November 2017
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on sexually violent language -- casual use of the word 'rape'


I decided to finally make a new post on this subject, as the old one was written long ago:

Rape is not material for jokes, irony, or metaphor. Rape is the worst thing that a person can experience, and minor upsets like buying something that is overpriced or losing a game are absolutely nothing like it. Even more serious violations like having one's diary read without consent or being pressured to alter one's art are not at all the same. Inanimate objects such as a car, the earth, or a bank account cannot experience rape. Rape is a stripping of one's basic rights, a complete and utter denial of one's humanness. It's not okay to refer to rape in any manner other than with great awareness of the horror and the tragedy that it encompasses. In using it ironically/jokingly/metaphorically you are not being clever with words, you are not being funny, you are not simply expressing a feeling of violation; you are trivializing the suffering of victims and encouraging acceptance of the act, no matter how subtly.

To know if use of the word 'rape' is an acceptable metaphor, consider whether you would rather literally experience rape or experience what you are currently experiencing. Then, if you have never experienced being sexually violated, realize that you do not know the answer to that question and you have no right to judge other people's experience as being the same as your own.

Rape is NOT like any other violation. Rape is not a synonym for any-old-violation. Rape refers to the sexual violation of someone's body.

Casual use of the word rape (or molest, used in a sexual connotation such as 'so-n-so is molestable') makes it more acceptable to joke about the actual act, which in turn makes the actual act seem less horrific and annihilating, more acceptable. Words have power, and how we use them affects the world around us.

I once was working as a cashier when someone came up to me and in the friendliest tone said, "I'm going to rape you--

r drawer" (referring to paying for something small with a hundred) -- ze did not include the pause but I felt it like that. I was so in shock and triggered I couldn't respond. Nowadays I'd have Something To Say. I think ze was actually expecting me to laugh, and seemed to realize that ze had made a mistake when my smile dropped and I froze. (later I wished I had been able to speak because I think that was a moment when the right words could have made a huge change -- I only hope that my wordless reaction said what I couldn't) Only in a world that thinks rape is okay is it acceptable to speak so casually of it.

Not to mention, more than one THIRD of all women and one ninth of all men have been sexually abused, and this language is triggering. Even if you don't care about or believe in the effect of your words on the culture at large, consider the fact that if you are in public it is HIGHLY likely that someone within earshot has been a victim, and if you have more than two female friends it is extremely likely that one of them has been a victim. Sexually violent language can be triggering, and that means having that same emotion flood over you again. Not every victim will be triggered, true, but you have no way of knowing who will and who won't, as most people do not talk about being sexually abused, much less explain their triggers.

ETA: Rape has power, horrible destructive power, and to strip the word of that power would strip the act of its power in the minds of those who have never experienced it and leave them less likely to care, less likely to make change to stop rapes. The word rape needs to be a powerful word because the act of rape is a powerful act. Making the word less powerful would not make the act less powerful -- it would make the act have no appropriate word by which to call it. And if an act has no word to describe it, there is no way to open dialogue about it, which is the first step in working to stop it.

I refuse to be friends with someone who may use sexually violent language in a casual manner. To people I don't care about, I simply unfriend with no explanation when I see that, because it's never a nice conversation. If I pointed you to this post in response to you doing so, it means I care about you and want to give you the opportunity to reconsider your use of the word. I want to allow you to choose between losing the use of word in that way or losing me, as this is a firm boundary for me.

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Comments
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finding_helena ══╣╠══
Very good post. I feel the same way... that kind of usage drives me absolutely nuts.
belenen ══╣passionate╠══
thank you *nods*
finding_helena ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
acid_burns ══╣╠══

♥♥♥

"Rape's not something where you just go, 'Well, get over it' or
'Believe in love and peace, my child, and it'll all be over.'
Well, fuck you, that isn't the answer. It's a great thought, OK,
but you can go and stick crystals up your butt and get on with
it. I'm all for love and peace, but that's not the side I work
on. If somebody would talk about it, or worse, joke about it, I
would be ready to kill. That's not healing. It was a very long
time after that before I was able to be with anyone again. And
it has never been the same as it was before." - Tori Amos -


sidheblessed ══╣╠══
What a fantastic quote.
belenen ══╣╠══
queerbychoice ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
sidheblessed ══╣╠══
I agree with every single word of this. I am so sick of this rape culture in which rape is apparently ok and how people just don't seem to realise that as long we use the word casually, this rape culture will continue and maybe even deepen (scary thought). How can people not realise how devastating their casual use of the word is? Not having experienced rape yourself is not an excuse for such offensive language.

