A Brief History of Rape Law

A Brief History of Rape Law

The fist rape law emerged in Babylon during c.1900 BC. The Code of Hammurabi dictated that if a man forces sex upon another man’s wife or if a man forces sex upon a virgin woman that “is living in her father’s house,” then “that man should be put to death” (Gold). This set a legal precedent that rape was merely a form of theft and vandalism, since women were considered property. Hence, the idea of a husband “forcing sexual intercourse” upon his wife was deemed the man’s legal right. Ancient society viewed rape as morally depraved, not because it caused the woman harm, but because it harmed male honor. Society viewed raped women as damaged goods and no longer marriageable assets. Speaking toward this idea that rape was merely an issue of one man damaging another man’s property, Winnie Tomm concludes that “by contrast, rape of a single woman without strong ties to a father or husband caused no great concern” (Tomm). This view remained constant for centuries until English law in the 1600’s created the first shift in society’s perception of rape by re-defining the criminal act as “the carnal knowledge of any woman above the age of 10 years against her will” (Gold).

These two laws were combined in the United States. Common law in the US declared that “a person commits rape when he has carnal knowledge of a female, not his wife, forcibly and against her will” (Gold). The law’s structure and general concept mirror English law quite closely; however, the Code of Hammurabi’s shadow belied the underlying morals. The qualification injected into the center of the law, stating that rape is only considered a crime when it is committed outside the bonds of marriage, alludes to the principles in ancient Babylonian law that define women as male property. United States’ past common law can be broken down as follows: “Carnal knowledge“ was further defined in US law in 1954 via Copeland v. State trial, which declared that “it shall not be necessary to prove the actual omission of seed, but the crime shall be deemed complete under proof of penetration only” (Copeland v. State). “Forced and against her will” indicates that the incident is not considered rape unless it meets both of these qualities beyond a reasonable doubt. It must be thoroughly proved that the woman was violently forced (the court often demanded to see physical injury to satisfy this aspect) and that the woman  in no way desired sexual intercourse at the time (Kilpatrick).

Because “non-consent” was an integral element of the crime and because the US law

states that a criminal is innocent until proven guilty, the burden fell upon the woman to prove that she offered no indication of consent. Society pre-judged women in rape trials as guilty of promiscuous behavior, so to provide irrefutable proof of victimization was a Herculean feat. At the time, when a woman was raped,  she would enter the legal system addressed as a defendant and witness. She was not declared a victim unless at the close of the trial the man was found undeniably guilty of forcing sexual intercourse upon her without any indication whatsoever, of her desire for said intercourse (Kilpatrick).

Women were forced off the streets and forced into silence. Women knew that if they were the object of a sexual assault, the law would not protect them (Bevacqua). Then, the Second Wave feminist movement began. Women started encouraging each other to speak out and act out against the injustices they faced. Writers like Susan Griffin in 1970 began shocking people out of their complacency about rape calling it a “form of mass terrorism.” Griffin wrote about how rape restricted women’s lives because they lived in terror, in abject fear of going out alone: “[women] will not be free until the threat of rape and the atmosphere of violence is ended, and to end that the nature of male behavior must change” (Griffin). Anti-rape activists worked within the Second Wave feminist movement to address the issue of rape on a variety of levels: consciousness raising, support, and legal changes.

Three of the various ways in which feminists brought awareness to the rape epidemic and the need for change were through consciousness raising groups, large public events, and poetry. In the late 1960’s, women began gathering in small groups and sharing their personal stories about rape incidents and other traumatizing experience. These little gatherings were called consciousness raising groups. On January 24, 1971, The New York Radical Feminist group held their first Speak-Out, a large public gathering where women could share their stories with each other. This event was so successful that The New York Radical Feminist group held a follow-up conference about rape that April (Rose). More events like this emerged throughout the nation. A series of marches began in 1976 called Take Back the Night marches. Numerous women participated in these rallies to protest sexual assault and fight for the right to walk the streets at night without fear (Hibsch). However, events like these and physical get togethers were not the only forms of consciousness raising. A third form was poetry printed in radical publications and read aloud in community poetry readings. Such poetry is the primary focus of the posts to follow.

First Take Back the Night March

Support of rape survivors was another important strategy. Community gatherings, as mentioned above, provided a significant degree of moral and emotional support to rape survivors, but one of the critical breakthroughs that arose from the Second Wave feminist movement was the establishment of rape crisis centers. The Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR) opened the first two rape crisis centers in 1971, located in California and Washington DC (Kilpatrick). According to BAWAR’s website, their founding mission was, and still is, to “establish a place where rape and incest survivors could receive quality counseling and advocacy they need” (BAWAR).

