Tag Archives: vernacular

“Rape”

Three days ago a very close friend of mine and I were watching the StarCraft II podcast The State of the Game, an episode of which was specifically discussing foul language and the professional gaming scene.1 I turned to him and casually asked him what his stance on the subject was, a question which began a debate that lasted the better part of an hour.

This post is very difficult for me to write. I face the challenge of having to fairly represent our respective opinions, and I worry I will portray our separate viewpoints with a bias of some sort. In spite of this, I will try to press on and do my best.
                                                                                                                                                                      

Our discussion was, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, on the usage of the word “rape,” specifically in the context of the gaming community. To those perhaps unfamiliar with the terminology, the second entry on Urban Dictionary reads: “To utterly defeat another person in any form of competitive activies [sic].”2  An example of it being used would be someone saying to his friends, in the aftermath of a victorious Halo match, “We just raped those guys.”

My standpoint being that the word shouldn’t be used in this manner, my first point was one that INcontroL3 (Geoff Robinson) made, that its usage is harmful to e-sports in that it lowers the community in the eyes of others. My friend’s response [hereafter referred to as T] was that the context needs to be taken into account; if the word is being used in a setting where everyone fully understands the meaning behind the word [i.e. a StarCraft II stream] then there shouldn’t be any problem.

Outside of that specific context, T pointed out that language is an ever-changing thing, a sentiment I couldn’t, and can’t, disagree with. We give words both meaning and connotation, therefore it is fully within our power to change the words if we’d like. He went so far as to say that the word “rape” has already changed, fully appropriated by the gaming community. My argument was that although this may be the case, this change certainly didn’t need to occur. I wanted to address this trend in popular culture, the inclination to forever push our boundaries [moral and otherwise], but that would have been off topic and is for another time.

Similar to that point, however, I stressed that the word was chosen for a reason. A counterpoint to what he said about “rape” losing its meaning, I brought up the fact that it has such strength about it. It’s a loaded word, and was chosen for its level of offensiveness. Just because you’re no longer stating that you are going to sexually attack another person doesn’t erase the original sentiment behind the word choice.

Lastly, and what many of you may have been thinking while reading this, is that the word “rape” has such potential to offend. Those who have been or personally know rape victims may be very hurt by hearing the word thrown around so casually. A point against hypersensitivity was then made by T: we use much more violent terms such as “kill” and “murder” in regards to video games, so why is there never any outcry made concerning those who have had friends or family murdered?

Furthermore, there is a case to be made for discernment. T placed a lot of emphasis on the ability of the average person to know what the context behind the word is. If someone involved in a contest of any kind [be it video games or basketball] uses the word “rape” and directs it at their opponent then it is immediately assumed that they don’t mean the actual definition of the word. When I once again brought up those who were offended we were brought full circle to his point about the evolution of language.

T reminded me that language is in a state of continual development, and at the very least we are in a transitional period. I argued back that if this transition is going to offend and hurt others, then it would be better if it didn’t happen.  There is also the matter of those same people being hurt and offended even after the transition has fully taken place.

After all was said and done we agreed on a few points, yet it was apparent that on others we would remain divided. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary4, the Latin word “rapere” simply mean to “seize, carry off by force, abduct”;  it wasn’t until the 15th century that the more sexual aspects of the word began to be used. It may be that a few years down the line the word “rape” is thrown around as casually as “beat.” My stance, however, was never that words can change their meaning, but that sometimes they shouldn’t have to.


1. Source: http://blip.tv/sotg/starcraft-2-state-of-the-game-ep41-5229247 [starts again {was discussed earlier} at around 1:50:50]

2. Source: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=rape

3. If you really want to know who this guy is: http://wiki.teamliquid.net/starcraft2/INcontroL

4. Source: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=rape&searchmode=none