When Comedian Whoopi Goldberg went on The View to defend Roman Polanski, I figured she had to be kidding. Her contention that feeding a thirteen year-old girl Quaaludes and champagne and then forcibly sodomizing her “wasn’t rape-rape” had to be one most asinine comments ever made by a literate adult, in front of a live television audience. Of course this all assumes that the word rape has a fixed definition that is universally accepted.
Yahoo’s online dictionary offers us a three part definition for the word rape; used as a noun.
1) The crime of forcing another person to submit to sex acts, especially sexual intercourse.
2) The act of seizing and carrying off by force; abduction.
3) Abusive or improper treatment; violation: a rape of justice.
Roman Polanski publically admitted that he drugged and fornicated a minor against her vocally expressed desires. If that doesn’t meet Whoopi Goldberg’s standard of “rape-rape,” I’ll say a prayer for anyone who gets treated badly enough to actually qualify as a victim. “Rape-rape” must involve Late Night with David Letterman or Date Night with “The Gimp.”
However, because of the strong emotions associated with the vile reality of what a rape is, the definition has been played with and used for vile purposes. Now that rape has become synonymous with whatever an angry female doesn’t like or approve of, who can blame poor Whoopi if she now feels inclined to make subtle distinctions.
Rape is properly considered vile and despicable. Only bad people engage in the practice. Therefore, the fashionable fools of Hollywood won’t let anyone they like really be a rapist. People they don’t like to begin with, that’s another category entirely.
Artists and film directors engage in personal foibles and have trouble with judgment when someone looks old enough. Lacrosse players who hire strippers flat-out rape people. It just can’t be rape-rape when someone is classy enough to serve up champagne with the roofies and send her nude photos to Vogue Europe.
Rape has also become a source of money. Blogger William L. Anderson brings us the sordid tale of Jennifer Beeman who served as director of the University of California at Davis Campus Violence Prevention Program.
Beeman discovered that she could receive Federal grant money to prevent sexual assaults in direct proportion with the number of sexual assaults that were documented on campus. Thus, rapes became rape-rapes at an alarming rate of incidence.
By the time the rape-rape manufacturing line was shut down, UC-Davis had an incidence of 16.9 per 10,000 students. By comparison, Detroit, Michigan has about 8.8 rapes per 10,000 citizens (2.4 times the national average). This brought scrutiny, and Jennifer Beeman may soon be lucky enough to have the right to remain silent. Given that she deliberately lied about her school’s rape statistics to scam federal dollars, that would be feature instead of a bug.
The infamous Duke Lacrosse Trial offers another example of the definition of rape being abused to further the career of District Attorney/Oxygen Bandit Michael Nifong. Here rape proved useful as a means to winning a tough election and pandering to bad racial history. Someone totally stood to benefit. It was a screaming case of rape-rape.
This selective definition of rape of course threatens the safety of men and women both. Men can be accused, defrauded and destroyed without regard to honesty and decency. Women can be left in unrequited victimhood. More and more frequently, nobody willingly listens to a cry of rape with sympathy rather than hard-earned skepticism.
When employees of the Duke University Medical Center deliberately falsify records to make it look like Crystal Mangum was, you know, rape-raped, I can’t blame the average person for listening to some poor woman yell “rape” and saying “oh, really? I’m sorry your judgment wasn’t better.”
This gets intensified when legitimate incidents of rape are downplayed because the rapist is supposedly likeable. If I were to throw paint against the wall or direct schlocky motion pictures, and then call it modern art, could I rape women at will too? Someone has to suffer for my art. Why should it have to be me?
In the end the worst rape of all occurs against our language and our ability to really know anything. Words are how we communicate an understanding of the world. If “rape,” “racism,” and “extremism” all become social and political epithets, rather than meaningful words, we all lose a degree of safety and protection.
Perhaps, given this foggy obfuscation, Whoopi’s inability to call a rape-rape a rape-rape is understandable ignorance. I wish her the best of luck in not having to learn what rape is in brutal and unequivocal fashion. When words have meaning, they protect us and convey valid meaning. In a sense we are all lost when this is no longer true.
When the Whoopi Goldberg’s of the world deliberately abuse language, they have wealth, fame and socially elite status to protect them. Women and children beneath the stratosphere have no such shield from the rapaciousness of evil-doers. If only Jennifer Beeman, Michael Nifong and Whoopi Goldberg would keep that in mind. Whoopi would then readily admit that her comments regarding Roman Polanski were not very good material.