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Thought of the Moment

September 10, 2010

An example of so-called rape talk? Coming out of an exercise class recently, a guy turned to one of my friends, sweating and breathless, and heaved a sigh of satisfied exhaustion. “Wow, that was just like being raped, wasn’t it?” he said. My friend stood motionless, blinking back at him. Another? In the July issue of UK Elle, the Twilight star Kristen Stewart talked about being trailed by the paparazzi, saying that when she sees the resulting photographs: “I feel like I’m looking at someone being raped.” (Stewart later apologised for the comparison). Online, there has been a lot of talk about “Facebook rape”: a term used to describe a third party getting access to someone’s Facebook account and changing their details. Almost 1.3 million people are fans of the Facebook page “Thanks wind, you have totally raped my hair”, where photos of windswept women are posted. And the rightwing US shock jocks, always ahead of the crowd with vile, vicious language, have been using rape talk for years. In separate discussions of healthcare reform last year, Rush Limbaugh warned his listeners, “get ready to get gang-raped again”, while Glenn Beck compared himself and his viewers to “the young girl saying, ‘No, no, help me,'” while “the government is Roman Polanski”.

Kira Cochrane at The Guardian writes about the prevalence of rape jokes. When people (usually men) make these jokes in front of me, and try to defend them, I try not to engage the joke itself. Instead, my question is always this: Would you make that joke in front of a woman who had been raped? And given the fact that one in four college-aged women in the U.S. has survived rape or attempted rape, are you really willing to take your chances?

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