Women talk, men talk – Rape culture in Iceland

There have been loud voices in Icelandic society of late, calling for a change in the rhetoric regarding sexual harassment, abuse and rape. Women in media and social media relentlessly target slut shaming and victim blaming. The Slutwalk last week was a part of this movement and so was “Free the Nipple” earlier this year, when women showed their nipple in the streets and on social media in order to defuse revenge porn and body shaming and reclaiming the female body. The response seems mostly positive and supportive in society although there is occasional friction when women attempt to place the blame where it belongs, with the perpetrator. There are still voices that protest and seem to want to keep crimes of sexual nature silent. In the media Icelanders have seen interview after interview where women break the silence, step forward and identify themselves as rape victims, talking about their experience and giving encouragement to victims that remain silent, and most prominently placing the blame and subsequently the shame, on the offender.

On social media there is a group known as “Beutytips”, originally exclusively for women, created to exchange tips and tricks about skincare, housework and such, but soon evolved into a venue where women opened up about sexual abuse, this discourse has developed and women have decided to use the above profile picture, announcing with orange that they have either been abused sexually or with yellow, that they know someone close to hem that has been abused and now men are joining in.

Profile picture indicating that the owner has both been sexually abused and knows someone who has been sexually abused

Profile picture indicating that the owner has both been sexually abused and knows someone who has been sexually abused

This dialogue has notably been stirred in the last few days when the annual Verslunnarmannahelgi, the biggest country wide party weekend is yet again upon us, when Icelanders take to the road and party in the countryside in numerous outdoor festivals and camping sides dancing under the sky in the light nights of summer. The down side is the drunken disorderly reports after the weekend, the numerous reported assaults and not least the number of reported rapes and sexual assaults Icelanders have to face after this particular weekend. Icelanders have all but become numb to these news through the years, victim blaming and slut shaming has been rampant in the discourse in the wake of this weekend in particular. Women are out to change this and their voices are loud and gaining thrust.

But what about men? Sexual abuse among men still seems mostly shrouded in silence. Men are fortunately increasingly joining in the conversation. We are now seeing headlines such as “Men are also raped”, interviews where men identify themselves as rape victims and describe the offences commitment against them, be it when they were children, young adults, drinking or sober. They are gaining courage to speak out and place the blame and shame where it belongs; with the offender. Social media and media in Iceland is increasingly becoming a venue for men and woman step forward and to speak out about those crimes, silencing the internet trolls that want to keep the blame on the victims and shroud the crimes in shame and silence.