Everyone, Please Stop Using the Word “Rape” to Describe Things That Aren’t Sexual Assault

by: Khai Devon

Rape is bad. That’s a fact. Non-consensual sexual contact, in any form, is wrong and terrible. It is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a person—at times a fate worse than death. At least with death, then you’re dead, and you don’t have to live with the aftermath. With the pain, both physical and emotional, with the fear it causes, and with other people disbelieving you or trivializing your experience.

Most wouldn’t intentionally trivialize a rape survivor’s experience. We wouldn’t come right out and tell them that what they went through was no big deal, and when we hear a survivor tell us their story, we are empathetic and caring.  Yet, there is a growing trend in popular rhetoric that inherently trivializes the experience of being raped and surviving that horror.  Using “rape” as a word to describe any little thing we dislike.

Your math test didn’t rape you—you failed it. You weren’t raped by your work schedule, it was a long and tiring work week.  You weren’t raped by that bong hit, it made you high as a kite. Your favorite team winning their latest game by a large margin doesn’t mean they raped the other team.  Rape is non-consensual, forcible and/or coercive sexual contact. To be raped tears one apart physically and emotionally. It’s not something you can shake off with a hot shower or some tacos.

And it’s time we stopped using “rape” to describe minor annoyances. To do so trivializes the experience of truly being raped, essentially placing the forcible intrusion of someone else’s power onto your sexuality at the same level as a test you forgot to study for, or a game you lost. There are no words for how wrong that comparison is, on both a literal and a moral level.

There is a huge problem with unreported rape in this country. RAINN, the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, estimates that only one in three rapes are ever reported to authorities—and the recidivism rate for rapists is incredibly high. To trivialize the experience, rather than giving it it’s proper due and supporting and encouraging the victims of rape to come forward, in a safe and supportive environment, we are part of the problem. We are part of the reason people get away with rape—because we create an environment in which people don’t think of rape as something very, very bad—we think of it as a minor annoyance.

But it is a life changing experience that often leaves its victims with post traumatic stress disorder, lasting physical and emotional effects, and a sense of shame and self-loathing. We can fight the after effects. We can support the victims of rape, encouraging them to name their experience, fight back, heal and live well—or we can make them feel like they’re alone, and no one else would find it nearly as big of a deal.

Which do you choose?

Khai Devon is a genderqueer pansexual in hir early twenties, about to embark on a life changing adventure, pursuing hir dream of becoming a slam poet in Portland, Oregon. Sie writes blogs at disturbinglynormal. wordpress.com and duffelbagandadream.wordpress.com, updating whenever the words overflow. Queero.


3 responses to “Everyone, Please Stop Using the Word “Rape” to Describe Things That Aren’t Sexual Assault

  1. As someone who was raped (about 6 months ago), I hate hearing rape ‘jokes’ on tv and from my friends. They don’t know what happened to me, so they don’t know how much it hurts. If people altogether stopped making light of rape, maybe they’ll take it more seriously understand the gravity of it.

  2. oh shut up you gay tart it’s just another way to express ourselfs. maybe if you stop with the political correctness and start concentrating on things that really matter you might just be taken seriously

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