One of the difficult things about explaining rape culture and problematic ideas to people is that it’s hard to say that someone is doing something problematic without coming off as saying that they are intentionally doing something problematic. I see this all the time in discussions of rape culture: the people who self-righteously exclaim things like, “Obviously, I’m not pro-rape!”
Saying things like that is a little bit like the owner of a coal power plant saying something like, “Well, obviously I’m not pro-carbon emissions!” when people point out the pollution the plant is producing. In a situation like that, it’s trivially obvious that no one is for pollution, in the same way that it’s generally trivially obvious that people on either side of a discussion about rape culture aren’t intentionally cheerleading for rapists. Most discussions about rape culture are about pointing out the externalities of the actions we take and the language we use, not the direct, intended consequences of our language and actions. In the coal power plant example, pollution is an externality of the running of the plant – not an intended consequence. It was not the owner’s intention to create pollution, the owner is not happy that the pollution is created, and the owner may not have been aware of the amount of pollution the plant would produce, but the pollution still exists, regardless.
Rape culture is, in many cases, an externality. It’s a type of cultural pollution that happens when people slut-shame, victim-blame, engage in hyper-skepticism about victims’ accounts of rape, express sex-negative opinions, etc. The commentor who asks if the victim was wearing a short skirt probably doesn’t intend to reinforce the cultural memes that make it so easy for so many rapists to get away with sexual assault, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t reinforcing those memes. The implication that a short skirt justifies sexual assault still makes it easier for rapists to get away with rape, in the same way that regardless of the power plant owner’s intention, his plant is going to pollute regardless of whether his intention was to create pollution are not.
If someone says you’re contributing to rape culture, they’re probably not saying that you think rape is awesome — they are probably saying that something you said or did acts as a cultural pollutant. They are probably saying that something you said is harmfully wrong, or carries harmfully wrong implications (whether intended or unintended). In the same sense that one might ask the owner of a coal power plant to be mindful of and take action to control the plant’s carbon emissions, they are asking you to be mindful of what we might term your “rape culture emissions”.