Using the word ‘rape’ in the context of competitive sports can be harmful
It’s two in the morning, and thanks to Facebook, I am watching clips of Neymar rolling endlessly on the green grass of Spartak stadium.
Unamused by the sport, I am not supposed to know Germany has been eliminated in the first round of a World Cup since 1938, but the internet won’t let me skip any information.
Meanwhile, my newsfeed celebrates with “Russia Spain-re bhoira dise,” an uncanny resemblance to when our nation celebrates every victory in cricket. I feel disturbed, so I call someone out, and I am told, “Woah woah! Chill out, bro!”
So I am taking a chill-pill this World Cup, as I delve into why “France raped Argentina, and France is legend” is no joke.
First, the definition of rape encompasses sex with someone through their mental incapacity or physical helplessness.
Nothing about rape is consensual. The good news is, participation in sports is.
Sex is an intimate act between individuals willing to open up a part of their core selves to the other. Violating that privacy limits one’s ability to love and be loved.
Now, if you are comparing that to Zidane headbutting Materazzi, reach out to me. I know therapists who can help you.
Third, by definition, there is no fair play in rape. Rapists don’t rape because they can’t “get” sex elsewhere. Rapists rape to exert power.
The term, when being used as an analogy to describe defeat, highlights how sportsmen are viewed today -- big, strong, masculine, tough, glorious. And when you joke about rape, you give power to the rapists by contributing to a system that is becoming desensitized to the injustice around it.
Sports, on the other hand, is a force for good. The Greek team was motivated to qualify, though their nation been has been reeling from economic hardships. We shed tears when Gotze held out Marco’s jersey as a tribute after winning the World Cup.
Rape victims are never to blame, but the Argentina and Germany teams were the victims of their own arrogance and lack of teamwork. So, by saying that teams were raped absolves of their blame of massive sporting malpractice.
I am talking about the way that we collectively think about rape.
We live in a world where sexual assault can be dismissed, condoned with jokes or excuses plastered across a T-shirt.
People make statements about how rape culture is just a phrase that has been made up to make men look bad. But it’s the same rape culture that makes it so hard for male victims to speak out too, fostering the stigmatization of male rape victims as effeminate, impotent, or non-existent.
Language evolves, but it cannot evolve without the culture going along with it. Asking people to be considerate and thoughtful about their language -- particularly when it has the potential to cause very real damage to people with traumatic experience of the subject matter – isn’t a violation of the freedom of speech.
It’s simply asking that we adhere to a socially codified system of kindness in which we consider how our words and deeds might affect other people. For people who have never experienced sexual violence, it is a luxury to be able to redefine those words to get a cheap laugh on social media.
But perhaps the most important thing is this: When you joke about rape, when you take that word and make it yours to laugh about, to chide your friends with, you are telling everyone else that no one can trust you.
And when you treat their objections as ridiculous overreactions that are less worthy of respect than the entitlement you feel, you are confirming to them that they shouldn’t trust you.
Myat Moe Khaing is a Management Trainee at a multi-national company.