|From 2011's SlutWalk. Yes, really!|
Before you all start blocking me, I'll explain. The idiots over the last week who have been using the #RapeLOL hashtag on Twitter are just that: idiots. There's no indication that they are promoting rape, although the whole "it's not rape if..." prefix is no doubt moronic to use, the thing that offends me the most about the whole deal is the fact that the jokes they're telling simply aren't funny. They're not. Rape is a very sensitive subject because it's an incredibly serious issue, and if you're going to tell a very limp joke that doesn't work, it's going to end up being incredibly insensitive.
Ignoring the whole issue of why people seem to think that using a #RapeLOL hashtag is perfectly acceptable use of their time - and the inevitable backlash from people who actually seem to use their brain - it brings back memories from another time, when things seemed a little more innocent...
I was 20 years old. (This is eight years ago!) I was at Woodcraft camp with a group of people around the same age as me, and although I was only there for a couple of days (I had to leave after two in order to go on to another holiday I had planned), I made the most of it... although I'd forgotten to pack my sleeping bag. I slept under a towel. Camp usually takes a while to get going, however, and because of this, the first day was spent just chatting. Rape entered the conversation... in the form of some throwaway jokes.
I used to note down some of the quotes from these events, and while browsing through them on the train later in the day, I noted with alarm how often rape was mentioned, and nobody seemed to raise any objection. "It's all fun and games until someone gets raped," "make rape history" (á la "make poverty history" and the aforementioned "it's rape o'clock!" were all used... although all by the same person. One of my nearest and dearest. I laughed. Everyone laughed. It was an uncomfortable laugh, and in a few cases a drunk one.
Why the laughter? I've already said the #RapeLOL jokes aren't funny, and these "I shall rape you this afternoon!"-type jokes weren't either. Woodcraft isn't the kind of group where crowd mentality takes over, plus we're genuinely nice people and have a lot of sexual health and control workshops and the like. The difference here, as I see it, is that this was genuinely not serious. We (or, to point fingers, my friend) weren't putting rape forward as a serious threat... or even promoting it. There wasn't any of the "if she doesn't/can't say no, it's not rape" bollocks like in the #RapeLOL tweets. We were ridiculing rape. Using the concept as something idiotic, brainless and shameful... which, of course, it is.
It may seem, at first glance, that these sort of things trivialise rape, and in some ways, I can see that argument. It's a very serious crime and not something to be tossed aside lightly, nor is it a word to be "reclaimed", like "slut" for the liberated or "whore" for sex workers. But I don't think that that's what we were trying to do. In fact, I believe there was an anti-rape, pro-consent workshop later in the week (after I had left). There was certainly one a couple of events beforehand
It brings to mind the recent adverts for the Race for Life in which cancer is treated in the same way: "Hey, cancer. We're coming to get you." Or the comedy concert in aid of Parkinson's UK: "Shake with Laughter." Even the paper I once read entitled "What is dyselxia?". Those are, I'll grant you, all medical conditions, rather than a sex crime, but it's a similar practice: making the problem seem like something ridiculous, something that can be beaten, overcome or, yes, even joked about. And I'm pretty sure we all remember this.
Yes, it seems like a weird thing. Serious issue made unserious. But I think that if you are going to make jokes about rape, that's the way to go about it. Do it in such a way that they are just that - jokes. Nothing more and nothing less. And if you are going to talk about rape seriously, you have to make sure that it's carefully handled. Because everyone needs to know where you're coming from on this issue.
I haven't even mentioned those on Twitter who use "rape" as a synonym for sex. But that's a completely different issue.