. ^ Prisoners Against Rape, Prisoners Against Rape, Crime and social justice, Issues 1-8, 1974, Vol 1, 45–46
  7. ^ Anonymous Author for the Black Panther Newspaper, Lorton Organizes Prisoners Against Rape, Black Panther, March 22, 1975, page 9
  8. ^ a b c Follet, Joyce, Interview with LORETTA ROSS:Voices of Feminism Oral History Project, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063, 2004–2005, 122–124, Transcript
  9. ^ William Fuller, Larry Cannon, Prisoners Against Rape: Capitalist Economics Breeds Rape, Robbery, Murder, All Other Crimes, 20 pages.
  10. ^ Jackie MacMillan, Freada Klein, F.A.A.R. Editorial, Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter and Aegis: Magazine on Ending Violence Against Women, 1974, Sep/Oct, WebCite 06 May 2013
  11. ^ a b Lazarus, Margaret, Rape Culture, Women's Studies Online Resources, 17 Mar 2000, Page, WebCite 25 May 2012 Text:Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000 09:34:50 -0500 From: "Cambridge Documentary Films, Inc." <cdf @ shore.net> Subject: Re: Discourse and 'rape culture' I appreciate Amy's clarity, especially her point about male-male rape, pointing out the power vs. gender essence of the argument. I believe that this is key to any definition of 'rape culture.' When we made the film "Rape Culture" we highlighted the actions of an organization founded in 1974, called Men Against Rape in Lorton Prison in the Washington DC area). At the time people often misinterpreted what these, primarily African American men were saying. They were talking about rape inside the prison(raping men) and out(raping women) and pointing out the similarities. It appeared that they were defining themselves as rapists but they were trying to define rape as a power relationship that took a sexual form. Only one of the 13 members of the group was actually in prison for rape. Their work, in collaboration with members of the DC Rape Crisis Center was groundbreaking. Margaret Cambridge Documentary Films, Inc. P.O. Box 390385 Cambridge, MA 02139-0004 ph (617)484-3993 fx (617)484-0754 www.shore.net/~cdf cdf @ shore.net
  12. ^ Rape Culture - Cambridge Documentary Films as at 18 May 2012 - WayBack Machine, Website, Archive WebCite - 06 May 2013
  13. ^ Lazarus, Margaret, Rape Culture, Women's Studies Online Resources, 15 Mar 2000, [1], WebCite 25 May 2012 Text:"Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2000 10:15:39 -0500 From: "Cambridge Documentary Films, Inc." <cdf @ SHORE.NET> Subject: Re: rape culture In 1975, Cambridge Documentary Films, produced a film titled "Rape Culture." It included: interviews with women from rape crisis centers, women who had been raped, male prisoners working against rape inside the prisons, authors and philosophers, Mary Daly and Emily Culpepper and an analysis of media and culture starting with the movie "Gone With the Wind" and other movie to an analysis of Hustler magazine--focussing on popular myths about rape, particularly that women say "no" and mean "yes." This film was our second title, after "Taking Our Bodies Back: The Women's Health Movement" and it was very extensively used in women's studies throughout the United States and at internation feminist conferences. In the 80's we updated many parts of the film and included material from N.Y.Women Against Rape, Take Back the Night marches and the Big Dan rape trial. The term "rape culture" came out of long discussion that we had about exactly what we were trying to illustrate in the documentary and to my recollection it was the first time it was used. Subsequently we saw articles and book titles using this phrase. If anyone has any other information about the term we would be most interested. Thank you, Margaret Lazarus for Cambridge Documentary. Cambridge Documentary Films, Inc. P.O. Box 390385 Cambridge, MA 02139-0004 ph (617)484-3993 fx (617)484-0754 www.shore.net/~cdf cdf @ shore.net"
  14. ^ George Ritzer (2007). Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Blackwell. p. 3791. ISBN 978-1-4051-2433-1. Retrieved 15 June 2013. "Rape culture is a concept of unknown origin and of uncertain definition; yet it has made its way into everyday vocabulary and is assumed to be commonly understood. The award-winning documentary film Rape Culture made by Margaret Lazarus in 1975 takes credit for first defining the concept." 

External links