Guest Blogger: JoJo Ragon

“Yo bro, I just got raped on that exam.”
“Let’s play another round so I can finish raping you in this game.”
“He is so damn hot, I’m probably going to have to rape him.”

Discourse on rape. Let me get a few things off my chest…

For starters, why is it that the word “rape,” although extremely vulgar and violating in nature, is oh so casually thrown around in daily conversation? From my experience, I hear the word a lot more often then I should. As a female, daughter, sister, cousin, and friend, I consider myself very sensitive to the word “rape” and its’ presence in our culture and therefore our language. Additionally, as a feminist and a scholar, I have studied various types of documents on the subject and understand its’ gendered association.

As an ARAW facilitator, now on my third year, running these workshops has left me aching with the continuous anxiety of the mix between college students, alcohol, and drugs. Every year I find myself involved in situations that could have otherwise gone completely astray and resulted in violence. I have many friends, including myself, that have either been sexually assaulted or raped on this campus and I have yet to be surprised when I overhear another “rape” joke in public settings.

It is extremely unsettling to me that the usage of the word and the context in which it is used can be so careless and passive. If you were to stop and think about what “rape” means, who is highly affected and susceptible to it, and the reality of it all, I would hope some student’s perceptions would change. “Rape”, as a gendered term, has the tendency to be associated and generalized with heterosexual, male to female encounters. Although statistically the percentage of male to female cases remain much higher than others; it is important to recognize why this is so and what “rape” stands for.

We’re talking about a word representing binaries such as dominance/oppression, power/powerless, control/uncontrollable, force/submission, etc. Gender plays a major role in this definition which then creates a context in which its’ discourse is then formed resulting in linguistic norms. It’s interesting to relate the term usage from the victory in a video game to the violating dominance of a person’s body.

A small four letter word, such as “rape,” has the linguistic power to both represent a tragic experience and at the same time a feeling of defeat and failure. I find it very interesting how a word of such dominance can easily be used within different contexts without sensitivity towards its origin.

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12 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: JoJo Ragon

  1. I’m disturbed by the phrase, “Facebook rape.” It’s so widely used.

    I remember this past summer Kristen Stewart compared fame to being raped. Of course many people were outraged. She did apologize and it sounded sincere; she said ‘violated’ was a more appropriate choice of wording. But I couldn’t jump on the Kristen-hating bandwagon so readily. So many people use the word rape too flippantly, that they have forgotten what it means.

    Male same-sex rape is a joke. “Don’t drop the soap in the shower” anyone? I think that’s why so many people find that scene from American History X so disturbing–it kills any for of punchline.

    In college the word is heavily used. Excuse my language, but the seminar first-years go to is bull shit. Women are taught how to not get raped and men are taught how to get out of “fuzzy situations.” At this age, and at this school, there’s so much class privilege happening that many of us need a wake-up call. I got it last Spring with a course Cheryl taught. I think first-years should see what the horror of rape really is. And again as juniors as so many people seem to have forgotten so easily.

  2. levenstein says:

    Just last weekend a guy texted me saying, “Tell that hot chic so-and-so (I’m not disclosing names) that I’d rape her in debate.” When I first read this text message I was SHOCKED! Of course the only word my eyes went to was “rape” and I was extremely offended that the guy 1. said this about my friend and 2. texted that word to me. To Jojo’s point, the word is certainly overused in our society, especially in ways that it should be used. To Stephen’s comment about the phrase “Facebook rape,” I’ve commonly heard the phrase, “He raped my wall.” This particular phrase is code for “He wrote all over my wall.” I don’t understand how excessive comments is equivalent to sexually violation.

    I am also an ARAW facilitator and I personally see the workshops as very beneficial. Each time I have taught the seminar there are several girls who ask questions about things that I thought were obvious. For example, as Jojo writes about, most people only think of rape as being an instance of a man assaulting a woman. This is not always the case, especially when alcohol is involved. This is something the girls in my seminar didn’t know- that if a guy is drunk and having sex with a sober girl, she is in fact raping him. This clearly means that we need to be teaching them about what rape is in all its forms. From reading the evaluations I have seen that many of the girls learn things from the workshops which means there is no reason to stop having them. Just as Jojo says, the word “rape” has become such a passively used word. Conversations at saga, in coffee shops, and at parities are including the word in inappropriate ways. To me, if someone uses the word in the wrong context they don’t fully understand what it means and that needs to be changed.