Finally, the most crucial need that anti-rape feminists devoted themselves to resolving was legal change. Spearheaded primarily by the National Rape Task Force, a subsection of the National Organization for Woman, feminists began campaigning relentlessly to redefine rape as a crime of violence (National Organization for Women). And, in 1974, Michigan created the first successful attempt to legally redefine rape. Known as the Criminal Sexual Conduct Law, this bill not only established a broader definition of rape, but it also outlawed spousal rape (Bevacqua). Other states followed Michigan’s example, and finally in 1996, Georgia, the last of the fifty states, outlawed marital rape as well (Degnan). Today, due to changes made in 2012, the FBI defines rape as “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person without consent of the victim” (Savage).

Even with the incredible changes, catalyzed by activists in the Second Wave feminist movement, the war against rape has still yet to be won.





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“The Jailor” by Sylvia Plath

In her poem “The Jailor,” Sylvia Plath discloses the intimacy of domestic rape through the lens of a horror story; thus, she exposes rape for what it is: a terrifying truth.

Plath writes each example of the ways in which the husband torments the wife in a declarative manner, horror the wife faces as irrefutable fact. “I have been drugged and raped” ( line 6) is past tense and passive voice with a hidden agent that gives the voice a tired, dragging tone. The exhausted tone in which the narrator presents the shocking words “drugged and raped” kills the possibility the narrator is exaggerating. They appear factual. Another statement about the narrator’s torture enters in the next line: “seven hours knocked out of my right mind” (line 7). “Right mind” can either refer to the idiom describing a person who is “calm, reasonable, and sane.” Or “right mind” could literally refer to damage being done to the right hemisphere of the brain as the word “knocked out” possibly entails. The right-side of the brain controls attention, memory and reasoning, and damage to this region can lead to severe problems in these three skills. While this statement’s implications seem almost too horrendous to be true, the line’s tone assures otherwise. By presenting the number “seven” at the beginning of the sentence, the narrator presents the statement as a fact.
Next, in line sixteen, the narrator calls out “O little gimlets!” ( line 16). “Gimlets” are screw-tipped tools made for piercing and boring holes. Direct address shrouds her words in a tone of exasperated melancholy, and makes her cry seem exaggerated. But with the proceeding line, “he has been burning me with cigarettes, (line 18) written yet again as a declarative statement, the narrator clarifies the painful lack of hyperbole behind her speech. Her husband is in fact boring holes into her flesh with cigarette buds. In this line, “he” functions as the subject noun. “Me,” the narrator, functions as a lowly object. Syntactically, “he” holds tremendous power over the narrator; thus, the narrator is trapped as the object that the “he” gets to torment at will. Even the syntax presents further evidence to speak truth about the narrator’s situation. In the end, the narrator claims “I die with variety – / Hung, starved, burned, hooked!” (lines 34-5). She lives in a cage. That is a fact she may grieve but cannot refute. She lives in a cage, but at least her death is complex and rich with allusion. She is “hung” like laundry. She is “starved” because she is his chef. She is “burned” because she slaves away in the kitchen. She is “hooked” because “hooked” is another name for marriage. She is suffering and dying, but she does not contest these facts. For such is the way of an abusive marriage. 


Plath takes common images of married life and distorts them though unnerving diction to portray the disturbing truth about an abusive marriage. Jarring imagery assaults the first line “my night sweats grease his breakfast plate” (line 1). “Night sweats” has several likely references. “Night sweats” are often linked to stress and anxiety correlated with feelings of worry, fear, and dread as “night sweats” can also be a symptom of certain drugs or diseases. Drugs are mentioned again in line six, “I have been drugged and raped” (line 6). “Night sweats” could also be a vague reference to “sex sweat,” for sex is also mentioned in line six. “Grease” suggests sexual lubricant, as well as bacon grease on a breakfast plate. These equivocal definitions tweak the normal picture of a housewife serving her husband breakfast to an image of a sickly, terrified sex slave serving breakfast and her body to her master.  A sickly distortion of a common image occurs in the fifth stanza as well. “The fever trickles and stiffens in my hair” (line 21) points to sickness and to sweat, once again, yet the “stiff” product in her hair suggests a link to a common trend at the time for housewives to fill their hair with expensive hairspray, and style it in a way that would please their husband. A second reference to a common trend emerges in the next line: “my ribs show. What have I eaten?” (line 22). Skinniness was considered beautiful at the time. But as opposed to her stiffened hair and slender frame alluding to glamor and beauty, Plath’s diction portrays the woman as skeletal and diseased. Plath portrays the wife as one who feeds off of the “lies and smiles” ( line 23) that she presents to the world. She is a woman who ingests the insubstantial façade of marriage as her only source of nourishment. And because of this, her ailments fester and grow worse. But it is not just she who interacts with the facade, for as the metaphorical “armory of fakery” (lines 30) suggests, “fakery” is her husband’s  weapon of choice, one of these weapons being “his high, cold mask of amnesia” (line 31). Height equates with power. When it is her word against his, society will always believe him. So, when he dawns a “mask of amnesia,” whatever he claims he “doesn’t remember” the rest of the world will believe never existed. Thus, the wife is forced to continue playing a role in this lie that is her marriage, until death does, she part.

