Rape Culture in Thai media
What is Rape Culture?
The term “rape culture” first appeared in the 1970s to explain the situation as an act of the society that tries to deny the existence of rape by believing sexual violence is a normal issue in society along with a bias toward women, which leads to victim-blaming.
the concept of rape culture is composed of traditional gender roles, sexism, adversarial sexual beliefs, hospitality toward women, and acceptance of violence. In addition, the inappropriate jokes about the rape victim are also included. It has been said that the media can be interpreted as a tool that reflects the acceptance of rape in society. In Thai society, rape culture is emphasized by Lakorn, a Thai soap opera that is very popular among Thais as well as in other countries. Perpetuating this immoral action affects some people in our society, and it is reasonable to say that the media have a significant role in shaping people’s perception and interpretation. According to the Thai Ministry of Health, 80% of Lakorn feature scenes of rape. Certainly, raping is unethical, but Thai lakorn, or Thai soap opera, plays a part in creating the rape myth by romanticizing it. Rape myths are the false beliefs of people toward the victim, and romanticizing is to view something in a romantic way, yet it is not appropriate to use with rape because it is violence. To explain, lakorn commonly use rape as a means of revenge or to build up feelings, which usually end up making people think that rape can lead to love.
The dignity of one’s women
Additionally, it is deeply rooted in Thai culture that the virginity of girls comes with their dignity. Women are taught to be well-behaved and to keep their virginity until marriage; additionally, the concept of a Buddhist country is taught. For instance, it’s raining cats and dogs. Thais can stop the rain before it begins to pour again. With that, some local Thai people still believe that virgin women have a special power that they can use to stop the rain.
As a result, in order for lakorns to survive in society, the majority of them are forced to marry the rapist, who is usually the leading actor. Otherwise, they will convey that the woman is devastated or damaged, and this was the old concept of Thai dramas. Furthermore, these lakorn men never get punished for their actions, and women do not press any charges against them. When it comes to rape, people typically question the victim and begin to blame them for putting themselves in such a dangerous situation. For example, walking alone at night time ,and blaming the dress that she wearing in that day.
#Don’t tell me how to dress
Cindy Sirinya Bishop, a Thai actress and model who is not only the founder but also an ambassador for UN Women Asia and the Pacific, launched a social campaign in 2018. According to studies, sexual violence has nothing to do with the victim’s clothing. It is all about the person who commits the crime. This makes me question why people have to blame the victim first. Why don’t they take the word “consent” seriously?
Therefore, this campaign organized the exhibition displaying clothes of the victims that were worn on that day to empower women and provide help to sexual assault survivors because 1 in 3 women has experienced some form of sexual violence once in their lifetime. In addition, a statistic shows that in Thailand, 52% of the rapists are her acquaintances, the most places where rapes occur are in her own house, and less than 40% seek help. In my opinion, Thai culture and norms have something to do with this, as in Thai society we also practice some patriarchal beliefs in some aspects of life. The patriarchal society is the society that practices male-dominated power structures, which leads to gender stereotypes as well. We can see this when the male leader in lakorn believes that they cannot show their weakness and emphasizes the idea that men do not cry. Similarly, the characteristics of the villain and heroine are clearly distinct from each other by stereotyping which women are decent and bad by the way they dress. This mindset can be commonly found in our real lives. There are some who still judge others by their looks.
A police officer told the 12-year-old that”You were raped because of how you dress, and if this time has not happened, you were going to be one of the victim someday.
Also, An outfit of a toddler…. for more detailed click here
As a result, it sparked the viral of “don’t tell me how to dress, but tell them not to rape” on Twitter, resulting in a social movement. Yes, this is not the first rape campaign, but it is the most successful in Thailand. It is undeniable that Cindy plays a significant role by using her own spotlight to seek people’s attention. Subsequently, Tiktok, a viral platform in Thailand for short-form video, is involved in this campaign by providing a business campaign for the 3-year anniversary of #donttellmehowto dress. This Tiktok campaign makes people take action by recording their outfit of the day to highlight that everyone has their own rights to dress anything they like and do not have to worry about her own safety.
As time passed, people in our society started to realize that Thai Lakorn in the past was somewhat flawed because in Thailand, remaking old Lakorn was something Thai producers loved to do. Some say that it is because it is easy to do and it already has fans. A good example is Sawan Bieng. This Lakorn has been remade five times, and in 2021 the producer says that they want to make another version. Consequently, it became a hot topic because Sawan Bieng was at the top of the list of lakorn that romanticized rape culture. In this lakorn, they depicted several rape scenes where they fall in love after going through all the obstacles, yet it is sexual assault. Therefore, people started to have negative feedback once they announced that they were interested to remake. Even though the producer will adjust the plot for this era, many people still believe that there is no point in adapting because if it changes, there will no longer be Sawan Bieng.
Lakorn in these day
Nowadays, we have seen fewer rape scenes compared to the past because of the variety of choices in which series we want to watch. not only domestically but also because of streaming platforms that are expanding these days, such as Netflix. There are virals that come up when Wife in Duty which aired the sexual harassment scene and supported conservative values about the virginity of Thai women, so they are to blame the victim for their attack first. Consequently, It received a lot of negative feedback that day. Thus in #BanWifeinDuty and #rapethroughthescene is enough become no.1 In trend Twitter within a night. People are not only criticizing, but also weighing in on whether victim blaming and objectifying women as damaged goods is inappropriate. However, the producer has reacted to this by explaining that the dramas want to convey that kidnapping is real and want women to live cautiously, which is still unsatisfactory to the fans.
Consequently, Thai producers are way more aware of sensitive topics these days because we are living in the digital era, where information spreads rapidly. People have noticed that rape scenes can appear in Lakorn, but the rapist must bear the consequences of their actions to show that rape is a crime, rather than glorifying sexual violence through the media as in the past, because rape is a situation that happens to someone. It is a victim’s nightmare. It caused them pain. Some might take a long time to heal themselves.
Taking everything into consideration, the media should reflect what is right so it can take society somewhere, as some still believe that they can joke about rape. The media should admit that they are the ones that drive society, and it can have an impact on people’s perspectives. As a consequence, they should be aware of this and take responsibility by not encouraging rape culture. However, I believe that in recent days people have more awareness and the rape scene in Lakorn is less than in the past; yet, it still appear. There is a survey that shows how many Thai TV shows contain rape scenes during prime time, which is when the most people watch, and analyzes who is involved in the situation and what the reason is. To sum up, This kind of coverage isn’t just offensive – it’s also dangerous. It’s breeding grounds for violence and hatred, and it’s doing a disservice to victims of rape. It’s time for Thai media outlets to start taking rape seriously, and to start portraying it in a more accurate and sensitive manner. No one deserves to be sexual assaulted, whether they are a good or bad person.
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