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Can we stop with the rape jokes already?

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When we make jokes of rape, what we are doing is trivialising the real threat and violence faced by victims and the trauma that they have to live with, says Yasmin Bathamanathan.

“Why does your hair look like it has been gang raped?”

So asked a friend of mine as I stepped into the cool air-conditioned room after a long afternoon walk under the scorching George Town sun, my hair fried to a crispy frizz.

Rape jokes are aplenty in the world, and just like perpetrators of any acts of violence against women, those who ‘crack’ rape jokes can be anyone – of any gender, age group, religion, class, etc.

In this case, it was one of the sweetest and friendliest persons I know. A person who happens to be a woman.

It is not that she advocates rape or thinks that rape is a laughing matter, but somehow something got lost along the way that has tricked her (and people in general) into believing that using rape as a punchline is okay, regardless of how strongly they may feel against rape.

I have heard friends, good male friends who are trustworthy and caring, say things such as “I hope she rapes me” of women they find attractive and “Can’t wait for her to grow up so that I can f*** her” of teenage girls. For some reason, this group of men thought they were being funny and paying the women a compliment by saying such things.

They do not realise that joking about hoping women would rape them is not funny nor being predatory towards women is a way to pay them a compliment. Why? Because the world we live in places women at a clear disadvantage and leaves them vulnerable to violence regardless of how they dress, act, behave or what they do.

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I may not have been gang raped but I know of people who have been, and I have witnessed them struggle to cope with the trauma and rebuild their life. Like most women, I have been sexually harassed by strangers and people I trust too many times to live a life devoid of fear of being violated.

When we make jokes of rape, what we are doing is trivialising the real threat and violence faced by victims of violence against women and the trauma that they have to live with for the rest of their lives. A head of frizzy hair can be tamed with some conditioner, but there is no salve that can be applied to ease the pain of rape.

Yet we live in a society that thinks nothing of analogising a head of frizzy hair blown wild by the wind to be gang raped.

It makes one wonder what exactly goes on in our heads that tells us it is perfectly normal to say or even think such things. What is it about rape or violence against women that we find absolutely impossible to empathise with unless it happens to us or women close to us?

The reality is that one in three women worldwide will face violence against women in their lifetime, and here in Malaysia, one woman is raped every 35 minutes.

The threat of violence against women is very real, and women face it when they walk on the streets, do their chores, work in their offices, stay at home. In short, the threat of rape is a real possibility for a woman, whereas thinking rape is funny is nothing but social conditioning that must be unlearned.

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Source: The Malaysian Insider

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