WHAT'S IN A WORD? THE EXAMINATION AND ELIMINATION OF THE TRIVIAL USE OF THE WORD "RAPE"
On this week’s episode of the reality TV show “Stewarts & Hamilton’s”, Kimberley Stewart is eating lunch at a restaurant outside with her best friend Dean when she sees Dean looking at a girl’s butt. Kimberly says “You are raping her with your eyes.” I was stunned when I heard her say that phrase especially on a reality TV show. The word “rape” was thrown around in a dismissive and callous way. After watching that episode, I felt a passion to eliminate the casual use of the word “rape” in our society.
The use of the word “rape” is carelessly used in both a positive way to represent beating or winning and in a negative way to represent mental or physical injury. If by telling people that they “raped you” or “you raped them”, you are normalizing and trivializing the act. Rape should be treated as a serious issue.
I witnessed this personally as I was leaving my college psychology class, having just taken an exam. There were two men in front of me walking out of the classroom. One of the men asked the other “how did you do on the test?” and the other man said “I totally just raped that final.” My boyfriend told me that he has heard some of the people he plays video game online use the word in a trivial manner. For example, he told me he once heard a guy say that “he raped all the people in that battle” after winning a battle game. The use of the word “rape” strengthens the masculinity/ powerfulness/ domination and patriarchal of the speaker. Some examples ofalternatives to use instead of the word “rape” when describing an action are conquered, defeated, vanquished, owned, overcome, retained, and surpassed. My boyfriend has never used the word and does not like the word because there are better ways to articulate yourself.
Television and daily life is not the only manner that has shown the trivial use of the word “rape.” The sports industry has been known to use the trivial use of the word. For example, after being asked in the eighth inning of the Red Sox-Yankees game in 2013, Lou Piniella was asked about the lopsided trade between Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlons said that “Well they just, I don’t want to use the “raped”, but they basically took a lot of talent from the Miami Marlins that Toronto will probably be picked to win the [East AL] by a lot of people.” In the future, Piniella needs to look into a better filter when describing a trade that was heavy on baseball player prospects instead of using the word ”raped” to describe an action. Another example of the trivial use of the word “rape” is when two Steubenville football players raped a 16 year old girl. A disturbing video was leaked to the media in which another football player (not one of the two convicted) talked on and on about the assault, saying, “She is so raped right now,” as an audience of boys laughed crazily.
Rape is no laughing or humorous matter. Losing a sports game, playing a video game, or taking an exam is nowhere comparable to being raped. The use of the word “rape” in such a casual way misrepresents the gravity of sexual assault. In the United States, 16 percent of women and 3 percent of men have been victims of an attempted rape or complete rape.
I have always believed that the way to truly understand the meaning of a word; you have to examine and research the history of the word. In this article, I examined the history of the word “rape”. In Old English, a “rape” was a district in Sussex, England. The word “rape” dates back to the late 14th-century France, where it meant to seize prey, abduct, take by force. The word “rape” or in Latin “raptio” was also occasionally used by the Romans to mean “sexually violate.” The word also referred to the legal prohibition of matrimony of the bride was abducted by Roman canon law. In a 1673 quote, “Unjust men that in nameless pamphlets would rape us of our reputations” show us how the word rape is used as a verb to show domination and defeated. In a 1706 quote, “when Kings their crowns without consent obtain, ‘tis all a mighty rape, and not a reign” reveals how “rape” is used to describe in a seizing, violent meaning in action. These are examples of how the word was used in literature.
Our society needs to raise awareness about the offensiveness of the word “rape” when it is used carelessly. Some ways to eliminate the trivial use of the word “rape” is to imagine how a victim of sexual assault would feel hearing the word “rape” thrown around so casually and carelessly. It is important to remember that the trivial use of the word “rape” can be triggering for sexual assault victims. If your friends use the word in a trivial manner, explain to them why that word should not be used and to be aware that the word can trigger sexual assault victims. Triggering may cause emotional pain, physical pain, fear, or reliving trauma of the victim. Be aware of the word usage and use different alternative verbs instead like conquered or surpassed.
When society becomes comfortable with the usage of the word “rape” in careless ways, we are perpetuating violence against both men and women and it needs to stop.