Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

Vice President Biden Says College Men Who Listen to Rape Jokes and Do Nothing are "Accomplices" to Actual Rape

Vice President Biden Says College Men Who Listen to Rape Jokes and Do Nothing are "Accomplices" to Actual Rape

By Hillary Kelly

Speaking to a crowd of 5,000 women Tuesday morning at the United State of Women summit, Vice President Joe Biden spent a solid 30 minutes recommitting himself to the Violence Against Women Act he authored in 1994, declaring that “every single woman has the fundamental right to live a life free of violence." As he put it, victims are "raped again and again and again by the system and the feeling of voicelessness."

The speech echoed the letter he penned last week in which he addressed the victim in now-infamous Stanford rape case, saying, "You were failed by a culture on our college campuses where one in five women is sexually assaulted — year after year after year. A culture that promotes passivity. That encourages young men and women on campuses to simply turn a blind eye."

In Biden's view, America's own culture is to blame for allowing women to go on feeling unheard. Even more directly, he reminded the audience of a simple, too-often-forgotten fact: "Sex without consent is rape. Period. And if you can't consent because you are unconscious, it is rape."

But Biden reserved some of his harshest words for "regular" guys who put up with "the locker room talk, the bar banter, the rape jokes," any of the "sexist talk [that] perpetuates the idea that women are less deserving of basic human dignity than men." Drawing upon Dante’s classic argument that the deepest circle of hell is reserved for those who remain silent "in times of moral crisis," Biden argued that it isn't merely an act of passivity to ignore these (wildly unfunny) "jokes." In fact, he said, "If you let it pass…you become an accomplice."

To some, being an accomplice to rape by laughing at a joke may seem controversial, but there's sense in Biden's argument: Rape culture starts somewhere, and it's usually long before a man spies his potential victim. Sitting idly by while other guys verbally disparage and degrade women is certainly a slippery slope, and if we're going to draw the line on what behavior enables rape culture, why not start with the words that too many men deem harmless?

More From Glamour:
• The Cast of "Girls" Made a PSA About Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault
• Another Letter Has Surfaced in the Stanford Rape Case, and It's From Brock Turner's Ex-Girlfriend
• What Brock Turner Should Have Said in His Letter to the Judge in the Stanford Rape Case

• Hillary Clinton: "Donald Trump Has No Understanding of What Women's Lives Are Like Today"

Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images