Rape Culture #7: Language: “It’s Just Locker Room Talk”

By January 18, 2019Uncategorized

Part seven of a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka

Rape culture language is so normalized into our everyday life that it easily gets written off as “locker room talk,” even from the mouth of the United States President, Donald Trump. 

            A video was released with Trump saying, “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]. I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

            “And when you’re, a star they let you do it,” Trump continues. “You can do anything… Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.” In today’s world, women are objects, and when a celebrity wants one, they get one.” 

            When this video went viral, Trump defended himself by stating, “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago.” So does that mean this kind of offensive “macho” language is acceptable if it happens in a private room of only males? Writing off Trump’s comments as “locker room talk” perpetuates rape culture. 

            What happened after this video leaked was actually sadder than the president’s comments. Female Trump supporters held signs at a rally in NYC following the leak of these tapes that read, “Better to grab a pussy than to be a pussy.”

Women’s genitals are used to degrade and show weakness. Such actions elevate men and puts down women. Women perpetuate rape culture too.                

Sandra Glahn responded to Trump’s tweets with a request to the general public: “Please help us normalize speaking up rather than normalizing ‘locker room talk’ and groping and rape. If a victim confides in you about a violation endured, know that ‘I believe you’ is a much more powerful response.” The language we use around rape will either encourage rape culture or help heal victims. 

            The language in the music we listen to is also affected by rape culture. Often, song lyrics encourage rape more than help victims. Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” repeatedly talks about a woman being a “good girl,” saying that he’ll “try to domesticate [her]” but she’s “an animal” and that “it’s in [her] nature,” that she should “do it like it hurt,” and saying “I know you want it.” These lyrics are exact examples of comments made by rapists to their victims. No wonder many victims believe the rape was their fault. Some radio stations have banned songs because of the lyrics.

            We also must look at the words people use to describe sex. Urban Dictionary, an online dictionary for slang words and phrases, uses these words for sex: bang, screw, f***, shag, smash, and nasty. When the word rape is used on Urban Dictionary, it can mean: to win a fight, to own, force sex, to steal or take something, to plunder, to make someone go away, butt hurt, anally wrecked, or to defeat or destroy. One example could be, “I just got raped by that math test.” Rape is used as a buzz word. The words we use matter and can either help stop rape culture or continue it. Such language minimizes and normalizes the crime of rape.

            Language matters. One study created a local “rape culture index” consisting of language patterns that fall into four broad categories: blaming victims, empathizing with perpetrators, implying victim consent and questioning victim credibility. Researchers then analyzed more than 300,000 articles on rape from 279 mostly local U.S. newspapers between 2000 and 2013. They concluded: “The bad news is that where local coverage is consistent with rape culture, that language correlates with real-world behavior.” The more rape culture language was used in the media, the more sexually violent behaviors were seen in the cities.

Read about how Christians across the political divide could do a better job in responding to so-called locker room talk.

8: Rape Culture and Television

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