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Tweets About Rape A Cause For Concern

A Maryland non-profit that deals with sexual assault victims has concerns about the use of the word rape by football fans on the social networking site Twitter during the recent Ravens vs. Steelers game.

Some of the hundreds of football fans who took to the social networking site Twitter to praise the Ravens' recent crushing opening-day victory over the Pittsburg Steelers went a little too far, according to a group that decries the use of the word “rape” to describe the match.

“Ravens gonna rape the whole league. Eating steak with my family, and watching the ravens rape. Nothing better,” read one tweet.

Another read, “Appropriate term for what the Ravens are doing to Pitt? Rape, yes?” 

Amanda Cardone, who manages the Twitter account for The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, drew attention to the tweets on her organization’s Twitter feed following the game.

“‘Our Maryland 'rape’ Twitter search has lots of results today; mostly jokes about the #Ravens, #Steelers game. Rape’s not funny,” Cardone wrote.

In an interview, Cardone said this isn’t the first time she’s seen the word used on Twitter in such a context.

“To use the word rape so informally and even jokingly makes light of victims’ experiences,” she said. “I am disappointed and concerned that people would use it in that way.”

She said use of the word in such a context could negatively impact the way people think about rape survivors.

“I just think that that is clearly winning a football game is not equal to raping somebody,” she noted.

Christine Mallinson, an assistant professor of language, literacy and culture, and a program affiliate assistant professor of gender and women's studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said use of the word rape in a sports context is a disturbing metaphor.

“In this situation, the meaning of the word 'rape' is being extended from the literal meaning of sexual assault to a more figurative sense, to mean something that is perceived as being aggressive, dominating or violating in some way,” Mallison said in an e-mail. 

“The use of the word ‘rape’ in a sports metaphor may be seen as particularly disturbing because it draws a parallel between a rape, a horrifying event, and a positive athletic outcome–the successful domination of one team or athlete over another,” Mallison wrote.

“There is a lot of linguistic evidence to suggest that the way we talk about social situations can reflect how we think about them.  A victim of rape, for example, might justifiably believe that this type of sports metaphor not only celebrates athletic prowess but also glorifies the act of rape itself.”

For information and guidance on issues that deal with sexual assault, visit mcasa.org.

Brook Hubbard September 19, 2011 at 03:18 PM
And this is the problem of letting subjective opinion rule over social interaction. These individuals were not advocating rape, but using a different definition of the term as a colorful metaphor. This is no different than the use of the term "gay" or the "N-word", both of which are used in ways which are not disparaging to respective minorities. We all have different opinions on what words mean, but to deny someone else usage of them because of our personal sensitivities is to move to an authoritarian extreme. If you don't like what they said, then don't listen to it. Focusing on others words is the sign of someone who has too much time on their hands (at the least) or is bordering on obsessive-compulsive (at the worst).
Alyssa Smith September 19, 2011 at 11:18 PM
Using terms such as rape are as you suggested, gay or the N-word doesn't make it ok. Rape, when used to describe anything other than a man or woman being violated sexually without their consent should not be used when describing a football game victory. There is no light "colorful metaphor" as you put it to describe anything when the outcome is a victorious one. That is like saying rapists are victorious because they overtook the man or woman.
Brook Hubbard September 20, 2011 at 02:25 AM
I use the term "rape" all the time, as a synonym for an easy win/harsh defeat in sports and gaming. So does my wife. Does it have a morbid origin? Yes. Does that mean I (or we) are insensitive? No. Context and meaning is ~everything~ in conversation and people with open minds understand that. We recognize the variety of definitions of the word and when to use them. As long as we remember this, no miscommunication or offense is likely to occur. Not unless someone with nothing better to do ~chooses~ to take offense.

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