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This Is How Using “Rape” As A Slang Glorifies A Horrific Culture

By Vennela Krishna:

In recent times, I have frequently observed the usage of ‘rape’ in everyday language. It is used to signify any aggressive or destructive act, usually one that results in extensive damage to a person. “Their team completely raped ours in the football match”, “The professor fully raped me during my presentation”, “You raped her with that awesome reply” are just some of the contexts in which I found the word being used in recent times. Someone who saw a friend eating large chucks of food from a rather full, cluttered plate at lunch today remarked, “Dude, you’re raping the food.” And this provoked me to write this essay.

rape jokez

As much as I understand that the term is used as a metaphor to express the roughness of the act, I cannot help but point out that we just might be failing to realize that in doing so, we are also portraying the victim to be ‘damaged’ in some way. We are overlooking that we are implying that rape always results in some damage to the victim’s personality.

I am going to refrain from pointing out cases where rape does not necessarily result in physical damage to the victim should it seem like I am attempting to belittle the victim’s suffering. I am not. However, it is the mental trauma that is most hard to cope with. In a country like ours, where sexual intercourse between a man and a woman (or that between persons of the same gender) is yet to be accepted as a normal human activity, a woman who loses her virginity before marriage is seen as ‘broken’. She is ostracized from the society, and is labeled as being ‘easy’. Even more unfortunately, a victim of rape is also given the same treatment.

As if the mental agony after the deplorable incident is not enough to cope with, the society reminds the woman of the incident for the rest of her life. The woman is perceived to be permanently damaged, and her life can never be the same again. I can only dream of a day when a rape victim is given support from the society the same way a victim of some other crime is. My activist neighbor was assaulted by goons, and the entire neighbourhood turned up to support him. He was considered to be brave for surviving the attack and getting back to his usual life. I do not believe I’ll receive the same kind of support if I become a victim of rape, let alone be considered a hero for attempting to forget the incident and getting back to my normal life. Irony.

In a scenario like this, using ‘rape’ to describe an act that results in damage makes me extremely uncomfortable. The act might have been brutal, but ‘rape’ is not an apt metaphor for someone who is looking through the victim’s perspective. When you talk of someone ‘raping’ someone or something, you’re essentially implying that what was ‘raped’ underwent some serious damage. But is this what we must address in a rape? The physical damage might not always be permanent. It is the act that is supposed to be addressed.

Using ‘rape’ in colloquial speech reflects the society’s understanding of rape as an act that results in extensive damage. We need to learn to condemn rape as an act, irrespective of what injury has been inflicted upon the victim.

Rape is an act that is driven by reckless disrespect to a fellow human-being, something that completely crosses the boundaries of limitations imposed on human beings. And using ‘rape’ as a verb to describe any aggressive doing is not only completely incorrect, but also trivializes the actual act of rape. This guy raped his food. The Professor completely raped him during presentations. They raped Nirbhaya. They are NOT the same thing. After a while you lose the gravity of the heinous act.

Often, rape is also used as a means of proving a man’s superiority over a woman, and is employed as a means of subjugation. It was used to signify victory and triumph in older times, back when women were never treated as equals to men. I do not believe this notion has completely vanished. And this is what disturbs me the most when ‘rape’ is used to talk about any forceful act.

The slang version of rape is always used to talk about an act of a powerful, forceful and aggressive person. Also, the person who ‘rapes’ is always seen as victorious and triumphant, someone whose powerful act renders someone defeated and fallen. Only few times have I heard my friends using ‘rape’ to describe a woman’s aggressive act. For someone from a generation which is trying to come out of the patriarchal-society mould, it is extremely disconcerting to see my peers unintentionally revert to the principles of a male-dominated culture.

If someone says that Chennai Super Kings ‘raped’ Sunrisers Hyderabad in a cricket match, they mean that SRH was utterly defeated by CSK. Not only does this metaphor trivialize the actual crime of rape, but this description also portrays CSK as an uncontested champion, as a powerful force that completely conquers a weaker one.