    I was also in the Discourses of Rape course with Cheryl that Stephen talks about and I am so glad I took the course. Learning about the significance and prominence of rape about the world is devastating yet enlightening. Just as people have learned that there are certain derogatory words associated with race that we shouldn’t use, people need to understand the seriousness of the word rape. It’s not just a word- it encompasses so much more.

    Jojo, I’m so glad you wrote a post about this. It’s an issue that is rarely addressed because the word, regardless of it’s misusage, it still considered taboo. It’s easier to say it than break down its meaning. I care a lot about women’s protection and sexual rights, thus I personally get offended by the misusage of the word. Call me crazy, but I think the phrase “sticks and stones make break my bones but words will never hurt me” is complete crap. When I hear and see the word rape used in the wrong context, I do feel hurt.

  3. Merrill Amos says:

    I’m so glad JoJo posted this because it’s been EXACTLY what’s been on my mind…especially as of late. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve asked people…friends…to kindly cut the rape jokes. This past summer, I was standing talking to a few friends when my friend Mary looked at her watch and realized she was late getting home. My friend Kyle then proceeded to tell her “oh, just tell your mom you were raped and she’ll understand.” My head swung around and I said, “Really?!? Could you PLEASE not say that kind of shit??” To which he replied: “wow, people don’t usually say ‘please’ when they tell me to stop the jokes.”

    The point is, folks: you never know what someone else has gone through when you’re talking to them. I too have multiple friends, including myself, who have been raped. We’ve often discussed together how hearing some sort of casually-dropped rape reference can just completely deplete your mental stability, if even for a few moments. It socially delegitimizes what’s happened to you. …People think it’s funny?! It’s not funny to us. Many women are haunted by being constantly brought back to the scene.

    So we have ARAW workshops, Rape Crisis Centers and Hotlines, Support Groups, etc. These are all great resources to have in place. It’s almost the fact that they exist in such volume, however, that really drives home the presence of a rape culture in the US. We know that it has happened and is happening…so why is a majority of the activism taking place being forged by these organizations and the victims (I hate that word) themselves? Understandably people are more likely to become active in a cause when they or someone they know has been impacted. Something tells me, though, that a huge amount of people are completely unaware that they have someone in their life who has been raped. So many women just repress the event and try to put their life back together. Everyone’s reasons differ (and it’s often not even a conscious act), but you’ve gotta think that an unreceptive society certainly plays a part.

  4. Michele says:

    I remember watching The View one morning (I know…it’s The View, but still) because Sofía Vergara from Modern Family was gonna be on. She is apparently the new hot thing in lesbian pop culture circles and I see all kinds of references to her on lesbian-focused blogs so I wanted to find out who she was.

    The women of The View made a bunch of comments about her looking way too young to have a 19 yr old son and her response? “Well, I was raped when I was 13.” and they all laughed. Now granted, again, this was the The View so I didn’t expect any big feminist statement against the joke but it surprised me that on all the blogs–lesbian blogs, what you can assume might also be feminist blogs–no one even mentioned it. When I mentioned it in a comments section, no one responded to me, completely ignored me and continued to discuss hot hot she looked.

    the discourse of rape is so buried into our language systems at this point, we seem to get uncomfortable with it when it’s used as humor but no one ever speaks out against it. which means, of course, the discourse never changes.

    good topic JoJo.