Plath employs elements of horror and descriptive metaphor to depict the prison cell that is an abusive marriage and to explain the wife’s hopelessness and surrender.

He is “the rattler of keys” (line 5) ends line five. “Rattler” in this case is used in the literal sense as “one who rattles keys” as the title “The Jailor” indicates. “The rattler of keys” contains an eerie auditory component. Even the sound of those keys trills out the power that the jailor lords over his captive, revealing the woman’s caged state and her captor’s authority over her. The poem continues.  The speaker says, “something is gone” (line 11). It is a simple declarative sentence. Vagueness and a sense of absence comes from the nature of the indefinite pronoun “something.” A period ends the line, a period that indicates the quiet before the storm, the moment of suspense. The next line offers sudden clarity. The narrator’s “sleeping capsule” (line 12) is gone. A “capsule,” a pill that is the woman’s key to a kind of escape. Her only means of freedom is gone. The appositive “my red and blue zeppelin” describes the capsule’s color and literal shape, likening it to a zeppelin, which makes the following line, “drops me from a terrible altitude” (line 13) serve a dual purpose. Because that line proceeds the word “zeppelin,”  being dropped “from a terrible altitude” serves as an allusion to the Hindenburg accident. And because the subject of the sentence is a sleeping capsule, the line also plays on a common idiom, as in “to drop off to sleep,” like being dropped “from a terrible altitude.” This combination of references makes the argument that while the pill forces her into a sleep that would have been filled with nightmarish dread, anything is better than remaining stuck where she is at “a terrible altitude.” Sleep was her protection, and unconsciousness her armor. Now, her “carapace smashed, / [she] spread[s] to the beaks of birds” (lines 14-5). “Carapace” means a shell-like coat of protection not unlike a bug would have. She is now at the mercy of anyone who wishes to harm her, so she surrenders. In the words “I spread,” “I” functions as the noun and indicates that the woman “spreads” herself out in a vulnerable position as an act of surrender. She has given up. Her hopelessness continues into the final stanza. It begins with a mere fragment: “that being free” (line 41). Even her conception of freedom is fragmented. In the end, this is a poem about a woman who is chained to a man that abuses her so much that her soul has been picked clean of hope and her only salvation is death.

The auditory elements, grotesque imagery, the hopelessness all play a part in this
horror story. But the one element that makes “The Jailor” a truly terrifying tale is the fact that there was a time when this story was not uncommon.


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“Rape” by Adrienne Rich

“Rape” by Adrienne Rich

Image of Adrienne RIch from the New Yorker

One of the most influential books published during the Second Wave was Adrienne Rich’s collection of poetry Diving into the Wreck. In “Rape,” one of the key poems in this collection, Rich tells the story of a woman recounting the details of her recent rape to a policeman. This story takes place in the early 1970’s, in an era when men scoffed at women who claimed they were raped and would often accuse them of adultery. Even the woman in Rich’s poem knew that because of the policeman’s pre-judgments, she would be found “guilty of the crime / of having been forced” (Rich, lines 14-5). Through breaks in repetition and opposing descriptions, Rich conveys an image of hierarchy that displays the disturbing reality that the victims of rape are themselves treated as criminals.