I refuse to be friends with those who make rape jokes and use it as a metaphor for violation.

belenen ══╣passionate╠══
*nods emphatically* it is truly horrifying how much of a rape culture we live in... I've had "Transforming A Rape Culture" on my shelf for so long but it's so hard to read -- I've only read bits and pieces. When you really comprehend how every bit of interaction is influenced by this, it's overwhelming.
moonvoice ══╣quirky - t - hate. everyone.╠══
THANK YOU. I so agree with this. I've known people who will say things like 'I was raped by the train service today,' or 'I want to rape/molest X celebrity,' or whatever they say in a completely casual sense and not only does it trigger flashbacks for me, I think it's completely insensitive use of the language in general. :(
belenen ══╣passionate╠══
EXACTLY. That is exactly the sort of use I am referring to. It's horrifying.
aetheric ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣passionate╠══
yes, indeed they have. Here's one thing I said, "[Do] you feel it is positive to use the word 'rape' or other sexually violent words in casual ways in order to strip them of their power? I could also understand that, but I definitely don't agree that it would have that effect. Rape has power, horrible destructive power, and to strip the word of that power would strip the act of its power in the minds of those who have never experienced it and leave them less likely to care, less likely to make change to stop rapes." So essentially, the word rape needs to be a powerful word because the act of rape is a powerful act. Making the word less powerful would not make the act less powerful -- it would make the act have no appropriate word by which to call it. And if an act has no word to describe it, there is no way to open dialogue about it, which is the first step in working to stop it.

♥ I love your questions!
aetheric ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
wolfmare ══╣╠══
The only other context where I can picture the use of the word 'rape' as other then physically forcing someone sexually, is mental and emotionally. My first spouse did that to me, he abused me mentally (and physically too) to the point that I was no longer sure of my own mind, indeed more then once I thought I was losing it!

I very nearly admitted myself to a psych ward, because he had me so convinced that it was my fault, that I had done something wrong, that I was making everything up in my head. Years later I know, he played on my fears and insecurities, and twisted things around until he had control of me, body and mind. Psychological rape, if you will, in that my mind was just as violated as my body was.

Casual use of the word though, sickens me. I freeze, I can't speak, the blood drains from my face as a fight-or-flight response starts... People seldom understand the power a word can have, or even a tone of voice. I've lived the reality of that word, and I'm saddened to know the word alone can control me and force me to react in ways I don't want.
belenen ══╣gentle╠══
yeah, I agree with that use too.

*nods* I used to have that sort of reaction too. I'm lucky that I've had the time, support, love, and counseling to heal enough that it no longer triggers me like it used to, but it still affects me because it is such a statement about how the person is indifferent or jovial about the destruction of human beings.
bloodyromance84 ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣honesty╠══
I think you have gravely misunderstood what I was saying. I'm not saying people shouldn't talk about the fact of rape -- they should! we need to recognize this as a HUGE problem and educate people. I think it is good to talk about rape/sexual abuse, as long as it is in a respectful way.

I'm simply saying that one should not use it casually/metaphorically/ironically, as in "we got raped" when referring to losing a game, or "starbucks raped my wallet" when referring to buying a coffee. I think that is disrespectful to victims and trivializing the devastation of rape.
bloodyromance84 ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
febrile_lune ══╣╠══
inkedfeathers ══╣╠══
lorelei_sakti ══╣╠══
It absolutely confounded me when I first heard a male friend of mine use the word rape in this trivial context. Since then, it's always been men who use it that way; I haven't heard a single woman utter it. It's really horrible, and it has to stopped. I don't know how or why they started using the word this way, but I agree it's unacceptable.
bloodyromance84 ══╣╠══
lorelei_sakti ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
lorelei_sakti ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
saturnsdaughter ══╣iconsbywong - Olivia╠══
You make a very good point here. A lot of people don't seem to take rape or any form of sexual assault serious enough anymore and it's quite sad. Despite the old sayings, words do hurt and do have power, and it's the young people who internalize this idea that rape can be a laughing matter that we need to worry about.
belenen ══╣passionate╠══
*nodnod* thanks for your comment ♥
twelvepetals ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣passionate╠══
oh, thank you! Usually I like to be more gentle in my phrasing because more people hear you that way, but on a subject like this I feel it necessary to be firm. So I'm happy to hear that it would have affected you in a positive way! ♥
willowing ══╣╠══
i am wondering how much of this is cultural? or perhaps i just hang out with 'sensitive' people, but no one i know has ever used the word 'rape' casually. (i'm thinking maybe the use of the word has been 'casualised' in the states more so than in the uk (?)).

i am deeply mortified by the act of rape, can not watch it in any movie/ tv show and am often dumbfounded and deeply moved to terror when i read about the experiences and traumas of sexually abused people.

i particularly related to how you described the effects of rape as dehumanisation. i was discussing rape (in specific: gang rape) with a group of nvc people 2 days ago, describing my utter despair and hopelessness when i imagine a group of men rape 1 woman, and said as you did; the horror of the invasion of oneself and the complete disregard for how this act effects the victim)...

