Images in Football Perpetuating Rape

14 Mar

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I saw this image and caption on the Facebook page of one of my friends recently, and immediately I felt a visceral response to it. I am sure when this image was created (by whomever that was), the intent behind it was meant purely to be a joke. I, too, see the humor in this image above, but I also find it so problematic that I cannot merely see it without voicing some true concern for the underlying message being presented here. My concern is about rape and how this image makes humor of an action that is incredibly serious and very not funny. It undermines the gravity of rape by making a joke of this sexually-oriented pose into which these football players happened to fall. Ultimately, it belittles any person who has experienced rape in their life and otherwise trivializes women’s (and some men’s) relationship with this violent sexual act.

As a woman (and a small woman at that), rape is something that is a very real and VERY scary concept. I cannot quite adequately express how much terror rape instills in me. Although I generally feel safe and expect to feel safe the rest of my life, there is hardly a day that goes by that the fear of rape does not arise in me at some point. Every time I am out walking, especially if by myself or on a quite street, I am very aware of my female body and physical vulnerability. I don’t think it is something that men often realize (if at all), and it is something I want men to know. I can explain my fear through an example: I recently walked out of the mall on a sunny day and had to pass a large group of young white males in the parking lot in order to get to my car. Although I did not believe those men had any intention of hurting me, nevertheless I was overcome by terror at the sheer thought that if they had wanted to do something to me in that moment, they could have. I was defenseless, and the safety of my physical body (and sexual dignity) was truly vulnerable in the face of their whims and desires.  While I didn’t think they would do something to me, I was also aware that they could, and it has happened to many women before me. Rape is violent, and it strips the human dignity out of the victim. That is terrifying. Purely terrifying, and not funny.

So, an image like the one of the Packers and Bears above trivializes the fear I have surrounding rape. This Bear’s player was not actually getting raped, nor was that likely the thought of either of these player’s minds. Whereas rape is a daily fear for me and a legitimate possibility in my life, the men in this picture will probably never experience the kind of fear that I do. To compare this accidental pose to the kind of violence that rape entails is frankly quite insulting to my lived experience and my physical well-being.

To make matters worse, this image and caption seem to promote this “getting screwed” (i.e. rape) in a positive light. It can be assumed that this is a pro-Packer image, as it is cheering for the domination of the Packers over the Bears. But to celebrate this sort of domination using this sexual image is directly comparable  to the domination of man over woman. Sexual domination is a male-driven power, usually over women, but sometimes over young boys and gay men. This image and caption celebrate such domination by saying, “Look at this, Bears. You get raped by the Packers just like women do by men. Packers rule like men and Bears get raped like women. Sucks to be you!” I don’t believe I really have to explain why this is problematic. The suggestion that the “losers” or less admirable team are like women who get raped by men who are the “winners” is deeply troubling because it reinforces the subordination of women through violent acts like rape.

I will reiterate that I doubt that the creator of this image intended for this image to be a perpetuation of rape-like thinking, but that does not stop the image from having that impact. While I appreciate humor, including sexual humor, sometimes it goes too far. Bottom-line, rape jokes are not funny. Rape is too real, too personal, too terrifying, and too denigrating for humor surrounding it to ever be funny. When we laugh off something as serious as rape, we lose the tools to stop it from happening. And we forget those who fear rape or have ever directly or indirectly been hurt or violated by it. It is not okay to create or post photos like this one of the Packers and Bears. It is simply not okay.

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