The notion that a woman is eternally defeated and conquered when she is raped is one that has no place in a society that is trying to break away from the confines of a previously patriarchal society to transform into one that empowers its women. A rapist needs to be seen as a criminal, and it is not the victim who should be ostracized from the society.

A rape is an act of a criminal. A rapist is a criminal. A rapist is not seen as a glorious conqueror.

If you don’t equate a rapist to be a triumphant power whose rape of a person makes him victorious, why would you use ‘rape’ as a metaphor to describe a completely incomparable, aggressive act?

You must be to comment.
  1. Chandramaulika

    beautifully presented 🙂 apart from the points written by the author, I also believe that by using the word “rape” so casually, somewhere we are taking that for granted. It seems as if incidents of rape do happen and we are not at all concerned with that. In other words we are accepting it to be a part of life and society.

  2. Sumedha Bharpilania

    Thank you for writing this. Really!

  3. Krishnakali (Rhea)

    A nicely written piece!

  4. Utsav J.R

    I laud your efforts in bringing to light, the power this word ‘rape’ has on the society we speak and your arguments are indeed the most admirable. I would have loved to support all of these arguments but I found a few twisted out of context; by twisted out of context I feel they have been twisted out of their actual term to your arguments’ convenience. Some may or may not ask me why – to the ones who do, here is what you could also take in to account. Let’s take your arguments and carefully weigh them across: Para 3: In a country like…. She is ostracized from the society, and is labeled as being ‘easy’… a victim of rape is also given the same treatment. Your argument breaks at the very first line, in a country like ours – you arrived at the general conclusion that it’s the same in all places, I’d like to emphasis on the fact that it’s not. There are sane pockets of society that we must feel happy about and fear the gravity of the trauma a person endures at other places – anywhere in the world (cause in my humble opinion rape is a universal phenomenon – places like Uganda – God bless the women)
    #Para 7: Using ‘rape’ in colloquial speech reflects the society’s understanding of rape as an act that results in extensive damage. We need to learn to condemn rape as an act, irrespective of what injury has been inflicted upon the victim. Here you are dwelling in to the linguistics and you are deriving more than what the word requires – is what I feel; for instance, there are slangs that always have conflicted origins, even the most basic ones – these words are just fillers with absolutely no ramifications whatsoever – and it’s always contextual. Friends greet each other and often use the terms like ‘bitch’ and ‘motherfucker’ ‘asshole’ etc and it’s foolishness to take actions up on it by discussing the symbolism behind such words. If any then I’d say that let ‘Rape’ really be a joke cause the reality doesn’t need it. Ergo the jokes on so many different aspects of life – they also show how futile it is to give it any importance to such acts at all.
    As a women coming out of the patriarchal mould you say? Which is weird cause in essence you are saying that male dominance was a part of this patriarchy and ergo rape was permissible? You are mixing the assertive nature of rape by guiding it through an age old system which in essence are not mutually inclusive.
    Rape on the other end is about forcing oneself over the other – ironically the word symbolises men forcefully having sex with women but nobody emphasises the fact that – well it’s the action that’s so disquieting, not the gender? you have somehow taken the word ‘Rape’ and made it a women’s thing which it’s not, even children and men experience countless instances of sexual harassment. Ironically, if a man were to experience sexually assaulted or harassed by a women, the society makes light of that; you are a man, what’s your problem? you must have enjoyed it. As a guy who has endured this, I feel that the word in itself is harmless – we should rather question our impotence, the impotence of the society you and I live in rather than take it out on a word that can mean nothing in a place where it doesn’t belong.

    1. Vensy

      Dear Utsav,

      First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to write such a comprehensive reaction to the piece.
      I must however tell you that I do not completely agree with any of your objections (although you raise some very pertinent issues, and thank you for that).