it would probably upset me too if someone used the word rape casually as you described above. if it did happen, however, i'd try to communicate my discomfort and attempt to connect and process my issues and their motivation for using the word in such a way. ie; i'd hope to try to get to an understanding on both sides and attempt to get to some sort of transformation on both sides to mutually need meets. (nvc stuff)

i can understand though that even just witnessing the word being used casually is so painful and violating that it can be hard to remain in connection with that person.
queerbychoice ══╣╠══
I don't know how the word is used in the U.K., but I know that in the U.S., it's used casually in certain subcultures or geographic regions much more than in others. It would be possible to live in the U.S. and not hear it used casually, if you happened to spend all your life living in the right place, hanging out with the right subculture, and watching the right movies and TV shows. Most people in the U.S., however, have at least some contact at some point in their lives with regions or subcultures where the word is used casually.
willowing ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
willowing ══╣╠══
happystance ══╣hlock╠══
i had a close friend make fun with that word. i told him it wasnt funny and he responded with how i said it all the time. uh, i never used it casually like he had to the point where he said some girl he didnt like didnt even deserve to be "raped". i was like horrified.

its also touchy, because since ive been reading about bdsm, people have "rape" fantasies. and ugh.
belenen ══╣passionate╠══
yeah, that is horrifying! It implies that rape is a good thing. Ugh.

yeah, I knew that about BDSM. :-/ I think for some people it might be a way of trying to work through past abuse, and for others it's a way of acting out the porn they have watched.
boundfate ══╣╠══
lindsey_locke ══╣╠══
Wow. This is a difficult subject.

First off, let me say that I have experienced that terrible, awful thing. It was as a young child, and other than nightmares occasionally, I have managed to wipe it out of my life.

I feel like words are just words. But I also understand how much words affect the people that hear them. Had I been in your situation, I would've done the exact same thing: frozen. It would've been an awkward, painful situation.

And while it's wrong for people to be so okay with the casual use of the word, and that casual use may affect me more than others, it still isn't my place to say that it's "wrong" to use the word rape. The word itself has many definitions. All I can do, as a woman who has had negative/ forceful sexual experiences, is try to nullify my triggers and learn to cope with the choices made by the people around me.

belenen ══╣passionate╠══
And while it's wrong for people to be so okay with the casual use of the word ... it still isn't my place to say that it's "wrong" to use the word rape.

Well, I generally avoid use of the word "wrong" because I don't believe in black and white anything. But I do think that if a respectful person carefully considers this in light of how it could have negative effects, they will choose to refrain from using it lightly. Which is why I confront it when I see it -- to give people a chance to reconsider. Whether it is 'wrong' or not is for each individual person to decide, and if someone decides that it is not wrong for them, that's fine with me -- I'll just refrain from having contact with them.

All I can do, as a woman who has had negative/ forceful sexual experiences, is try to nullify my triggers and learn to cope with the choices made by the people around me.

Well, I disagree. For me at least, I see another option -- confronting those choices and educating those people and THEN coping with either losing them or not having to deal with that anymore. I don't see any reason to cope without confronting first. Obviously if I don't have or want a relationship with them, I simply cope.
austentatious ══╣╠══
Thank you for this post.

I've discussed this with all of my close friends about why it offends me when they say it, and now they've gone on to "educate" others about using "rape" casually as well. When I do hear it, it shocks me because I'm not used to it.
belenen ══╣passionate╠══
♥ that's wonderful that they have gone on to educate others!
theindiequeen ══╣╠══
I totally agree with everything in this post.

Sadly, I think a lot of people are just really unaware of how much sexual abuse really goes on. Especially men. Not to make generalizations, but I hear men using that kind of language a lot more often than I hear women using it.

I do feel like I have read poems or heard songs that used the word rape metaphorically before where it didn't bother me...(obviously not about something as trivial as spending too much money) but I can't remember any specific examples. I'd like to think there are appropriate metaphors or comparisons in which any word can be used, but I think that's because I'm a writer.

Kind of related to this, I think there is a lot of language that people use casually that causes/reinforces the cultural imaginaries about gender in general. There are so many times that I hear men using language that completely objectifies women, and they seem to think nothing of it. Or even times when I hear women using the same language. It really irritates me. I just think people need to be more conscious of the words they use in general. But then I probably say things that are offensive, too.

belenen ══╣passionate╠══
Not only are people unaware, but pornographic media supports the myths that all women want it all the time (therefore rape is impossible) and men are the primary consumers of porn. Since they are also far less likely to have experienced it themselves, it makes sense that they should take rape far less seriously. (not that it is acceptable, just that the generalizations have good cause)

Yeah, when an actual violation has occurred it doesn't bother me quite so much, but I still find it inappropriate because most people who would use the word have not experienced rape. Rape is a unique experience that unlike others, cannot be approximated from similar experiences because there are no similar experiences.

YES. Objectifying language is everywhere -- that and gendered language sometimes overwhelm me to the point where I just don't want to associate with anyone. I agree that people need to be more conscious of the words they use in general.
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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.