I didn’t expect my first post since returning from Thailand to be about rape jokes, but something happened last night and it has been bugging me all day so here we are.
To cut a long story short, while I was away on my trip I started playing Pokémon Go again. And since I was kind of enjoying it I started playing again here. I got the kids involved as well and to be honest riding around spinning stops and hunting magicarp has felt like quality time. This lead to me being invited to a bunch of Whatsapp groups for players in Port Elizabeth. I sort of interacted a bit on the first day but honestly it was all a little Serious Gamer for me (which seems hilarious: we’re catching little cartoon creatures, how seriously should we be taking this?) and a whole lot of jargon I didn’t understand was being used so I faded quickly. But I still thought I might be keen to play with other people sometime, and I thought Noah especially might enjoy something like that, so I stayed in the groups.
Then last night I opened up one of the chats and was scrolling through it when I came upon this:
I wont lie: I was immediately angry. But even in my own anger for a second I tried to ask myself “is it that bad?” which then made me even angrier, because yeah, it IS that bad and I’m kind of sick of even my own boys-will-be-boys social conditioning that leans towards excusing this shit. If those words came out of Thomas’ or Noah’s mouthes they’d be dead. I wouldn’t excuse it coming from my husband, my brother, my father, or any of the other male members of my family.
So not a fuck will I be excusing you, anonymous Pokémon player who likes to joke about rape inbetween discussions about sparkling jigglypuffs and ghost porcupines. You do not get a free pass. You get a scathing blog post.
You see, here’s the thing which you don’t seem to understand. In South Africa it is estimated that 2 in 5 women will experience rape in their lifetime. Fucking high number that, isn’t it? Guess what: I’m pretty sure that’s a conservative estimate.
But let’s call it 2 in 5. How sure are you that when you’re in a room (or a group chat) that contains 5 women, that 2 of them haven’t lived through the continuous nightmare that it is to have experienced rape? Because the other thing that you might not know is that we don’t tell you when it happens.
I want you to look at every woman in your life and think about that. Think about how we don’t trust you enough to share with you the traumas that we experience at the hands of men. Because even when you can’t “technically” call it “rape” I can guarantee you that we’ve all experienced some pretty fucked up traumatic shit at the hands of men who are just like you. Every woman in your life is keeping that trauma from you.
And every time you express that you think “it’s not rape if you yell happy birthday” a woman in the room is being reminded of her trauma and she’s quietly putting you on a list of people to never be left alone with. She might laugh it off, but she remembers. And you’re on the list.
It is disappointing to discover that the clichéd Gamer Boy toxicity is alive and well in PE. It is disappointing to realise that even something as innocent as wanting to play a dumb game where you catch cartoon creatures could be contaminated by the likes of those who so casually talk of rape as if it is a fictional issue.
But mostly it is disappointing that after weeks of reading the stories of the brave women contributing to #thetotalshutdown and the #metoo movement to realise that it doesn’t matter how often we ask for rape jokes be tabled, these sorts of men will continue to easily infiltrate the spaces we wish to occupy and the men who are “not like that” will seldom do anything to shut it down.
So what do we do? If we’re lucky we get to remove ourselves from those spaces and hope that one day we will be able surround ourselves with more female-safe people.
Because what else are we supposed to do?