Tuesday, July 5, 2011

No Laughing Matter

This post was originally written for the website Summit Series for Families.

Yesterday morning, I checked Facebook and noticed that one person I am friends with had made many, many posts on another friend’s page. I’m talking 50 or 60 posts. I cringed because I knew what this meant: I was eventually going to see a comment something akin to, “Thanks for raping my Facebook wall!” Sadly, I wasn’t disappointed; that comment did appear once the posts were discovered. This is not the first time I have seen, in particular, high school and college students throw around the word “rape” in such a casual way. I find it incredibly disturbing. Even more disturbing is that every time I see it on Facebook, it is almost always said by a female. When did this word become socially acceptable to use in such a flippant way? What is going to happen if it continues to be used to describe unfortunate but meaningless situations like having too many posts on your Facebook wall?

There is actually a new term for what happens when someone’s Facebook page is left open and “hacked” by someone else or the Facebook page is hit with hundreds of posts; it’s called “frape”, a combination of the words “Facebook” and “rape” (read an article about the effects of “frape” on boys here, and see the Urban Dictionary definitions offered here, but reader beware – at Urban Dictionary, you will encounter a deluge of obscene language, but realize this is “the site” kids use to pump up their slang).

Rape is no laughing matter. It’s nothing to be taken lightly. It’s not something to make a joke out of. It should never be treated insensitively. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network has compiled some research findings and statistics that have frighteningly real implications for our children, including
• 44% of rape and sexual assault victims are under the age of 30.
• 29% of rape and sexual assault victims are between the ages of 12 – 17.
• Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
• Victims of sexual assault are 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
• About 2/3 of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows.
• 60% of rapes and sexual assaults are never reported to the police.

There is an immense amount of education that needs to be done in order to prevent our daughters from becoming victims of this heinous crime. One of those pieces of education needs to be teaching our daughters AND sons that there is nothing funny, silly, or casual about rape, and that using the word in a joking way diminishes the impact of the word and therefore the act itself and makes it sound socially acceptable. Which is not acceptable at all.


  1. You are definitely right that the context in which words are used can change the meaning of words and consequently behavior. Casual use of the word “rape” is a good example. Usually we are worried about the negative consequences of changing the context of word use. Lenny Bruce the famous (infamous) comedian of the 1960’s suggested that we could change the meaning of hurtful words by changing their context.

    “Are there any niggers here tonight? Could you turn on the house lights, please, and could the waiters and waitresses just stop serving, just for a second? And turn off this spot. Now what did he say? "Are there any niggers here tonight?" I know there's one nigger, because I see him back there working. Let's see, there's two niggers. And between those two niggers sits a kyke. And there's another kyke— that's two kykes and three niggers. And there's a spic. Right? Hmm? There's another spic. Ooh, there's a wop; there's a polack; and, oh, a couple of greaseballs. And there's three lace-curtain Irish micks. And there's one, hip, thick, hunky, funky, boogie. Boogie boogie. Mm-hmm. I got three kykes here, do I hear five kykes? I got five kykes, do I hear six spics, I got six spics, do I hear seven niggers? I got seven niggers. Sold American. I pass with seven niggers, six spics, five micks, four kykes, three guineas, and one wop. Well, I was just trying to make a point, and that is that it's the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. Dig: if President Kennedy would just go on television, and say, "I would like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet," and if he'd just say "nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger" to every nigger he saw, "boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie," "nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger" 'til nigger didn't mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.”

  2. It would be nice to be able to take away the hurtful connotations of racial slurs, but I fear there is so much history and hatred associated with those words, that won't happen. I feel like I've stood by idly and watched other words become mainstream, like "pimp" and "jackass", and the have shows on TV like "S*** My Dad Says". But these words don't have the power that the word "rape" has, and while I can live with "pimp" being a mainstream word watered down to mean get something all gussied up, I cannot watch the word "rape" become meaningless.