Anna: Why I’m making a big deal about Facebook Rape

Saturday, 20th June 2009 at 8:00 UTC 11 comments

This weeks Saturday Guest post deals with a trend that annoys me, which is nothing next to how my friend, this posts author, views it. Here Anna looks at a term being used around Facebook and how its use belittles the harsh, often violent, and always distressing (if that’s a strong enough word) reality behind its proper meaning.

‘Facebook rape’ describes the practice of defacing a facebook account that has been left logged in, usually by changing the person’s status or personal information. Used very widely, the term ‘facebook rape’ has become accepted to describe this mild sabotage, and few people seem particularly bothered. If you search facebook for the phrase (I don’t advise it) you will find pages of groups in appreciation of facebook rape, several more offering ‘victim support’ to those affected by facebook rape and less than 5 groups that suggest all this might be, y’know, a bit off.

So why has this term gained popularity? In part it is another example of the word ‘rape’ being misused, a phenomenon this is complicated in itself. While the media is frequently reluctant to describe rape as rape (link ‘rape as rape’ to: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2008/04/woman-held-captive-and-repeatedly-raped.html), people use the word colloquially to mean ‘anything bad that happened to me’. The word ‘rape’ is ignored when it should be used and employed when it shouldn’t, and this means that a) the media presents rape as uncommon when it is not and b) people trivialize rape when they appropriate the word for any situation in which they feel wronged. When the word ‘rape’ is misused in these ways, it becomes distorted; rape has a specific meaning; it is a crime and it isn’t a synonym for ‘violation’. While facebook sabotage could be cruel or upsetting, that still wouldn’t make it rape.

People do not just misuses the word ‘rape’ on facebook, but facebook broadcasts information in such a way that it allows the misuse to spread rapidly. Facebook allows terminology to reach large amounts of similar minded people, but I wonder if the term ‘facebook rape’ is itself a perverse reaction to the format of the site. Facebook encourages you to identify with your account and requires you to use your full, real name; your facebook account is not supposed to be a persona, but a virtual projection of yourself and consequently when someone sabotages your account they sabotage you. Your facebook account is not something you own, that can be hacked or sabotaged, but a person that can be ‘raped’.

So why is this funny? If people identify with their account on some level, even if it is an ironic one, why do they want to talk about raping their friends? I think that this is only possible if facebook sabotage, basically a virtual ‘kick me’ sign pinned to your back, is the nearest you are likely to get to actually being raped. On facebook, where everyone is constantly smiling and raising a drink to the camera it is easy not to think about consequences, about real women (predominantly) who have really been raped. When people use the term ‘facebook rape’ they both confuse the definition of rape and ignore the experiences of people who have actually been raped, and that is why I am making a big deal about ‘facebook rape’.

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Entry filed under: Culture, Gender, Guest, Language, Social Networking, Women.

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. brainduck  |  Sunday, 21st June 2009 at 12:23 UTC

    Whilst I broadly agree with you, the etymology is less clear: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_(word)

    Reply
  • 2. StellarSparrow  |  Sunday, 21st June 2009 at 12:41 UTC

    It makes me feel very uneasy, the way that rape has become a term that’s used lightly, in this context and others. It seems to me that the very mention of it ought to horrify us, but it’s lost its power.

    Reply
  • 3. jon  |  Monday, 6th July 2009 at 23:09 UTC

    So is it ok to use the verb Frape then?

    Reply
    • 4. Graham Martin  |  Tuesday, 7th July 2009 at 0:11 UTC

      I can’t speak for Anna, but I can certainly say it would seem odd to be OK with Frape when everyone knows exactly what it really means and where it comes from. It doesn’t sound significantly different, if anything it just sounds like a lazy shorthand.

      Reply
  • 5. Kitty  |  Tuesday, 7th July 2009 at 1:13 UTC

    Wot about FSurprise?

    Reply
    • 6. Laura  |  Friday, 12th March 2010 at 19:51 UTC

      As in ‘it’s not rape if you say ‘surprise”?

      More rape jokes! Superb. You’ve done yourself proud.

      Reply
  • 7. Liam  |  Friday, 26th February 2010 at 15:21 UTC

    I must disagree with what has been said here. The term may be a bit OTT but its reality is a couple of friends who play a practical joke on one and other.
    This is not a matter of one person setting out to degrade and humiliate the other, it is taken in most parts as a light joke, the very fact that you do not seem to see that tells me you may not be best suited to such sites.
    Facebook is an informal social networking site with many groups for totally ridiculous causes and games which are mainly designed to be addictive and entertaining. There are plenty of other social networking sites out there for people who are looking for a more mature adult environment.
    The fact is Facebook is for people of all ages and as such you have to accept there will be a bit of juvenile humour mixed in with the slightly more serious parts and general conversation.
    Personally i think you’ve over thought this and you need to take a slightly lighter stance on it, but each to their own.
    Liam

    Reply
    • 8. Graham Martin  |  Friday, 26th February 2010 at 18:37 UTC

      We’re not discussing the action, we’re discussing the language used to describe this action. There are plenty of ways of describing this mucking around (fjacking being my prefered one) that do not involve a word that is very serious to most.

      Reply
    • 9. Laura  |  Friday, 12th March 2010 at 19:53 UTC

      1 in 6 women will be raped.
      This means some of your friends have almost definitely been raped or sexually assaulted (unless you’re friends with no women…)
      When you joke about rape, it makes people who have been raped remember the event.
      It’s really not worth it, is it? Just to make some lame joke that even you described as ‘juvenile’. Rape jokes aren’t even clever. Not worth it.

      Reply
    • 10. Unna  |  Monday, 5th April 2010 at 13:41 UTC

      Personally, I still believe that it’s a violation of one’s privacy if you’re fjacked (thanks, G) – even if it’s a question of “juvenile humour” in a place with “groups for totally ridiculous causes (etc.)” (which you can choose to ignore, mind you).

      I use social networking sites to connect with friends, classmates, family, networking, and whatnot, and honestly, I don’t really care to have xx number of sites to check for messages or whatever (again, I can choose to ignore the whatever, but still) because I want to connect with my friends. Facebook is the most obvious place to do this, seeing how many of my friends (online as offline), classmates, colleagues, family members, etc., are on here – and whoever are on the other networking sites are also on Facebook. And frankly, there just aren’t enough people on other social networks for me to use others than Facebook and MySpace.

      This means that I would appreciate not being fjacked (and whatever it’s called on MySpace) – be it a juvenile prank of someone I know (I hesitate to call them friends, as I believe that friends should be respecting your privacy and that fine line between that and knowing when to intervene) or strangers on a public computer where I forgot to log out (which hasn’t happen just yet, though).

      Fjacking (and the likes, Facebook as other sites) is not something I find acceptable, especially not as a “it’s all a part of being on a networking site”-pinciple. Be it through hacking or by finding a computer where someone didn’t sign out – private or public.

      As for the original subject of the blog entry, I do believe that one can become too worked up about a subject – but rape/sexual abuse is a subject that should be well considered. I haven’t been raped nor abused myself, but have met and heard of people who were raped/abused, and what it’s done to them. It makes me sick to think of it (just the action of force itself!), and I’ll have to agree with Anna that rape is not an expression to be taken lightly.

      Reply
  • 11. miamarshmallow  |  Monday, 3rd January 2011 at 0:20 UTC

    i wrote this blog piece recently, as a rape victim it makes me feel slightly ill when i see or hear rape being used in the wrong way.
    http://miamarshmallow.wordpress.com/

    Reply

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