      What I meant when I said “In a country like ours” is that India is still largely a patriarchal society. But I do take your point, this is a piece I wrote long back, but if I had the chance to edit it, I’d have said “In a largely patriarchal society like ours”. Please do not forget the context in which I have used it: Sexual intercourse remains a taboo in most parts of the country. The exceptions you speak about are just that: exceptions. I do not agree that the “sane pockets” are big enough to be considered given the bigger picture. I agree that our country is not alone; rapes happen everywhere (If it had seemed like I said India is the only country, I am sorry, because I did not intend to make such a statement)

      Your second objection raises the most important question, one that questions the basic premise of my entire article: That “rape” in slang is just a term used like countless other obscenities. However, Utsav, I have explained clearly in my piece why I think the usage of “rape” signifies greater implications, and it will be futile for me to re-enumerate the same arguments. Probably the last line of the article with the rest of the article as a contextual reference might answer your question?

      “Women coming out of the patriarchal mould”? I believe I said “society”. I do not understand how you logically conclude from this statement that I said rape was permissible before. “You are mixing the assertive nature of rape by guiding it through an age old system which in essence are not mutually inclusive.” If anything, I have talked about the usage of rape signifying a larger culture within a patriarchal society, and that I have severe problems with it. Probably I was not able to convey the message clearly?

      The final argument you make has been extremely helpful. I have overlooked to include men who were victims, and I shall keep it in mind next time when I write about this. My piece was primarily intended to be a rant about how women are unjustly discriminated, but this was no excuse to not include men. Having said that, however, I must disagree with your conclusion that I have made this a women’s issue, because how a rape victim is treated was a secondary observation: not the argument I was trying to make.

      You can think that arguments against words and phrases in language is trivial compared to the larger battles we have against laws and attitudes.
      However, different people have different ways of fighting, and I believe mine lies in questioning things that we take for granted, things that I believe influence greater consequences.

      Rape culture, Utsav, is a product of the society which you and I wish to question. This word, and every other branch that stems out of this harmful culture, must be questioned and attacked to attack the culture itself. I believe we can hence change the “impotence” of this society, and it is that conviction that made me write this piece.

      You have endured trauma, you say. Thank you very much for your comments on the piece. I wish you the best, and I honestly hope you inspire other male victims to fight back against the crime. More power to you.

  5. gautam govinda

    hey bhagwaan!
    you belong to the ouch generation people who have problems with every damn thing. Kisi ne ye kyu keh diya, vo kyu keh diya. I wish in your childhood your parents gave you a smack or two on the head at least you would be speaking sense. Really, articles like these are a shame to normal society. If every person becomes like you and shares the same mindset then there would be no MEN, only wussies. This article is a disgrace to normalcy

    1. new generation

      i think now ur parents should smack u hard . pls dont talk abt generations , this article is about that rape shouldnt be used as a metaphor bcz its nt a glorious act , if u cant read the whole and understand that ur problm , and dnt blurt abt being men , having same mindset is nearly impossible because women are always objectified that wat your generation taught us , stop being a jerk bcz dat dnt make u MAN , u r jst pathetic wid ur ugly thinking ..

    2. gautam govinda

      did i hurt your sensibilities little lady? Koi baat nai, sab thik ho jayega.

    3. grandmother

      hi little dick, mummy is looking for you, dinner is getting cold. go and eat quickly like a good little boy then you have to do homework. if you don’t study well, how you’ll get engineering admission and then a bahu who will bring your mummy dowry?

    4. gautam govinda

      you used words like dick and dowry. I hope you know usage of these kind of words glorifies a horrible culture. And i think you get what i am saying now g.mama.

  6. gautam govinda

    i may add that all of you who are spewing BS here were probably be the ones who laughed the most when the ‘balatkaar’ speech scene came in 3 idiots. But going by the logic of the ‘writer’ we must ban amir khan, prem chopra, ranjit, tapas pal, omi vaidya, countless football fans, almost 80% of the people on reddit, 9gag and football diacussion forums just because they use rape in their words. If the world goes by this logic then almost all things would be banned since everyone has a problem with everything now a days. Your writeup brings back memories of the words of khap panchayat. They say chowmein incites rapes, you say the usage of the word, even if it is in good humour, is a danger to women. Wussy.

