The problem with calling rape sex…..

Well, that title is maybe misleading, but check this out from A5 of the Dominion Post today, where the lack of communication between the advertising departments and news departments is stark.

Headline about a “sex” attack.  Adverts for things to help men sustain erections.

Of course, even if the headline had described what happened to this woman as “rape”, seeing an advert for erection-enhancing products straight underneath would be pretty awful. 

But for me it’s made worse when we confuse “sex” with violence enacted sexually. 

I don’t agree with the idea that rape has nothing to do with sex.  Rape has nothing to do with sex for the person raped.

It has everything to do with sex for the rapist – it is power experienced as a sexual turn-on – literally the experience of overpowering someone else’s boundaries because it is sexually gratifying.

So when the media describes “rape” as sex, in a very real sense, the describing of the event is taking place on the rapist’s terms.  Even when “attack” is in there too.  There is a problem of course, with how assaults in which offenders use violence enacted sexually are described in legislation too – we have “sexual assault” for example – so this is not just a media issue.

Take Back the News has been talking about this, mostly in a New Zealand context, for a while.

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