The recent epidemic (which is not recent at all) begs us, in the least to shun our deadened post-modernist sensitivities which are all spent on rage and hurt. We need to very seriously analyse what has led us into a culture in which not only can the vulnerable (including children and the disabled) be raped but the discourse surrounding the rape can make space for sentiments other than sheer rage and offence at the violent act of crime.
This all-accommodating space is termed in feminist jargon as ‘rape culture.’ Like a multi-armed venomous octopus, rape culture extends its arms into the multiple facets of our social, cultural, and political existences. It may loosely be defined as a pervasive ‘supporting’ culture that, in manners unconscious and conscious, carves out a space for the crime of rape to take place. In other words, it mothers and nurtures the build-up to a rape and subsequently protects and defends what follows, as is evidenced by the recent events where the ‘nation’ has replaced the ‘honour of the Father’. The horror of the rape(s) must now be swept under carpets lest we face badnaami in global media.
The haughtiness of academic or ‘woke’ circles rarely allows for any kind of analysis or dissection of the woke person’s role in a culture of this kind. Such a person almost instinctually assumes the moral high ground. The possibility that all of us, not just the ‘village idiot’, could be guilty of partaking in and promoting such a culture stings our very ‘intellectual’ egos. Thus, it is ever so crucial that we for once make ourselves subject to trial.
If language is a “window into the minds of individuals” and by extension of cultures, then it is crucial that the function of language in such a culture be scrutinised. It so happened that during the course of analysis of my own language, I found a word, then a phrase, which then extended into a concept, and the concept morphing into a culture suddenly laid bare before me my own contribution to rape culture. The word is ‘fuck’, one commonly used as an intensifier, but essentially refers to the act of sexual intercourse. The bridge connecting the two is interesting in its revelatory capacity. Where the act of sexual intercourse would require equal participation from two parties, the act of ‘fucking’ would require one to dominate, and the other to submit (with or without consent).
At its surface, the phrase ‘fuck you’ (a pervasive slang even in woke circles) is an outright threat of rape. This in itself must suffice for its elision from our quotidian language. But the problematic currency of the phrase in our cultures is indicative of something graver – that our understanding of sexual relations is for a very large part unconsciously received, and that although all of us might not be guilty of rape, almost all of us are guilty of partaking in rape culture.
That the word ‘fuck’, laced with overtones of violence, became synonymous with ‘sexual intercourse’ in the evolutionary history of our language is telling of our eagerness to perceive sexual relations as inclusive of a certain degree of violence. Therefore, as constituted within unequal power relations, where one eternally remains the ‘active giver’ and the other a ‘passive receiver.’ A parallel may also be drawn between the rationale behind its linguistic use – as a convenient filler for a linguistic lack and/or a linguistic substitute for anger – and its displaced material manifestation upon the body of the vulnerable – rape, and acid attacks.
The fact that the statement “we live in a fucking rape culture” can smoothly pass through our conscious critical filters, is in the least a wake-up call. When threats of rape are so casually embedded in the urban woke person’s grammar, and when the grammar of sexual relationships unconsciously received, is it too far-fetched that what is normalised in language becomes normalised in practice too?