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Rape culture and the language we choose

“Hey, how was your day?”

“ Terrible . I totally got raped by my econ test.”

It’s a conversation that many of us have every day and see nothing even remotely problematic in it, and personally, I find that to be incredibly troubling.

I’m pretty sure taking your econ test was consensual. I find it difficult to believe that your test forced itself upon you. It did not assault you, nor did it make you take part in sexual activity outside of your consent. It was not violent or threatening.

Language is such an integral part of our culture that on a day -to- day basis, we barely even notice it. We allow words to slip by us unnoticed and unacknowledged, regardless of their meanings or societal implications. Typically, we view our language as being shaped by our culture, but it shapes our society as much as it reflects it. A bar in Spokane, Wash. — The Daiquiri Factory — recently named a drink on its menu “Grape Date Kool Aid.”

The name itself is offensive enough.

Marketing date rape? Really?

But what is perhaps more disturbing are the reactions surrounding the drink’s name.

According to the Huffington Post, over 100 people protested the bar’s choice in naming the drink and its implications. The bar responded to the protests stating, “We just think everyone simply needs a little daiquiri therapy.” It’s not that their response is outside the norm. Feminists — and socially-aware individuals in general — have been told they’re being ‘too sensitive’ for decades now. It’s easier to think that way: no need to worry about their ramblings, they’re just a bunch of bleeding-heart, free-spirited hippies whose feelings are hurt at the littlest of things. Personally, I disagree.

The language we use has power, be it for better or worse, and refusing to acknowledge that harms those individuals most severely marginalized by it. How often do we really stop and think about what we’re implying with the words we use in our everyday conversations? When you use “rape” as a means to discuss any situation that you find less than desirable, it lessens the severity with which we consider acts of sexual violence. If you were a survivor of sexual violence, could you imagine how it would feel to have your situation compared to taking a difficult test or a bad loss in basketball?

Between 20 and 25 percent of women and 3 percent of men will experience an attempted or completed sexual assault during their college experience. That means that for approximately a quarter of your peers, sexual violence is not a fun way to talk about something you find to be relatively unpleasing; it is a harsh, traumatizing ongoing reality.

Mocking these incidents is perpetuating a society in which rape, violence and mistreatment are accepted. Our colloquial use of the word “rape” speaks to a larger issue in our culture: we refuse to acknowledge the excess of violence, particularly that which is sexual in nature. We live in a society that expects violence — both sexual and not — and often, our expectations are met and exceeded. When we expect violence and accept the culture that surrounds it, we create a self-fulfilling prophecy in the worst possible way. It is this mentality that leads to the continuation of rape culture in our society, and the Xavier community is certainly no exception to that.

It’s no secret that Xavier has a less-than-stellar history when it comes to sexual assault, to put it lightly. We cannot change the decisions of previous administrators or conduct boards, but we do have power over our language. It’s something that seems minute when compared to larger facets of rape culture — slut shaming, victim blaming and street harassment, to name a few—but it is something that each and every individual has the power to change.

You have the ability to say, “My econ test didn’t go well,” as opposed to saying you were “raped” by it. The language we choose to use is a medium in which each and every one of us has agency, and we should use it to improve the culture in which we live, not perpetuate oppressive societal attitudes.

And when we’re talking about the language surrounding rape, the power of language extends beyond working towards social change and has real consequences in affecting our peers.

Sabrina Brown is the Editor-in- Chief of the Newswire. She is a senior majoring in English from Shelby, Ohio.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Rape culture and the language we choose

  1. I do not want to disagree with the point of the article which is that using rape in common language minimizes the reality that rape is, but part of the reason it became colloquial is because of the strength of saying a test “raped” me over saying it didn’t go well. When i expect an A and get a B- it didn’t go well. When I expect an A and got a D then there needs to be something worse. Getting “raped” by a test has become that. I agree we can be more creative than saying rape, but at the same time expecting a simple it didn’t go well doesn’t convey strong enough feeling.

    Posted by Nick scheper | February 21, 2014, 7:25 am
    • I guess I’ve been lucky to never hear anyone on campus say something that offensive and they’re lucky nobody around them embarrassed them or got in their face for saying it. I would find another word for test anger than rape unless you want an actual angry woman calling you out.

      Grown women are plenty aware of the power dynamic in trying to make light of rape, we’re teaching our younger generation better than ever, and plenty of us have no problem measuring whose cojones are really bigger in front of your friends. Plenty of things make people angry or feel unfair every day in real life and I don’t hear grown men tossing the word rape around. It’s partially a problem of using common-sense so I’m not surprised to wonder whether someone would try to excuse it. But it only happens under the sheltering of the college rape culture. Someone who talks like that would want to deny their hand in encouraging the problem of sexual assault, but the link is undeniable.

      Posted by Sarah Koch | March 21, 2014, 12:41 am

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