I read an article from the Albuquerque Journal entitled; “Rebranding of ‘rape’ minimizes serious problem.”
I entirely agree.
Of course, lots of snarky equivalents come to mind like, non-consensual loss of life, non-consensual reassignment of property and non-consensual physical injury. Those phrases are descriptions of murder, theft and assault. Exchanging a word with a description of the word serves nobody. Actually, I take that back. Rebranding unpleasant words does serve someone; the perpetrator.
One of the huge problems with rape in our culture is a denial of what rape actually is. Non-consensual sex is rape. Always. Every time. There is really no grey area in this. If all participants are not participating freely, then rape happened. And not only participating freely, but consciously. Someone who is impaired through drugs or alcohol may not say “no,” but that does not mean they consented. This stuff is really not that difficult to understand.
Consent is a conscious choice made without duress. If the person feels that repercussions will follow if they say “no,” then they did not consent. If the person is unable to say “no,” then they did not consent.
Another huge factor in this is the myth that men MUST have sex whenever they can. That for some reason, if a man can “convince” a woman to have sex with him, it’s ok. Guess what guys; still rape. If you need to convince, coerce, threaten or insist that a woman have sex with you, you have raped her. Really truly, if she wants to have sex, she will let you know.
Some folks are shy about communicating around sex. That’s understandable, because in our culture, sex is such a taboo. This is still not an excuse. Sex is such an intimate and vulnerable act, we must create safe space to engage in it. There can be no misunderstanding.
I blame the culture of rape, which we live in. Let’s be real clear on this. Rape culture is intimately connected to the culture of violence we live in. Rape is a tool of violence. Rape is often conflated with an act of lust. Look, I cannot see into the hearts of all men, so to say “never” or “always” would be ridiculous. What I can say is that rape is more often than not about power, control and domination. This is patriarchy at it’s worst. This is our culture of violence perpetrating directly upon the bodies of women.
This culture creates many myths around rape, but two of them stand out in relation to this rebranding.
Myth 1) Women are responsible for being raped.
Myth 2) Rape is only committed by “monsters.”
Number one is hopefully pretty clear. If not, read this next part slowly. Men are responsible for raping women. That’s it. When a man rapes, there is no other responsibility but his own. None. The rebranding of rape contributes to blaming women for rape. “Non-consensual sex” says that she did actually have sex, she just didn’t say “yes.” It implies that the victim COULD have done more to resist. It implies that there is a third kind of sex between rape and consensual sex. It implies that non-consensual sex is not the same as rape.
It is the same.
Number two is part of the strategy for saying non-consensual sex in place of rape. The image that comes to mind when one hears the word “rapist” is of a monster or pervert who preys upon women. I get the whole notion of luring folks out of the shadows with softer words. It is so much easier to admit to non-consensual sex than it is to admit rape. That’s the problem though. People don’t think it’s rape. It becomes normalized. It becomes white washed. “If my peers can admit to non-consensual sex, then maybe it’s not such a bad thing…” Again and Again and Again — Non-consensual sex IS RAPE. You don’t have to be a monster to do it. But you DO NEED to understand why it is monstrous.
Call it what it is. Learn what it means. This is much more important than rebranding rape to be more palatable. Because it’s NOT palatable. It is a violation.