  7. Rishi

    Fine essay, but like most feminist ones u have overdone it.
    Firstly, u don’t seem to have understood what it means.
    Hope u have seen ‘3 idiots’, there u find its most proper & common usage/s.
    It denotes- ultimate insult, word ‘gang*****’ describes an even higher degree.
    Its like : Principal ‘humiliated’ us, not ‘overwhelmed us with his manhood’ !!!
    Plus, considering mentality is ur issue, it is a slang, not to be meant when uttered.
    When i call my friend say, BC or MF, i’m not a sick n’ lewed sex addict.
    Or a homophobic either if i call him an Asshole.
    Or a misogynist for callin him Pussy, nor support any of dem.
    No ladies, I or some user of d above slang is an already or wannabe rapist, nor thinks highly of it.
    We use it ’cause it helps COMMUNICATE easier.
    Period. ( < dont start again?!)

    1. gautam govinda

      ^ this guy gets it.

  8. annony

    Coz its a feminist site so of course an article on word ‘rape’ was selected. No need to care about kill, tsunami, hitler etc.

  9. Manu

    I hope you realise your article was utterly dreadful. Both in content and execution.

  10. R R Mehta

    Sexual gratification is only small part of the psychology behind violent rapes. Revenge, establishment of personal/clan superiority, individual urge to feel powerful against a helpless victim by people suffering from inferiority complex, breaking the will of the victim and subjugating them through acts of terror and ultimate urge to destroy and vent out its own personal frustrations & hostility towards its own surrounding and society etc are the greater motive behind employing violent means durig acts of rapes etc are greater motives of the rapist. innocent Victims are visualised as symbols and personified as representative of all the subconscious deprivation, rejections, discriminations and inadequacies suffered by the perpetrator in his own personal life which is manifisted in the violent means he employs to settle the scores for things denied to him by the civilised society in his own personal life. like if many girls have rejecte his advances in his life time for what ever reasons it may be the rapist takes revenge from its victim of all those rejections as if her current victim is representing all the girs who rejected him. Violent rapes are not merely sexual acts but form of power games. It is less to do with sexual gratifications alone as moralists often project it to be naively transferring the onus of rape on the victim as if some how it is the victim who had provoked the beast in the rapist by her dressing sense, behaviour or making herself available in a situation where it was logical and natural for her to get raped.

  11. Anuragh Karanam

    Although i agree that using the word “rape” is a complete slaughter of English. I necessarily do not agree with you opinion, it seemed too extreme to me. According to me we use the word “rape” because it’s easy and anything that is easy sticks. it is the same as using f-uck, we use it because it is easy to use and can be used as any part of speech (watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSEXgQ58AoM)
    In the examples you gave, every single time ‘rape’ can be replaced by the F-word. (for instance The Professor completely fucked him during presentations). it over powers other words because of its versatility. No one has any objection to using the F-word as a part of a sentence because of the reason you are against the use of rape
    If you observe ‘rape’ is the Indian version of ‘f-uck’.
    Now look at this “he was too strong, but i raped him in a fight”. The above example is one such proof that the word rape is not used only when the strong defeat the weak like you mentioned in the CSK vs SRH example ( I completely agree that CSK is stronger than SRH 😛 ) , it is used like the word fuck in any and every possible context
    if one was not to use the word ‘rape’or ‘fuck’,one has to say
    CSK trounced SRH in a cricket match
    The prof lambasted the student during is persentation
    he devoured his sandwich (if you want to say he ate it in i bite or something along those lines)
    he gobbled his sandwich, because he was getting late for the movie (raped can be used in both the examples)

    using all that requires our brain to work hard
    “Living is too hard right now. At least let the language be easy.”~let people use ‘rape’, ‘fuck’ or whatever the fuck they want
    Please don’t forget language is just a tool to convey emotion and language is not emotion
    P.S.- I am against rape

  12. Shreela Sen

    So true!
    I have heard my own friend circle say “when rape is inevitable, enjoy it”
    & it has dumbfounded me every time.
    I have asked them, if I were being raped by goons, & by some chance, called for help, and it just HAPPENED to be THEIR no., would they be able to give that advice?
    If not, then how can they TRIVIALIZE rape, like “shit happens, RAPE happens”?
    (I truly hope I do not reach gautam govind’s no., though, because that is EXACTLY what he will tell me)

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