The line, “he has access to machinery that could kill you,” (Rich, line 7)  places “he” as the subject of the independent clause, “you” as the direct object of the adjectival dependent clause, describing “machinery.” Sovereignty belongs to the subject noun in any clause, but supreme power belongs to the subject that reigns over the independent clause. Adjectival dependent clauses act in service to the noun or pronoun they describe. In line seven, the clause “that could kill you” is the humble servant to “machinery.” This along with the fact that “machinery” functions as nothing more than a lowly object of the preposition, forces “you,” the inferior noun in the dependent clause, to the bottom of the totem pole. “You” is powerless. Even line seven’s syntax alone explains that “you,” the rape survivor, exists in a state of the complete and total mercy to “he,” a police officer, the man. In this way, Rich employs syntactic hierarchy to express the reality of the situation. “To him” (Rich, line 14) stars line 14. Even though “to him” is a mere adverbial prepositional phrase, its physical placement at the front of a line, gives it power. “You have to confess” (Rich, line 13) may be the core of the sentence, but because it lies buried at line thirteen’s end and because of the enjambment, line thirteen has a less definitive tone. Syntactically, “you” should be the sentence’s focus. Truly, Rich argues, the rape victim should be the focus and her will should be justly served, yet, once again, the male figure denies her that right. The male figure steals power. His will, the will of the patriarchy, is served by the female in the end. Rich presents the entire story in an experiential way and uses second person point of view to augment the potency behind these demonstrations of power. Once line two introduces the possessive pronoun “your,” all that follows put the reader directly into story. Whatever happens to “you,” the injustice, the subjugation, effects the reader on a more personal level; thus, the reader tends to pay more attention to declarative sentences and tends to feel more demand from imperative sentences.

“Rape” poem by Adrienne Rich

Rich employs parallelism and repetition to illustrate structure, which she proceeds to break in order to express the wrongfulness about the patriarchy’s criminalization of rape victims. Rich utilizes this technique first in lines two and three, “he comes from your block, grew-up with your brothers, / had certain ideals” (Rich, lines 2-3). The first two verb phrases mirror each other. Both lines follow the pattern transitive verb, preposition, possessive pronoun, object of the preposition. Both lines end with the same possessive pronoun and a word that begins with the letter “b.” Line three breaks this parallelism. Not only does “had certain ideals” (Rich, line 3) stand apart poetically but, due to its placement on a separate line, “had certain ideals” stands apart physically as well. Rich, creates this separation for two reasons. Fist, whereas the first two lines include an element each that the rape victim shares, line three does not possess such an element. This emphasizes the simple, though crucial, point that the rape victim does not share “his ideals.” Second, Rich uses this separation to highlight the great significance behind the man’s “certain ideals.” Line three is the shortest line in the entire poem, for it is the preface for what is to come. “Had certain ideals” foreshadows that those ideals will play a critical role in the lines to follow. In the end, it is because of the man’s “ideals” that the poem later states “he thinks he knows you […] He knows, or thinks he knows, how much you imagined; / he knows, or thinks he knows, what you secretly wanted,” (Rich, lines 21, 24-5) metanoia correcting “he knows” to “thinks he knows” in order to underscore the word “thinks.” It is because of the man’s “ideals” that he prejudged the person before him and “thinks” she is the criminal. It is because of the man’s “ideals” that no matter what the rape victim says or does or argues or proves, she will be condemned by the law. “His blue eyes,” (Rich, line 16) is further defined in the appositive as “the blue eyes of all the family / whom you used to know,” (Rich, line 16-7). Anadiplosis connects the single policeman to “all” through the repetition of “blue eyes.” It is just the eyes of the police officer that look at the woman with condemnation and apathy. It is the eyes of everyone. Everyone, her entire society, looks at her who was raped with condemnation and apathy. The only word for word repetition that Rich never shifts or breaks occurs at the end of the poem, “and if, in the sickening light of the precinct” (Rich, line 27 and line 28). All repetition and parallelism until then possessed some qualifying feature or further distinction. Lines twenty-seven and twenty-eight do not, for unlike the others, Rich presents these lines as an unbreakable truth.

Picture of Adrienne Rich

The everlasting truth resides in the word “sickening” and in the way that the parenthetical  “in the sickening light of the precinct” interrupts “and if, […] / your details sound like a portrait of your confessor” (Rich, lines 28-9). Throughout the poem, Rich presents various claims about the unjust nature of the patriarchy, and as she makes each argument, she provides slight glimmers of hope that change is possible. Until Rich describes the sick feeling that interrupts the woman’s thoughts when she confronts an institution made to protect mankind, an institution made to condemn womankind. Even if the women changed the officer’s “certain ideals,” (Rich, line 3) even if the woman got “to know him,” (Rich, line 6) even if the woman convinced him of her innocence, her feelings towards the institution she faces and the way such feelings interrupt her thoughts would never change.