  5. Morgan Gibeault says:

    I have never thought about the use of language and how much it degrades people and makes light of serious situations. When just watching tv you hear comments that are used so commonly you think nothing of them. People use the term in small talk, and even when talking about situations in sporting events. For example when people say things like “that girl just got raped” if she went for a tackle in soccer and missed. This derogatory term is not the only one that flutters around tv shows, sporting events, campus, the classroom etc. The words “hoe” and “slut” for example are used very lightly in all aspects as well. Girls even seem to be calling other girls these names as a joke. But is this okay? No. Since people use these words so carelessly they are starting to become okay to say when in reality it is just as degrading as any other racist or sexist remark.
    People who have been in serious incidents, such as rape, have to live with that the rest of their life, which probably consists of therapy along with other events that help them regain strength. When they hear people using the word “rape” in a funny context it only makes there healing process slower. It could make them think people do not take rape seriously and do not understand how it changes their life. So in general people need to take a step back and chose their words wisely.

  6. Salvador Forte says:

    Jojo, I think you bring up a great point about the passive usage of such an offensive word in today’s generation, especially on campus. There are other words that fit into this same category, that I just shake my head when I hear them. Just the other day, a friend and I were walking by the mini quad and a couple of Hobart first years were gathering up, getting ready to go to Saga. They were calling the kid who took the longest a “fag”. They said it so loudly and so casually, my friend and I couldn’t believe it. As we walked by we just remarked how ridiculous that was. Honestly, I made it a mission to never use the word “gay” in a derogatory way, and I guess the people I surround myself did the same because I haven’t heard anyone refer to someone as a “fag” in a very long time (since middle school?). It really bothered me just how casually they used the word. I also have not been exposed to it for a while, so hearing it again was a shock.

    I have definitely heard people use “rape” during everyday conversations, and I have not had the same reaction as I did to the “fag” comment. I think it’s because so many people use the word “rape”, that I myself have grown accustomed to it in casual talk. After reading your post, Jojo, I will definitely be more aware of its usage and not disregard its malicious origin. Gabby’s post also sheds light on the evil truth of rape, and how it should definitely not be taken lightly.

  7. Tom Michaud says:

    I guess as a guy i see this issue differently. When the word rape is used in the vernacular today, it seldom means the physical act of forcing oneself on another. According to the Urban Dictionary (i know its not really legit, but its what we do) rape can mean the complete and utter annihilation in an activity. This is the way that i see the word rape used most frequently. the common phrase of, “oh that guy just raped me!” Is usually uttered during online games of Call of Duty of any other 1st person shooter (or any videogame for that matter). It doesnt mean that the person literally was forced into unwanted sexual intercourse, it just means that the person was shot or scored on against their will. But thats the freaking point of these games! I just think people need to chill out about the word rape. its just a word. If you were in england and you heard someone refer to a cigarette as a fag would you be offended? I wouldnt. This is the same as the issue with the word rape. We’ve taken it out of its historical meaning and ascribed a new one. For a perfect example of this see South Park episode 12 season 3. Its called “the F word” and can be viewed art southparkstudios.com.

  8. Allison Bresnick says:

    I think that our culture takes the word “rape” much too lightly. People often throw it around, forgetting what it actually means. We tend to do this with a lot of other words and phrases as well, and it becomes almost a social norm. What our society fails to acknowledge is the seriousness and the effects of using this word. Like Jojo, I was also an ARAW Facilitator this fall and learned how serious the long term effects of rape are and how important it is to make others aware of it. A lot of the girls walked into the workshop and carried an attitude about how they didn’t want to be there because they thought the workshop was dumb. By the end of the night they realized the importance of what they had learned. It is key that others take it seriously and not discuss it in a careless and passive manner.
    The Dolce & Gabbana advertisement is evidence that media plays a role in how we see different genders. There are numerous ads that portray women as weak, while the men are seen as powerful and dominant. Individuals see these ads and may feel the need to mold into the gender stereotypes it demonstrates. In my media and society class last semester we were exposed to ads in which women had their mouths covered by their hands, by tape, and numerous other things. This suggested that women do not have a voice and should keep silent. Images like this may be partially what causes women to be vulnerable.
    Many of my guy friends often throw around the word rape, and I do not think they realize the seriousness of it. Things become socialized so quickly, that we may not get a chance to stop it before it’s too late. Hopefully people will become more aware of what they say and realize what is actually coming out of their mouths.

