Rape: What’s With This Word?

Art by meg neufeld
Art by meg neufeld

I was at a coffee shop with an acquaintance from school; we were there to work on a presentation for a class we had together. As acquaintances so civilly do, we were engaged in a little small talk before getting started on the real work. He asked me about the classes I had taken in a particular department. I listed them off, probably smiled, and asked him the same. We came to realize we had been in a class together a few semesters before, but hadn’t met until now. We got on the topic of this particularly difficult class and it’s especially bullshit exam that seemed to leave everybody walking out of the McKinnon gym with crossed eyes and clammy hands.

At this point in the conversation, my acquaintance added “ya, that exam raped me”. I got that feeling in my chest where your heart feels like it has expanded or skipped a beat (in an unnerving, nausea-inducing way, not a romantic, butterflies kind of way) and for about five seconds I retreated into my own dizzy consciousness, missing everything he said that followed. Once I returned to the world and refocused on the situation at hand, I had resolved to stop him and say something about his use of the word ‘rape’.

This was not a heroic decision, and I don’t mean to make it sound like one, but for someone who is so preoccupied with making social situations as comfortable for everyone as they can possibly be – sometimes at the expense of my own comfort – it was a decision that for me required a fleeting second of deliberation. I told him it was not cool and it was unnecessary to use that word in this context and that he should just not. Ever.

I did not explain to him why it is so important that he not use ‘rape’ casually. I did not bring attention to his (probably? Most very likely?) unchecked privilege. I wish I could have taken 3-100 hrs to flesh it out with him, have an honest conversation, a frank discussion about why his and my own and everybody’s action (or inaction) is impactful. We did not. We had a project to do. So instead I let him know what I felt, in few words, and for a moment he was uncomfortable and I was uncomfortable and that was fine. He nodded and acknowledged what I had said; I think he may have apologized. We moved on quite quickly.

Hopefully he removes that word from his everyday vocabulary, but if he doesn’t, I hope the next person calls him out/in. Maybe I’ll be that person again and we can have that honest conversation, I want to have that honest conversation more.

Written by Lizzie McGillis, AVP volunteer.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *