Seriously, STOP using Rape Analogies. Now.
This post is a part of the “Out of the Kitchen” weekly column in which various news and pop culture items will be examined through a feminist lens.
Trigger Warning for discussion of rape.
I was just reading through Jezebel, when I encountered this quote from Johnny Depp about photo shoots:
Well, you just feel like you’re being raped somehow. Raped … It feels like a kind of weird — just weird, man.” He’ll pose with fans, “But whenever you have a photo shoot or something like that, it’s like — you just feel dumb. It’s just so stupid.
This kind of stuff just outrages me so much that I have a hard time even knowing where to begin. Because I am usually quite happily enclosed in a protective feminist bubble, I hear rape metaphors rather infrequently in my personal life. And when I do hear them, I feel pretty confident in pointing out how very wrong they are.
However, there is a pretty strong trend within our society for rape analogies to be totally commonplace. They’re made by the likes of political pundits, actors, and the newest popular television shows. As a connoisseur of pop culture, I’m continuously confronted with rape analogies that I can’t directly shut down, unlike those ones in my personal life. However, I feel I would be truly remiss not to say something about this problem. In that spirit, this is my attempt to join the contingent of feminists speaking out against this crap.
I feel like it should be obvious—just as rape jokes aren’t funny, rape analogies are extremely callous to the extremely high number of women in our world who are sexual assault survivors. You are taking a trivial, commonplace event (in this case being photographed) and comparing it to something vastly more serious and real. I would estimate that 99.9% of people using rape analogies are not survivors. Therefore, these people, like Mr. Depp, are making a comparison to something which they have no firsthand experience with, but feel the need to invoke the emotions involved. It all comes across as utterly insensitive and frankly, assholish.
I really feel like it is no question that experiencing rape is one of the most horrific things a person can survive. There is a reason trigger warnings exist on feminist blogs when frank discussions of rape are a part of the intellectual discourse. Rape survivors experience many extremely serious emotional consequences, including PTSD. According to PsychCentral, a trigger “sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.” Therefore, on feminist blogs, trigger warnings are necessary because discussing rape is central to the movement but such warnings allows survivors to skip over things which may throw them back into that horrible moment.
Conversely, unsympathetically throwing around rape analogies, as in Mr. Depp’s case, not only risks triggering survivors, but it also prevents the unsuspecting audience from protecting themselves by even knowing what to avoid in the first place. I can’t say it enough; use rape analogies and you’ll look like a dick, even to those of us who are not survivors, but simply respect other people’s experiences and understand the gravity of words. I can think of no reason to ever utilize a rape analogy. It doesn’t make your point stronger. It’s just unnecessary.
To summarize and really drive this point home, I’d like to direct you toward Melissa McEwans thoughts on this issue:
“I think the word raped gets thrown around far too casually. You ever listen to a bunch of guys playing video games with each other online? It’s like, ‘Ah man you shot me in the back dude. You raped me dude!’ I’m pretty sure if I talked to a woman who’s been through that horrific situation and I said, ‘What was it like, you know, being raped?’ she’s not gonna look at me and go, ‘Have you ever played Halo?’”—Dane Cook, in his new comedy special “Isolated Incident.”
The other night, I turned on the television and the channel was still tuned to Comedy Central from watching “The Colbert Report” the night before. “Isolated Incident” was airing, and in the maybe 6 seconds it took me to change the channel, Cook said something racist, xenophobic, and sexist.
And even he gets that casually throwing around the word rape is inappropriate.
Which means that anyone who doesn’t is a bigger douche than Dane Cook.
Seriously people. Dane Cook gets it. I don’t really need to drive this point home anymore, do I?