Remember this adorable little guy?
Pepé Le Pew is a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes character that first premiered in 1945. Pepé is a skunk who falls in lust with Penelope the Pussycat. Penelope was walking with her owner when she passed a construction site and a painter accidentally dropped a stripe of white paint on her back. Because of that, Pepé thinks that Penelope is a fellow skunk.
From the moment Pepé meets Penelope, he pushes himself on her physically. The above photo shows Penelope, wide-eyed and frightened. This photo accurately depicts how Penelope looks and acts in all of the cartoons. Within moments of meeting her for the first time, Pepé removes her leash, telling her that he is “releasing her from the bonds slavery.” In other words, he separates her from her owner—the only person Penelope knows and feels safe with. While holding her tightly so that she can’t escape, he begins kissing her over and over and saying, “We can do away with the dull preliminaries and make love right away.”
Penelope is not interested in Pepé. At all. Yet, Pepé will not take “no” for an answer. To make matters worse, Penelope is mute. She never utters a single word. All Penelope can do is fight off his advances, sometimes to the point of physically assaulting him.
Check out this cute little compilation of Pepé and Penelope:
I grew up watching Pepé. I had a cat when I was little. Guess what his name was? Pepé Le Pew.
That means that I grew up watching rape culture in cartoons and not only found it entertaining, but I actually named my cat after a skunk who stalked and sexually harassed another cat.
The definition of rape culture has evolved over the years. Rape culture is a culture wherein rape is trivialized, eroticized, and condoned. Pepé Le Pew is a perfect example of that. In the comment section of the video above, YouTube viewers argue about whether or not Pepé was guilty of sexual harassment and assault. Some of the comments are:
“Pepé was a pretentious pain in the ass! Nothing more! And that was funny as hell!”
“He has the right to kiss her because that cat is nothing but a spoiled brat!”
“See kids, sometimes you gotta take the pussy like Pepé.”
“Apparently, a lot of people think Pepé is kind of rape-y. I can see why, but to me it’s just adorable the way he fawns over her. It’s hilarious how he goes so over the top with it.”
I mean, I get it. Kinda. I don’t wanna admit that right now. Yeah. It’s just a cartoon. But come on people. Do you not see what this skunk is doing to this cat?
Wait. No. We don’t see it. Because rape culture is everywhere. It’s so ingrained into our minds that we don’t even notice it anymore. Every day, we see examples of slut shaming and rape apologists in the media and on the news. This sets an example for little girls to believe that they should allow men to do whatever they want to them. It teaches young females that they don’t have a say in the matter.
RAPE CULTURE IN ADVERTISING
Dolce and Gabbana came under intense fire in 2007 for the following ads:
The first time I saw these ads, my initial thought was, “Dolce and Gabbana sells gang rape?” For the life of me, I could not even figure out what these ads were supposed to be selling. After Googling “Dolce and Gabbana gang rape” I found an article on The Society Pages entitled “Re-Thinking the Famous Dolce and Gabbana Gang Rape Ad.” In that article, Lisa Wade quotes one of her students as saying:
One can make the argument that Dolce & Gabanna, through these two ads, are not promoting male dominance over females. Instead, they are promoting the dominance of the men who wear these brand name clothes, but through means of controversial ideas that society takes for granted. They want people to see the superficial idea that if you wear these clothes, you will feel powerful and in control (just like these men in the ads). This works because the social construct of our society has accepted this idea of male dominance [over women and inferior men].
That’s all well and good, but if I was confused by the ad before looking it up on the internet, what about the kid whose mom keeps her magazines in the bathroom? Imagine a child seeing these ads while thumbing through mommy’s fashion magazine. Rape culture ingrained.
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