On Saturday night, I was standing with my friends outside of a building in Union Square, waiting to be let in to an apartment. A girl came to the door from the inside, opened it, turned to a boy standing near us and, mid-hug, said, "I raped her!" and proceeded to use the word "rape" two more times throughout the course of telling her story. I stared at her with my mouth wide open and muttered under my breath, "Did she seriously just say that?"
For the rest of the night, I couldn't stop thinking about the girl's ignorant word choice. She had used the term "rape" to describe something that did not involve any form of sexual violence or assault. What's worse is how lightheartedly she spoke; she was laughing, rolling her eyes, and flirting with a guy all while telling this apparently hilarious story about how she "raped" her friend.
I'm not sure how to define "rape" in a context like this, but I am sure that it's impossible to remove the social stigma from that word.
This brings me to question how people can justify using rape to mean "won over" or "did badly" or "beat" when the human impact of the word's actual definition is so immense and personal and painful. Are people really so ignorant as to use such a charged term in their everyday vocabulary? I gleaned the answer from my encounter this past weekend: yes.
A high schooler, Mari Cohen, wrote an article in 2012 for her school's student-run newspaper, The Communicator, which flawlessly conveys the fight to put an end to using the word rape out of context. Cohen writes,
"I know that the students who use the word 'rape' in a casual way usually do not mean anything by it. They do not condone rape or think that it is a good thing. I know that there have been times I've used the word more lightly that I should have. But in this case, intention doesn't count. Even if you don't think rape is insignificant or funny, using it as a slang term sends the message that you do."
"I'm speaking up because I myself am a survivor of sexual assault...I want to contextualize the suffering that 1 out of every 4 American women have experienced firsthand. I am one of these women...It is extremely difficult for me to open up about these experiences, but I feel very strongly that the more shame we feel and the more we hide, the less people will understand how serious rape is. I'm speaking out because I don't want to hear anyone misuse the word 'rape' anymore."
Shroyer ends her post by urging readers to "move forward...elevate our language...[and] stop minimizing the suffering of so many people."
Let's get this in our heads: Your Econ final did not rape you. The Bulls did not rape the Heat. Usher did not rape last season of The Voice. As Shroyer writes, "Rape is rape, period."
Using the word rape out of context needs to stop. It's like saying the n-word, labeling something as "so gay" or cracking a Holocaust joke. There are things you just don't say because they're offensive and not funny. "Rape" is one of those things, and we need to start drilling that into our brains.
"There is nothing funny, glamorous, or casual about rape," Cohen writes, "As high schoolers, we should know this." If high schoolers can be aware of their misuse of the word rape, so can the college student I overheard on Saturday night, and so can we all.