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Why Rape is Not a Laughing Matter, ICYDK

Look, can we all just stop joking about rape?
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With the way rape jokes are being casually tossed around by people, you'd think rape was nothing more than a light-hearted, fun romp that's enjoyed by the parties involved. Rape jokes are pretty common in ordinary, everyday conversations. "Rape-in kita diyan eh" is something some guys would blurt out to a woman who's either joking around with them or perhaps getting on their nerves. Sure it's a "joke"—one that also doubles as a threat, albeit not necessarily a serious one that is intended to be carried out but is nevertheless harmful and dangerous. Some women also make rape jokes, although instead of talking about raping someone, they mysteriously find joy in joking about themselves being raped. Do "Ay ang gwapo niya. Kung rape-in niya 'ko, hindi ako magrereklamo!" and "Kung siya ang rapist ko, okay lang sa 'kin" sound familiar?

People like to say nowadays that words are just words and they shouldn't be taken seriously. But words have far-reaching power, and treating rape like it's a joking matter will inevitably influence other people and make them think that, hey, maybe rape isn't as bad as people make it sound. The effect is even stronger when the jokes are uttered by influential people.

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The lines between rape and consensual sex—and indeed, between what is actually a serious issue and what is a joking matter—seem to be blurring nowadays, so perhaps a little refresher is needed to clarify what rape is.

Rape is not "a snuggle with a struggle" or a type of sex where the rapist just has to cajole or convince his would-be victim a little harder so they can have sex. Rape is unwanted sex forced upon an unwilling person by someone who thinks he has the right to that person's body just because he wants it, never mind if the other person was taken by surprise, did not agree to it, was unable to fight back, or has already explicitly said no.

Rape is not sex that is just a little more energetic than usual, and it's certainly not something that gets better if the victim just "lies back and enjoys it." It's a painful, violent experience that traumatizes the victim.

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Rape is not committed by clumsy, fumbling, awkward guys who just want to express their admiration and desire but are unable to do so properly. Rape is committed by people who have decided that their physical needs take precedence over another person's consent and bodily autonomy.

Rape is not merely something that people accuse someone of doing if they regret a sexual encounter. Rape is a real experience suffered by very real victims, and their voices should not be silenced and their stories should not be ignored just because of a handful of false stories.

Rape is not a compliment or a validation of the victim's attractiveness and desirability. Rape leaves victims physically, emotionally, and psychologically bruised, making them blame themselves for what happened and wondering what they could have done to stop it even though the blame lays squarely on the shoulders of the rapists who decided to commit rape in the first place.

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Rape is not just about sex. Rape is used by rapists to express their power and dominance over people. It has even been used as a tool of control by governments (in what is known as state-sanctioned rape) to keep people fearful and in line, as well as to punish them.

Rape is not something that anyone ever asks for. Rape is forced and unwanted. Period. And it doesn't matter what people are wearing, no matter how hard society tries to convince us that our outfits provoke people into committing rape.

Rape is not something that anyone ever deserves. Nobody deserves to have their bodies violated, even if some people think you have loose morals or, given the people targeted by rape threats and jokes nowadays, are simply someone who's annoying.

Rape is not a joke. Rape is only a joke to those who have the privilege of never being worried that it will happen to them and who have the power to commit it (or even be actual rapists themselves). Rape is something that half of the population hopes will never happen to them. Some women might joke about rape, but in reality, no one will be happily welcoming the experience or imagining that their wildest dreams are coming true.

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One would expect that everyone would be united in agreeing that rape is never a good thing. However, instead of stepping back and saying, "Hey, maybe joking about a bad thing like rape is really offensive and hurtful and we should stop," people are acting as if those who criticize rape jokes are simply overreacting. People are listening less to the victims and those who are more likely to be raped and focusing more on defending people who think rape is just a casual experience to joke about.

Too many people are hiding behind the tired excuse "Biruan lang naman" and deflecting criticism by saying that others are too sensitive or simply unable to get the joke, and it's getting old. That's why the rest of us must refuse to laugh and play along, and be unafraid of saying that those who make and defend rape jokes are the ones who are wrong.

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Lynn Lopez
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