Sometimes, looking at things from a sideways angle is helpful...

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Frape, and rape.


"I got raped yesterday"
"I got fraped yesterday"

When I hear those two things, they sound almost identical. When I see those two things,they look almost identical. It's almost easy to mistake one statement for the other. However, they're vastly different in meaning. 

"someone used my Facebook without asking yesterday, and posted or changed something"
"somebody raped me yesterday"

Every time I hear or see the word rape, I find it triggering. Every time, it catches my breath in my throat, I shudder, and for a split second I feel fingers all over my skin. The same happens when I see the word "frape". Now, historically I understand that "rape" had several meanings, including spoilage and plunder,but much as I'm disgusted by anyone who cries "grammar" to avoid using gender neutral pronouns for trans people, I'm equally disgusted by people who say"but linguistic roots" to justify using language that hurts people.

A lot of the discussion around the word "frape" moves towards victim-blaming - that people shouldn't be so weak as to be upset by a word, and the world is cruel and won't always pander to people's pathetic little triggers. It won't. I can't ask everyone to stop being called "Dave" because hearing that name sparks instant flashbacks. What I can do is say"there are plenty of words you can use instead of 'frape', it doesn't hurt or impinge on your rights to be asked not to use it, and it's a word that hurts people.

Now, not everyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted will find it hurtful or triggering, of course, and I'm sure some of you have friends who have been, and who use it, but I don't think that makes it okay. 

This reminds me of rape jokes. Some of them are sometimes quite funny. Some of them, in the right context, with the right people, make me laugh. Sometimes I make wry comments about my own experiences, because it's the only way I can survive. However, when you make a rape joke, it's easy to forget two potential audiences: people who have been raped, and people who might rape someone. For people who have been raped, yes, it could be funny, or fine, or not triggering. On the other hand it could make those people think you find rape funny, or you don't care that you've been raped, or that rape is such a light matter to you that you might rape them. For people who might rape someone, it can normalize rape, make it something that's okay to joke about. It might make them think you're a kindred spirit, a fellow potential rapist. It might encourage them.

This is why I'm opposed to rape jokes, except in a very specific and necessary context, and that's what "frape" is, it's making a joke out of rape. It's not because I find all rape jokes unfunny, although I find the word "frape" very unfunny. I do however find the concept of using someone's Facebook account to make amusing statuses and changes to their profile funny. I just don't think it's comparable to rape, and I think that language is triggering, minimizing, and inappropriate, and there isn't a defense for using the word "frape" that doesn't come down to victim blaming.

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