  9. Ryan Waffle says:

    ‘Rape’ is just one of the many words that has utterly lost its true meaning to our generation and those younger than us. Somehow, through all of the political correctness today, we’ve developed our own definitions and uses of words that used to mean exactly what you thought they meant (and probably still should).
    We swear all the time. Some of us constantly. We use terms that when we were kids, would get us grounded or worse, and we use terms that would have have had astronomically different meanings in the past. Call someone a ‘bitch’ years ago, and you might get punched in the face. Today, we often use it as a term of endearment. A ‘fag’ years ago, was of course used as a derogatory term for homosexual. Today, it can mean the same thing. But people use it now as just a term to describe an idiot, someone who is annoying, someone who you don’t like, etc. ‘Rape’ is the same way.
    “I just raped that test.”
    “Dude, we just got raped.”
    Other than the literal and true definition of the word, it means today that something was dominated, beaten senseless, conquered. Of course, it has its roots in the true meaning, as does fag, but when used in the context in which it is used today, it means something totally different to people. Now
    I’ll be the first to admit, I use some of the words all the time. I’m not necessarily proud of it, but I know I have not made enough of a conscious effort to change the way I speak.
    Who knows why we changed the meanings of these words, when we know they are hurtful and wrong. Who knows if we will ever move back to when these words meant their true and literal meaning. The only thing I know is, the way that many of us think will probably lead to a change in the meaning of many of the other derogatory terms we use in our normal vernacular. Perhaps it will go the other way. Until then, as unfortunate as it is, many of us will continue to say these words, without any regard to whom they may hurt.

  10. Jr. Woodard says:

    Rape is a terrible thing. It is the worst thing i believe that can happen to anybody and is very wrong to do to people. But I’m not going to lie, i use that rape in my vocabulary with my buddies a whole lot without thinking of the impact on people. Mostly because, if you use it in a describing word and at the right time, NOBODY is impacted by it. If playing a game with your boys and you say ” yo son you just got raped.” It isn’t a big deal at all. Nobody should take the chill relaxed and different lingo that people use into such detail. You should always be careful about your words and how you phrase them but I dont think it is that big of a deal depending on the circumstances. There are worst words people get too comfortable with using that should be addressed.

  11. Gabrielle Perez says:

    Two weeks ago when I first read this I had no idea people used the word rape so freely and openly like that, but after today, when my friend told me she raped her exam, I completely understand now. People subconsciously use language in ways that may hurt someone’s identity, such as “That’s so Gay” and “That’s so Retarded” being two main phrases. Here comes the idea of Political Correctness: the idea that people should think before they speak to make sure they are not saying anything inappropriate to demean or hurt someone’s social identity.

    Being Politically Correct has its upsides: being able to think before you speak so you don’t enter a realm where you say something you don’t mean to hurt someone else and the ability for civil conversations. Here’s the downside: You’re not being honest with yourself. There are people who feel that they shouldn’t have to hold their tongue because they feel it takes away from being honest. Ultimately, where do we draw the line on political correctness?

    Granted, I don’t condone using the word “rape” freely in everyday jargon; I think people in society need to learn how to use their language to be politically correct but also frame it in a way so they are being honest with themselves. How do we tread the line between being PC and being honest without using language that can hurt someone else?

  12. Alex Cragg says:

    I guess the main question that comes to my mind is, isn’t there another word that can be used when losing a game or failing a test? What ever happened to the phrase, “You just got owned!”? Did that go out of style or something because it seems more appropriate for the situation than the word rape does. I have a hard time disassociating the word “rape” from it’s original meaning and I cringe when I hear it thrown casually into daily conversations. I agree with Katie’s comment that if someone uses the word casually they don’t fully understand what it means. They may know what the definition of rape is but not fully understand the weight of the word. I think this is just a case of a lack of education, people not thinking before they speak or people not thinking at all. I seriously believe if someone were properly educated as to what rape truly is that they would not use it in any way to mean anything other than the true meaning.

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