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.
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?