Skip to main content

Reconceptualising Rape

by Tanit Cortés Deulofeu


The old concept of "rape" needs to be left behind, or rather, the romanticised idea that accompanies it. And I say romanticised because, just as the concept of love has changed in recent years, so has that of rape.


"Rape" has become part of our mental space through movies, series, news, and various anecdotes. They often limit the scope of the word and make us socially discard a series of situations and not assimilate them as such, because they do not enter our mental spectrum of meaning.



Yesterday I was talking to my little cousin, she is eighteen years old and last weekend she went out partying with her friends. One of the boys with whom they went is twenty-seven, in the villages the issue of generational separation is somewhat diluted. Well, this not-so-young boy spent the night insisting to my cousin's friend to go to bed together. She said no every time. The party ended up at this boy's house. The group of girls were very drunk, most of them left because it was late. Some of them stayed there and the Friend went into one of the rooms to charge her mobile phone. The not-so-young guy found the opportunity, insisted again in the room and after some time trying to convince her, he succeeded. 


They had sex.



Although it is true that there was no physical violence and that, as she explains, she participated "actively"... can we calmly affirm that it was a relationship in a state of full consent, when a drunken eighteen-year-old girl ends up having sex with a twenty-seven-year-old guy in his apartment?


The superficial story can be misleading: "in the end she said yes", "in the end she wanted to". The Friend, when talking to me, said, "I feel I was raped, but it can't be true because I said yes". What the Friend defines, in other words, is that her experience can’t be justified because of the social story we have built around the concept of "rape". What do we imagine when we say the word? Violence, aggressiveness, explicit non-consent, etc.


But let me tell you that most of the rapes that occur are not usually like that.


Victims do not want to recognize themselves, in the first instance as such, it is annoying and shameful, they think that no one will believe their story. But it is even more perilous when the concept we have of the term "rape" does not embrace all these situations in which many women feel assaulted and cannot justify their story, neither to themselves nor to their environment.

 

We have a mental definition of rape that is misleading or, if anything, poor, and this means that many of these stories never come to light, because in general, they are not considered within the conceptual range of the term. How do you report it? Who do you explain it to? How do you explain it to yourself? How is it that you said yes if you didn't want to? It’s all about power. There is a clear difference of powers: advanced age, victim's state of inebriation, unknown space, tiredness, etc. That can lead to a deceitful yes; let's also consider the fact that the alleged rapist was told "no" on several occasions, but it seems that the aggressors suffer from selective deafness.

 

One of the other big concerns of women who suffer situations of this type is that the story is spread and the man in question denies it and they are left as "exaggerated" or "liars". And the biggest problem is that, mostly, the accused denies it frankly. Let's suppose that this boy receives the information that the Friend said she has been raped. What would he say? "But she performed oral sex on me", "she said yes", "but we both did it". In no case will he feel identified with the term "rapist". It has been explained to him that rape is "that very specific thing", and as long as he does not do "that", he won’t be guilty. The preconceived idea he has of the "rapist" does not describe in any way the sexual relationship he had with the Friend. But it is evident that there must be reasons, very clear from my point of view, why the Friend is feeling this way.



How do we approach, then, a situation in which the rapist feels honestly innocent, and the victim cannot justify to herself or to society that she has been raped because, conceptually, the word does not embrace this type of "incidents"? How do we explain to a rapist that he is a rapist or, how do we make him revise his behaviour, if he can never feel identified with this term?


The answer is clear, "rape" must be reconceptualised, demystified, or if anything, we have to add meanings, experiences and situations in which it can occur, either to educate potential aggressors or to support the victims in their stories.


 

Comments

Most Popular

‘Make Tattooing Safe Again’: Sheffield Based Tattoo Artist Exposed for Indecent Behaviour

 by Emily Fletcher TW: SA, Animal Abuse, Transphobia Photo Credit: @ meiko_akiz uki Recently, an  Instagram account  has been created to provide a  ‘space to safely give a voice to those who want to speak out about the behaviour of one, Sheffield based tattoo artist’. A  total of 40+ posts have been made by the above social media account regarding  one of Sheffield's most popular tattoo artists .  Thankfully, all posts are prefaced with a Content Warning prior to sharing screenshots of the messages that have been sent anonymously to the page. The majority of Content Warnings refer to sexual behaviour, abuse, and sexual assault. It is clear that there is a reoccurring theme within each submission, as many clients appear to have had the same experiences with the tattoo artist. Women, mostly, are being made to feel uncomfortable while being tattooed. One of the most vulnerable positions anyone can be in, tattoo artists should make their clients feel comfortable and safe during the pro

Single Review: ‘Tell Me’ - Jay Moussa-Mann

by Ilana Hawdon The feeling of pure betrayal and heartbreak is perfectly captured in Jay Moussa-Mann’s latest single, ‘Tell Me’. Jay Moussa-Mann is the folk dream we have been waiting for. A favourite on BBC Introducing, Radio 6 and BBC Radio Tees, Jay ’s sound is easy on the ears but delightfully addictive. With a background in writing and film, she began her solo musical venture when she released her debut album, ‘Little Deaths’ in late-2019, and since then, Moussa-Mann has defined herself as an artist with unbelievable range and promise.    ‘Tell Me’ is completely timeless; with notes of Carole King and Joni Mitchell, Moussa-Mann creates a folk-inspired track which is simultaneously heart wrenching and strangely empowering. Beginning as a simple guitar tune, ‘Tell Me’ builds with layers of luscious strings and twinkling piano, tied together with Jay ’s vocal line which is equal parts melancholic and divine. The song feels unwaveringly intimate; the lyrics ask, ‘what was I worth?’

Eurydice’s Last Words

by Kate Bradley I do not want to return To sit in the stalls, Of an empty black box Strewn with petals Leave the ghost light on, Let it shine like a call home, But I will not come back To turn it off alone. I learn this as we walk Our ever so solemn path Our thudding funeral march, You think we’re going back. As I trace my old steps, I fear of the day When the symphony swells, And I land my gaze On you, yet you will be Enraptured by the sound, If you did twist To turn around, You would not see me. So I am not sorry, I speak out into the empty air And I am not sorry. “Turn Around.” You do, you look You think  I fall But I run on, Arms wide open To fall in love With it all “Perhaps she was the one who said, ‘Turn around.” On the X45 bus, back from the Tyneside Cinema, I wrote a poem entitled “Eurydice’s Final Words”, after having seen “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”.  That poem was terrible, so I wrote a new one, as my response to the beautifully poignant film.  In one scene, Héloïse , an 1