The other day I was playing a video game. (Yes, I am a grown-ass, feminist man who sometimes plays video games.) I was randomly assigned on a team with two other players who, based on their voices, I would peg as ten-year-old boys. Early on in the game things were not going well for our team. One of my teammates and I were out, and our surviving teammate was not keeping his cool. His prepubescent voice shouted, “F*** man, I’m getting raped!” into my headset. He was eliminated as well shortly thereafter thus ending the match, and normally I would leave the match as fast as possible to try and get into another match, but I stopped this time to share some thoughts with my young teammate. Our exchange went something like this:
“Hello, my friend?”
Teammate: (Obviously still aggressively excited)
“I just want to let you know that you shouldn’t say rape like that. It’s a very serious word, and you’re going hurt somebody’s feelings if you use that word like that.”
Teammate: (Much more docile and after a brief pause)
“Okay. I’m sorry. I won’t say it anymore.”
“No worries, man. Good luck out there.”
I’m fairly certain that I was the only person who had ever told him this, and in that fifteen second conversation, I hope he internalized what I said and followed through with his promise.
I wish someone would have had that same short conversation with me when I was younger. In high school I would have been equally as likely to use that word in the same context as my young teammate, (though without the use of F***). That was because younger me didn’t understand the reality of the word rape. I didn’t grasp how that word was wholly inappropriate for describing anything other than rape itself.
I was not alone in this. Rape was used to describe a lot of different things by my peers, none of which was rape, and misuse of the word is…