Colloquial use of the word ‘rape’ is not ok

by Madison Hopkins


Stupidity happens. Some mistakes are more permissible than others, but using the word “rape” in casual and incorrect contexts is inexcusable. For example, saying, “Wow, that midterm just raped me. I totally failed.” I’m sure the test was hard, but it’s shocking to hear an inanimate object was able to sexually assault you. If this was truly the case, there are probably larger issues at play.

Obviously, the speaker of this ignorant comment didn’t mean it literally. He was using rape to express his apparent inability to over pass an exam or perhaps to insinuate its difficulty. We all know what the literal definition of the word is and hopefully we understand the seriousness of the act for perpetrators and victims alike.

What I cannot seem to grasp is why the word has become a part of slang. By misusing the word, we have become desensitized to its true meaning and therefore contribute to a rape culture. This culture causes sexual assault victims to fear coming forward with their experiences. If we exploit the word to explain how one NFL team pummeled the other or as an excuse for an embarrassing hook up, we inadvertently diminish the severity of its true meaning.

Abuse of the word isn’t just confined to campus chitchat. Rape jokes have been the focus of recent attention after an incident at Laugh Factory this past summer. Daniel Tosh, a well-known comedian, carelessly joked about the issue. After a female audience member called him out for his thoughtless humor, Tosh responded by joking about gang raping her. The comedian received justifiably strong negative feedback.

Another outlet infamous among San Diego State students for its audacity is the ethically dubious, alternative newspaper, The Koala. I admit to being an occasional reader and sometimes appreciating its uncensored humor, but it often crosses the line. In Volume 6 Issue 6, the article “How to Not Get Raped! Take the Quiz to Find Out if You’re Really the Victim” was published. The quiz goes on to give an array of ways a girl can victimize herself and allow men no other option than to rape her.

Yes, this is clearly meant as a joke and is not to be taken seriously. The real issue is a society which considers comedy such as this to be funny at all. If we continue to reaffirm harmful misconceptions about sexual harassment, we encourage rape in our culture, pressing women into silence. We all have a responsibility to refrain from using such offensive humor and discourage those who do.

The fact is, rape and sexual harassment are real issue that are not to be taken lightly. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, more than 200,000 rapes and other sexual assaults happen every year. If this number is too abstract for you, let me bring it closer to home. This is more than the entire population of Oceanside.

The problem only gets worse on college campuses. Nearly 20 percent of female college students will be the victim of sexual assaults, including failed attempts, during their college careers. SDSU Police Department reported 11 forcible sex offenses in 2010, and four in 2011.

Even these numbers are grossly underreported. In fact, the Crisis Connection reported only 10 percent of rapes experienced by college women are reported. With that logic, we could assume there have been more than 100 victims during the past two years on our campus.

Exploitation of the word rape creates an unfriendly environment for those wishing to be taken seriously. Even if you have never experienced anything as serious as rape, we need to legitimize the needs of those who have instead of making jokes at their expense. People find it easier to use the word rape in other situations rather than deal with the severity the actual definition brings. This new colloquial definition is used as another word to show domination of something or someone. It is still rooted in the actual meaning of the word, showing we do understand, but we just don’t care.

The word rape represents a violent and horrific act. Victims deal with traumatic physical and psychosocial repercussions. They do not need the added fear caused by stigmatization of rape. Those who have been hurt deserve a safe environment to come forward with their experiences. They deserve encouraging understanding of the issues and they do not deserve a term describing their experiences to be exploited for personal amusement. A test, bank account or game cannot be raped and cannot harm you in return, so please do not tell me they can.