Redefining rape

It’s been busy in England overnight, with more people trying to redefine and dilute what constitutes rape in relation to Julian Assange’s extradition proceedings. Please note the intent of this post is focused on the language used within the media when discussing sexual assault.

George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, asserts in his podcast ‘Good Night with George Galloway’ that the Wikileaks founder was not guilty of rape because consensual sex had already occured.

As reported by The Daily Mail:

One of his accusers, a WikiLeaks supporter, admits she had consensual sex with Assange in August 2010 but woke the following morning to find he was having sex with her again, without using a condom.

Mr Galloway said this could not be rape, as the pair had already had sex and were ‘already in the sex game’. He went on: ‘It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Do you mind if I do it again?”.

In another report by The Guardian, Galloway is quoted as saying:

Woman A met Julian Assange, invited him back to her flat, gave him dinner, went to bed with him, had consensual sex with him, claims that she woke up to him having sex with her again. This is something which can happen, you know. I mean, not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion.

As I type, England is still reeling from Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan and self-described Human Rights Activist, appearing on Newsline to name one of Assange’s complainants and engage in some slut-shaming, justifying his comments by revealing his wife was the victim of rape. To witness social media apoplexy in action, you can view the Twitter timeline.

Intricacies of the case aside, the issue highlighted here is the language of dilution. Many people, be they politicians, friends or media professionals, are trying to dilute the crime of sexual assault by adding qualifiers and softening terms.

Here are some of the terms currently used in the media and elsewhere in the past 24 hours to describe rape:

  • Surprise sex – it’s not rape, just a surprise.
  • Sex game – it never ends, just like Jumanji apparently.
  • Legitimate rape – it has to be certified because there are apparently imitators out there.
  • Forcible rape – apparently the only type of “legitimate” rape
  • Sex scandal – it’s the new euphemism because it implies naughty and embarrassing, not illegal, behaviour.

Sexual assault, including rape, is a crime. Using diluted or qualifying language  to define sexual assault sends a clear message they think certain types of sexual assault are acceptable.

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