Rape culture and social media: Exploring how social media influences students’ opinions and perceptions of rape culture
In April 2016 students from South African universities launched the #Endrapeculture movement to protest their universities’ institutional policies towards sexual assault on campus, which was seen as perpetuating a rape culture. Through the use of social media, students from across South Africa were able to provide instrumental information and mobilise support for the protests. This thesis focused on exploring the rape culture discourse that emerged from the online debates following the #Endrapeculture protests, as well as the potential of social media as an accessible and affordable pedagogical tool to address rape culture on campus. An exploratory qualitative design was used and this was framed within a postmodern feminist framework. To address the aims of the study two methods of data collection were utilised. All ethics principles were adhered to for both forms of data collection. Firstly, natural observation of comment threads of Facebook relating to the April 2016 #Endrapeculture protests was conducted. A total of 590 comments from 8 Facebook posts were collected and analysed using qualitative content analysis. The findings indicate that rape culture discourses were prominent within these comment threads with Perpetuating Victim-blaming emerging as the most significant theme followed by Rape or Rape Culture, Patriarchy, Race and Culture, Sexualisation and Bodily Autonomy, Trivialising Rape Culture and Role of Universities and Law Enforcement. The second part of the data collection involved conducting online, asynchronous focus groups using the Facebook secret chat group application. Participants for the SFFG were recruited on Facebook through a process of snowball sampling. A total of three SFFG were conducted with 16 participants. Thematic decomposition analysis was used to analyse the data. The findings revealed three main themes namely; Defining Rape Culture, Learning about Rape Culture and The Role of Social Media. Based on the observations from the comment threads and the findings from the SFFGs, it is argued that social media can be used as a pedagogical tool to address rape culture on campus in two ways. Firstly, it is beneficial on a macro level by using social media platforms to provide instrumental information about rape culture. Secondly, it can be utilised on a micro level by using applications like the SFFG to provide a safe space where students can engage in small-scale interactive discussions.