Picture the scene. You’re enjoying a flirtatious text
conversation with your boyfriend. It’s rude, crude and filled with innuendo,
and it’s brightening your otherwise mundane day of emails, conference calls and
trying to remember the name of the girl on the second desk from the left.
And then the conversation reaches its earth-shattering
climax. Your text message alert pings. The message says ‘I can’t wait to
utterly destroy you later.’
You blink, confusedly. Has Darth Vader accidentally sent you
a text he meant for the President of Alderaan? Hitler’s phone has somehow found
your name when he was looking for ‘Allies’?
Nope, it’s definitely not a mistake. It’s just another
episode in the culture of violence.
Everyone’s favourite cesspit, UniLad, is taking an extended
hiatus from broadcasting banter-filled bile, so the internet has become a
quieter place in terms of utterly brutal misogyny. From references to banging a
conquest’s head into the wall ‘to knock some sense into her’ to describing sex
as ‘violating’, ‘destroying’ or ‘smashing’, the bottom-feeders at the online Lad Bible happily bandied this language about, unaware, like they seem to spend
the majority of their days, just how much of an impact the use of this language has.
have fond memories of Angels and Demons - the vastly
superior prequel to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code - presenting one of the book’s villains as a nasty piece of work while considering the number of ways he could ‘violate’ a woman
he had unwittingly tempted to his lair. This guy was bad, mad and with a
fondness for violent sex. But nowadays, you don’t need to be a kick-ass killer
assassin to use the word ‘violate’ to describe sex with a woman; you just need
to have a few Bacardi Breezers in you. Antiquated language relating to sex has filtered down into
the way we talk about it in the modern day, indicating just how much of a power
play it remains. But while the position of women has shifted through history,
the language we are subjected to thanks to porn and certain choice magazines implies that our
role is still to lie back, grit our teeth and let them prove their dominance.
Except we’re not courtly, virginal teenagers, and the gurning idiots hitting on
us in the pub are hardly medieval knights, in shining armour or otherwise.
Is violent language through sex the only way these boys can
convey their own perceived power? Let’s face it – we’re pretty terrifying as a species, we
women. We can drive, we can vote, we can pay for our own drinks, and we can
walk in heels. If a UniLad type even uttered the phrase ‘I’m going to violate you’
in our presence, we’d probably burst out laughing and spill our vodka tonics
down him in mirth. So is that what they have to do, to 'feel like men'? Is
violent language the only thing that they have left to assert their dominance?
And how much does this language demonstrate the violence inherent in our
Young men are angry. That much is science – dictated by a
cruel and irrational whirlwind of hormones, they just want to smash things up
and get aggressive. So if society has forbidden the random smashing up of
things, can we really deprive them of this simple outlet that is aggressive
language? That would be a solid argument, if that’s really all it is.
We know full well that the average young man is highly unlikely to ever be
capable of ‘ruining’ or ‘destroying’ a woman in any other manner than
ruining her sheets or destroying a perfectly good pair of tights, but there’s
always those for whom violence has invaded not only their language, but their
Take Chris Brown, affectionately named Beat-Her-Down by ‘celebrity’
blogger Perez Hilton, who recently took to Twitter to bash his ‘haters’ after winning a Grammy. Brown’s music veers between being about girls he meets in
clubs and, as with all musicians of his ilk, where he came from. Rapping on Chipmunk’s
motivational rap-sody ‘Champion’, he asked ‘I used to see my momma getting beat
down/is that the real definition of me now?’ Sadly, yes, Chris. You may have
atoned, done community service and all that, but that’s not going to be enough
to make people forget that photo of Rihanna. And resorting to angry
language about all the people that hate on you because of it doesn’t give us
any indication that you’ve really changed.
All-round champion of women's rights, Hugh Hefner, has
encountered a similar PR disaster of late, with one of his sons being arrested
for beating up his girlfriend (who, in one of the most revolting cases of
sloppy seconds we could imagine, used to do Heff himself). Said girlfriend, a
former Playmate of the Year, has said that she has no intention of pressing
charges, only requesting a public apology - no doubt more damaging both to the
rep of Heff the Younger and to Heff’s infamous morals than jailtime ever could
be. When asked to comment on the unfortunate incident, Heff only said ‘If they
care about each other, they’ll patch it up.’
I’m sorry Heff, ‘they’ll patch it up’? Aside from the
LOLtastic choice of words (patch it up, injuries, geddit?) your son has been
accused of a fairly serious crime. Your former bunny doesn’t seem to be aware
of this, but as the father of a man who thinks it’s OK to beat his woman, maybe
you should have a little look into that old parenting manual. Or at least teach
your son that while you’ve made it acceptable to use women as objects for
entertainment, like a smartphone, unlike a smartphone you can’t throw
them against the wall when they annoy you.
Luckily, if you’re Chris Brown, there are still people out
there who are not only OK with, but actively turned on by the fact that you’ll
only ever be famous for being that guy what broke Rihanna’s face. This judging by
the massive number of clueless women tweeting variations on the theme ‘Chris
Brown can punch me all night if he wants *DREAM* <3’ as a response to
Brown’s Grammy appearance.
While the sheer mind-numbing stupidity of these
statements is obvious, the thing to take away from his is how far the actual
words have become separated from the actions. To the UniLad types, ruining
someone in a sexual context does not relate to ruining them physically, unless
you rifle through their jewelry box and steal their chequebook afterwards.
Except the negative implications associated with the language – that you want
to leave someone in a worse state than when you started – follow it around. In
the same way, I wonder what a victim of actual domestic violence would have to
say to a woman begging Chris Brown to ‘beat’ her. They (the Chris Brown lovers)
probably view it as a simple step up from the popular ‘rape fantasy’ that most
women seem to have – published in Cosmo, appearing in behavioural
barometer Sex and the City - and would, in their future fantasies,
imagine Chris Brown lovingly bashing their faces in while they derive intense
pleasure from it (as some people do) – they the simpering damsel overpowered by
this pillar of masculinity (ooh-err).
But, of course, a fantasy and reality are
very different. Women with violent fantasy tendencies will either not act on
them or enjoy them in a role-play exercise with a trusted partner. The reality
of an angry Chris Brown beating them mercilessly in the front seat of his car
is no doubt totally different to what these women have pictured in their head.
The disconnect is there in their minds, but their phrasing implies no
disconnect at all.
And so, hey, it’s not just men who
use this angry language. Female friends of mine regularly indicate their
interest in a man with the phrase ‘I’d hit that’ (a traditionally male phrase –
clearly their modus operandum is ‘if you can’t beat (LOL) ‘em, join ‘em). We
‘hit on’ people. We ‘hit up’ Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon. Why, in a
language with such a varied lexicon, do we always fall back on the most violent
of terms, trivialising them to an extent that they become totally separate from
their original meaning, and only being reunited with it in the witness box? We
need to treat our language with the respect that we expect its use to treat us.
Let’s try hitting up the dictionary for some new terms for those Saturday night sexts.