Note: Originally published on Empathize This and republished here with permission.
I am a woman who is into the geekier pursuits. I spend most weekends playing Pathfinder with my group, for instance. And I love video games and just about anything sci-fi or fantasy.
Here’s my problem: I am also a survivor of an abusive relationship in which I was violently, sexually abused. Why are these two things related?
Well, one of the problems I have with most other people who are geeky like me is that they use rape as a joke. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve had to have the emotionally painful and awkward conversation of “Please don’t use rape as a joke.”
The most recent one I can remember was when I was playing Magic: the Gathering at my usual gaming shop and the guy (yes, it’s pretty much always guys. I can’t really remember any time when it’s been a woman making these jokes) said, “Man, I’m getting raped on my mana.” I asked him not to use rape in that context, and he – like most of the guys I talk to about this – argued that he “didn’t mean anything by it” and “it’s just a word.”
It’s not “just a word”. It’s a horrible, terrible thing that happens to people all over the world, and it’s not something I would wish on anyone (Not even the guy that raped me. That’s how bad and fucked up it is). It’s a word that instantly reminds me of what I went through, it’s a word that makes me sick and angry, and using it as a joke trivializes something that so many people live in fear of. So when I ask guys to stop using that word as a joke, it should be easy right? After all, it’s “just a word” for them. But no, they manage to make the situation even worse.
The worst part of all of this is that I have to usually argue for this simple request. Instead of having the common decency to stop doing something because someone says it offends them, guys will refuse to stop. They don’t seem to realize how ironic it is too, that they can’t take “stop” for an answer. They will insist on arguing that it’s okay to joke about rape. I often have to outright come out and say that I’m a rape survivor before they’ll stop. I have to explain that it’s a soul crushing experience, that I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD because of it, that I have to have my friends read/watch/play things before I do because I need to be warned of potentially triggering things, and that there are many, many people like me.
How awful is that? There is so little empathy for survivors that guys refuse to consider how damaging that word is. It’s frustrating and it makes me angry that I have to share this sensitive and ugly part of my life with people I barely know, for them to take my request seriously.
Usually, it gets very awkward and quiet after I explain why I don’t appreciate rape jokes. They don’t quite know what to say. Some apologize, others stay silent. Some just laugh it off.
The worst reactions are “what were you wearing?” and “were you drunk?”
It just…makes me feel like my experiences and my trauma are not valid.