The use of the word “rape” in conversation has become as common as “that’s so gay” or “faggot” – and the true extent of homophobic language used on social media is demonstrated somewhat here. All too often, rape is used as a verb which completely belittles the pain of rape, through terms used thoughtlessly such as “frape” – Facebook rape – or “OMG I got totally raped by the tax man this month”. Since when did it become ok to use such casual references in every day life?
The worst part is that people – particularly, in my personal experience, young men – contribute to this developing “rape culture”, however unintentional it may be. What started by it being seen as acceptable to call women “sluts” seems now to be just the tip of a very big, very damaging iceberg, and when these attitudes are challenged, often descend into victim blaming and total slut shaming. Young men on my Facebook gleefully share photos of “rape jokes”, without any real comprehension of the consequences, and amongst “banter” between “laaaads” comes some quite serious rape apologist behaviour, where these men breed the idea that its genuinely acceptable to view rape in a more lenient way if the woman is drunk, or wearing a short skirt because “men are clearly unable to control their urges around pretty girls”.
I find it extremely difficult to get across the message about the damaging nature of victim blaming and exactly what it can lead to when I discuss victim blaming with other people. That yes, whilst it is perfectly acceptable for the police to issue advice for people to know their limits when it comes to alcohol, it is not acceptable for them to advertise to women not to drink too much to “avoid becoming a rape victim”. This suggests that were a woman to be raped under the influence of alcohol, then she is somehow responsible by not drinking less. If a woman walks home by herself, instead of with her friends, and she is raped, then she is somehow responsible by being on her own.
However good the intentions of advice issued by police and other agencies, the fact of the matter is simple – never mind short skirts or alcohol, if men didn’t rape women, there would be no need for this advice in the first place. In other words, why are we telling women to take precautions to “prevent rape”, but nowhere do you see “advice” issued to people warning them not to rape women because, uh, it’s illegal? It all contributes to a victim blaming culture. I really don’t think I can put it more bluntly than that.
Aside from that, though, there are deeper issues of concern. Advising women on “how not to become a rape victim” doesn’t take into consideration the huge majority of cases, where rapists are known to their victims, and often close to them. It doesn’t take into consideration control in rape, and fuels the stereotype that rape happens in dark alleys, with “sluts” who are “asking for it”. Any rape, whatever the circumstances, is as bad as the next – so why do we allow such casual jokes and laughs at the expense of the victims?
Simply put? Because its part of a culture. Part of a developing – but not new – culture which breeds misogyny, victim blaming and slut shaming. One which dictates that should women dress or act a particular way, then they are “sluts”, rather than allowing women the freedom to wear and behave however they choose – the same way men are able to without being labelled or shunned because of it. One which, whether it be direct or indirect, contributes to the idea that women are somehow to blame for their own rape or sexual assault.
I want to finish by sharing a harrowing but utterly inspirational feed I came across on the internet. I’d advise you not to read before you go to sleep, as it makes for heartbreaking viewing, but it is the courage of rape survivors coming forward to talk about their experiences which builds for a brighter future for women who have been victims. I wish it was possible to show this to everyone who thinks casual rape references and “jokes” are acceptable. Perhaps it would make them think twice before trying to get cheap laughs.