Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Language of Rape Culture

[Content note: detailed discussion of rape culture, rape threats, trivialization of rape, slut shaming]

Never a dull day in the rape culture. I swear...just when I think, "oh hey, we're making SOME progress!" a ton of new, horrible stories pop up.

Some of the ways that rape culture operates are obvious (to those who are willing to engage in these discussions, at least.) For example, that list of rape threats that Lindy West received (linked above) for speaking out against rape jokes.

Other artifacts of the rape culture are less obvious.

I came across two examples recently:

[Image text: A Facebook status reads, "Hope he doesn't find out--feeling guilty." Comment from Ben "What did u do??" Comment from Jemma "I went into the room trusting Josh wouldn't frape me...This is the crappiest frape in the world!"]

[Image text: A Facebook post from Patrick reads: "Actually my wife is of the same opinion, it's pretty sad when you can spread your legs like a whore, chose to abort a baby one minute with out the mans (sic) approval, but if you keep it which he also has no say in you can rape him of his money for 19 years, and 21 if the kid attends college. Abortion is only sexist against men, not to the female."]
Patrick's comment is especially insidious because of ALLLL the sexism/slut shaming in it...I mean, men are men but women are "females?" Come on! But I'll focus on his use of "rape" for the purposes of this discussion.

So to review we have the word "frape" (which is a shortened from "facebook rape") meaning when someone posts a status on your page as you. And we have the verb "rape" used to mean men who pay child support for a kid they didn't want.

In both of these cases, the word "rape" has been used to represent something entirely different. It's equated with very mundane, non-traumatic things (like someone impersonating you on Facebook.) The result is that rape itself is trivialized. The power is removed from the word, such that when actual rape is discussed it has less meaning to it.

Some would argue that using words like this is fine and that it does not affect our cultural perception of rape in the way that I've described. However,  I am a big proponent of the view that our words shape our reality and I think that the trivialization and misuse of "rape" in this manner directly contributes to our rape culture.  To me, it seems undeniable that what we say does affect people--for better or worse.

Even if you think saying "rape" in the manner like used above doesn't trivialize the actual act, you should at least be able to understand that seeing the word rape used in such a casual manner could be hurtful (at best) or re-traumatizing (at worst) to rape survivors. And it seem to me that any person with half a conscious/heart would stop saying things like this for that fact alone.

Sadly, many people don't have half a heart/conscious, it seems. But for those of us who do, we must not use "rape" to describe anything other than a non-consensual sex act. Rape is not a metaphor--it is a very real, horrifying thing that happens to far too many people.

Please see the commenting policy before replying to this post.

1 comment:

  1. I never heard the word "frape" before. You're right, using "rape" as a metaphor is wrong.


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