Follow Emma-Kate McAlpine on Twitter and on Tumblr. She discusses this story in her third podcast with Lauren Cole, which you can play at the bottom of this page.

The fact that race, not rape, has dominated discussion of the Rochdale rape case, says a lot about the state of society today. The event in itself is an abhorrent display of violence against women, but the reaction, in my opinion, shows a far more widespread disease affecting society. We live in a rape culture. I see this as indisputable. We live in a world which actively condones and justifies violence against women, including rape.

Last week’s BBC Question Time showed the prevalence of these attitudes. The first question asked about the relation between race and the case. I, for one, was confused – why would race have anything to do with the actual case? The responses given by the panel didn’t exactly help to clear up any misgivings.

The Daily Telegraph’s Peter Oborne answered that the real question was why these women were associating with these men. Because, damn those jezebels for talking to a grown adult male, right? It petrifies me that a mainstream political personality will hold these views – in fact, it scares me that anyone would harbour these misogynist, backwards opinions.

Women are raped because rapists exist. There is nothing a victim can do, ever, to stop herself being raped. No ‘extra precautions’ she can take. And putting even partial responsibility on the victim for an attack is revolting – how would you feel if a friend, a family member was raped, only to be told they are somewhat to blame, because of what they wore? Why should half of society be restricted in their choices because a minority choose to rape? A hundred men could walk past a ‘vulnerable’ woman, but only a rapist would rape her.

So no, Oborne, I don’t care if the victims were complete strangers to, best friends or worst enemies with the perpetrators. I don’t care if they wore a latex catsuit, a bin bag or jeans and a t-shirt. It was not their fault.

So race, is that a factor? Did these men rape because of cultural differences? Because they were of Asian origin? Maybe they didn’t understand that it’s not okay to force yourself on an underage teenager? Sorry, but that excuse doesn’t wash with me. Reading the reports, particularly one in the Independent, it is clear that the abuse was sustained and that the men convicted were fully aware of their actions. One victim “lost count of the number of times she had had sex with men when she did not want to do so”. Another was “persistently coerced or forced into submission” by the men.

Which leads me to my next point – if you forcibly penetrate another human who does not want that to happen, it is rape. It is not sex. Sex is intrinsically good, and by definition consensual. So reports of the Rochdale case referring to ‘sex’ with underage girls are incorrect. There was no consent, so, by definition surely, it was assault. These crimes were heinous violations of the victims’ autonomy. This is not justified by Asian culture; it is promoted by a global rape culture.

The hegemonic culture in music, media, politics, society is a patriarchal one, which continually subjugates women. In Western democratic society, rape and violence against women as a whole is condoned through practices such as victim-blaming and slut-shaming.

Look at the comments by a Toronto police officer which sparked the worldwide ‘SlutWalks’. The misogyny present in modern hip-hop. The way Chris Brown, convicted domestic abuser, has been welcomed back into the collective consciousness with no repercussions. An advertisement on 4Music for an entertainment news programme poses the question “Should Rihanna get back with Chris Brown?” A mainstream-owned television channel asking if a woman should return to the arms of a man who assaulted her. I’m sorry, what? How is this an acceptable thing to do in modern society?

Our entire culture, our society, seeks to justify violence against women. It shows men of all ages that committing horrendous crimes such as rape and assault are okay. Because women lie, and women make poor choices which lead to them being attacked, and women sleep around so it’s clear they just want sex, right?

No. It’s not right. It’s not okay. Race did not cause these young women to be raped. A sexist, patriarchal ideology caused this. Rapists caused this.