I was talking with a friend Saturday night and he told me he felt like he was raped by a class. Looking back on the class, it was extremely difficult. Almost no one received an “A” and a disproportionate number of students failed the exams regularly. At the end of the day, the professor wasn’t very good at his job and he was unable to write fair exams and communicate information in a coherent manner. It’s not that we say the word “rape” that is the problem, it’s the fact that this word is so often used out of context and when we joke about rape or compare it to something like the difficulty of a class, we belittle the fact that people are actually victims of rape. Using rape as a joke and colloquialism is damaging.
According to RAINN, every 107 seconds an American is a victim of sexual assault. That’s about one every ten minutes. RAINN also reports that there are most 300,000 victims of sexual assault annually who are just over 12 years old. The United Nations has reported that globally one in every five women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. In areas of high conflict, there are also higher rates of rape and sexual assault. For example, according to the United Nations, there are 1,100 rapes being reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo each month. This is clearly a national and global health issue, which we need to pay attention to.
However, clearly something has gone right with regard to how we treat rape as a society. According to RAINN, sexual assault in the United States has fallen by 49 percent in the recent years. There is something going on that is encouraging people to stop raping other people for whatever reason, hopefully because they believe that that is wrong. However, that doesn’t mean that rape does not exist anymore and it doesn’t mean we don’t still live in a society which condones rape and views it as a normal part of our society. Young women still park under street lamps and walk with friends when it’s dark. Women still pretend like someone they aren’t dating is their boyfriend at parties so weird men don’t offer them drinks. We still carry mace and we still watch our drinks at parties if we go alone.
So how do jokes, offhand comments and colloquialisms about rape play into rape occurring, women living in fear and societal violence? When we joke about something, we don’t pay attention to it when it really is happening. According to an article in Everyday Feminism by Sarah Ogden Trotta, she describes that rape jokes are traumatizing. We have to stop making these jokes because if you’re anywhere in the world with five women, there is a good chance that one of these women is going to be traumatized by this joke you’re telling. While people may not always take that into consideration, we have to because this is a real issue and creating a nonviolent, safe community should be important to everyone, whether or not you’re a victim of rape or sexual assault. Additionally, whenever you make a joke about rape or use rape as a colloquialism, you work to reinforce rape culture, create a violent community and belittle rape. That sounds heavy and loaded, but it’s true. Every time we treat rape like it’s nothing, we silence people about coming forward and we work to continue living in a violent community. If that were not enough to make you not want to joke about rape, you should also know that according to an article by Danica Johnson in Everyday Feminism, there is a correlation between joking about rape and men being less likely to come forward about being raped. While men are far less likely to be raped than women, we know that men are still victims of rape and still need to feel comfortable seeking justice. When we joke about rape, we further take away power from men who are victims of rape and we create an environment where they feel uncomfortable talking about it and reporting it so they can seek justice.
Rape is not funny. Rape should not be a colloquialism. Rape is not a synonym for not understanding lecture material, having something stolen from you or losing a game. Rape is a violent act, which works to incite domination and control over another human being. Rape takes away a person’s agency to enjoy something as pleasurable as sex can be. Stop telling rape jokes.