Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Serious stuff.

This has been bothering me since I first read it a few days ago. It disturbs me that rape can still be trivialized in this way. I'm sure the participants in the conversation, as well as the bloggers who reported it, would argue that they "were only joking," but that, in fact, is the problem. To suggest, especially in jest, that a rape can be "good" is to fail to recognize the gravity of the violence that is done not only to the victim's body, but to his or her security of person.

As I understand it, security of person--which is a fundamental human right according to Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights--refers more to psychological than physical state. It is the sense of safety; it is the awareness of one's own freedom from threat or harm. It is one's security of person, I would argue, that is often most damaged by rape. (There's that bit of folk-wisdom about emotional and psychological wounds taking longer to heal than the physical ones...) To suggest that a rape can be "good" in the way that our two conversationalists did with their "joke" is to suggest that rape can be pleasurable. It is to diminish, if not deny outright, the emotional and psychological effects of rape.

I don't criticize the bloggers for publishing the comments to which I've linked above, nor do deny the right of those two engineers to joke in the way that they want (within reason, of course, but I won't get into my thoughts on freedom of speech and hate speech tonight. Especially since I don't think that the rape comments can be construed as hate speech. Offensive, vile ignorance, yes; hate speech, no.) What I do find objectionable is the assumptions about rape that are implicit in such a joke.

Rape is neither pleasurable, nor is it trivial. And as long as we cultivate an atmosphere of disregard, if not hostility, towards rape victims by tacitly approving of offensive jokes--whether by laughing, or by failing to voice our objections and thus turn ignorance into an opportunity for education--there will continue to be unreported rapes. We must treat the subject of rape itself seriously if victims of rape are to feel as though they will be believed and treated with respect--which for many may indeed be a first step towards repairing that security of person.

I know that what I've said isn't anything that hasn't been said before, but I really needed to get that off my chest.

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