Does gender segregation nurture rape culture?

Last week saw the conviction and extensive coverage of the Steubenville, Ohio rape case (we even commented on it here) and another case of teen football players accused of rape has just come to the fore (again, gaining amplification from Anonymous).

Last week also saw a crushing series of reports on NPR about females in the US military (they’re highly recommended, although they’re pretty shocking). A short (and reasonably accurate summary), is sexual abuse is widespread, systemic, under-reported and under-punished. Perhaps most concerning, though, is that the abuse seems to have been barely considered “abuse.”

In piece that connects the dots, The Atlantic noted that both high school football and the military are similar in their “casual assumption of entitlement to women’s dehumanized bodies.”

This connection is more than just a coincidence, but a consequence of the fact that “high school football and the U.S. military are two venerable male-dominated sub-cultures that prize conformity, places where boys will be boys, where male supervisors break in young male recruits, helping them become cogs in the machine.”

Take out the “boys will be boys” bit and the implicit assumption of underlying male aggression and the problem of a closed, male-dominated system seems equally applicable. It’s a segregation of genders, one that” seems to help make possible many men’s simple assumption that women don’t really exist as people.”

It’s true that women are far from exclusively the victims of the church, although Margaret Talbot picked up on this issue of male-domination in the New Yorker: “[Child abuse] might not have continued unchecked in the first place if the Church had put women in leadership positions and eliminated the requirement of celibacy. Women are statistically less likely to sexually abuse children, and they would have helped open up an insular and self-protecting brotherhood.” It’s not even that women are necessarily the victims, but they might break down all or part of the culture outlined above – the conformity, the protection, the “cogs in the machine.”

The Atlantic article zooms out to look at problems of occupational gender segregation and the effects it has – generally less traumatic than in the situations described above, but still cause for concern.

Essentially, it seems there are problems with gender segregation. The effects of a male-dominated culture range from the relatively innocuous through to traumatic.

When that culture takes the form of a closed brotherhood, though, the segregation – the blindness to those outside of the norm – can be amplified, as can its effects. It’s simplistic, yes, and hardly a problem that can be reduced to a single cause. But it’s one commonality that, intuitively at least, demands more consideration.

Margaret Talbot reckons more women, at least in the Catholic church, would help solve the problems. What do you think? Is she right? And how would it work in other areas such as football and the military?