The confusion of politeness

So, one more post about the reaction to this whole Fritzl thing. This ought to be the last though, I think. Having reminded several people I’ve talked to about this news that yes, sex without explicit1 and free2 consent is rape, and weasling out of calling it such is just perpetuating this weird social attitude that while rape is not okay, we don’t necessarily have to condemn it explicitely. As you can imagine, the internal cognitive dissonance of this self-contradictory position makes it pretty funny to even write it down, let alone say it out loud.

One objection I’ve repeatedly heard (although fortunately not yet from people whose opinions I trust and value on this sort of matter) is that rape is not a term that is okay for public discussion. I pushed on this a bit harder and was told we should use the term “non-consensual sex” in the public arena. Why? While rape is a term that covers an emotive subject, it’s not inherently offensive, the word itself has no religious or cultural bias, and there are no strong taboos associated with it. Every bit of revoltion we feel when we hear the word rape is directly merited by the concept. What’s more, I feel that “sex” implies consentuality. The term “non-consensual sex” seems about as appropriate for rape as “non-violent violence” does for mental abuse. I pushed further for clarification about why rape is so objectionable a word to use. Apparently rape is “impolite.” And that one word explained everything I needed to know. Continue reading