To solidify the image of the rape victim’s powerlessness against the authority that wrongs her, Rich makes intentional diction choices to describe the two characters present in the scene. While the police officer’s description cloaks him in tainted power, the woman is left naked by comparison. Blatant opposition occurs in line one when Rich uses the predicate nominatives “prowler and father” (Rich, line 1) to define the cop. The word “prowler” evokes the image of a bestial creature that prowls in night looking for prey or something to steal. A “prowler” is untrustworthy. The word “father,” however, is meant to represent a man who acts the leader and protector of his home and children. A “father” should be trustworthy. Unnerving slant rhyme is the only similarity between these two descriptions. Rich employs these two words to expose the hypocritic nature of the cop’s identity and to begin illuminating the woman’s helplessness in comparison. The reference to the cop being “in” a “silver badge” (Rich, line 4) is a form of metonymy that represents a “police uniform.” The metallic badge functions as subtle reminder that the one who stands before the woman is not a man but a cog in a great and terrible machine. This slight reference to the cop’s position within the machine makes the woman appear even weaker, for, the cop belongs to that same machine that Rich alludes to on line twelve. Line twelve describes the woman as having “the maniac’s sperm still greasing [her] thighs” (Rich, line 12). “Greasing” is a metaphor in itself. The connection between “sperm” and “grease” illuminates the intentionality behind the word “maniac” appearing so similar to “mechanic.” The man who raped her also belongs to that great and terrible machine, the patriarchy. Imagery in the fifth line of the cop being “on horseback” (Rich, line 5) stages the cop as seated above the rape victim. The cop looks down upon her. This physical depiction joined with the simile in line eight, “like warlords,” (Rich, line 8) paints a portrait of the officer’s tyrannical power. “Among trash” (Rich, line 8) continues the imagery. All else in the portrait is depicted as garbage beneath the stallion’s feet; hence, the rape victim is garbage too. These descriptions position the officer and the girl on polar opposite ends of the power spectrum.

In the 1970’s, men and women usually inhabited opposing ends of the spectrum, but society back then deemed raped women the lowliest of all.

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“Case in Point” by June Jordan

“Case in Point” by June Jordan

Drawing of June Jordan

June Jordan addresses the trauma of rape from an intersectional perspective: she is a woman but she is also black. Her title, “Case in Point,” uses legal language to state her point that the patriarchy’s depravity uniquely cripples women, especially women with intersectional identities, through a demonstrative example. Rape is that example. Jordan argues through ethos and pathos that rape is a case in point that proves that the patriarchy brutally silences women.

Through a casual tone, Jordan utilizes ethos to present the narrator as a credible source to a skeptical audience. The first evidence of such occurs on lines five and six: “there is no silence peculiar / to the female” (Jordan, lines 5-6). While the words themselves create a conversational tone, they serve the purpose of explaining an extreme scene of sexual violence. By doing so, Jordan starts to achieve the ethos she needs in order to be heard and taken seriously. Being a female African American, Jordan was well aware of the stereotypes and prejudices that stood in the way of her narrator. Women were often branded as being hysterics creatures, so if the narrator entered into the topic matter with a destructive, emotional tone, her words would have been pronounced as nothing more than girlish babble and her argument cast aside. If Jordan portrayed the narrator as exuding too much femininity, the argument would have lost credibility. Jordan uses irony to prevent such an occurrence. “I have decided I have something to say” (Jordan, line 7) breaks the silence in a matter of fact voice that is both nonchalant and definitive. Once again, Jordan enters into a grim topic through irony. Nonchalance allows the narrator to come across as non-threatening. She merely “decided” that she has “something to say” and anyone is free to listen at their own will. When people are commanded to do something, often their first impulse is to rebel against it. When people are invited to do something, often they are more inclined to accept. When people are told something is going to happen and they are not commanded to join nor offered an invitation, often, curiosity and the human desire for inclusion leads them into action whether they realize it or not. Jordan does precisely that. “I have decided I have something to say” is a declarative sentence, presenting only the fact that the narrator has “something to say” and will most likely say it. The narrator does not demand the audience’s attention nor does she invite the audience to listen; thus, her resolve and indifference tickles the audience’s curiosity and draws them into her words. Jordan begins the final stanza with the shortest sentence in the entire poem: “he was being rhetorical” (Jordan, line 35).This quippy line follows a lengthy description of a horrifying incident, and in the context of the preceding question,  “d’ya want to swallow my big dick; well, do ya?” (Jordan, lines 23-4) the line appears to state the obvious, but it serves a much greater purpose. After reliving the entire traumatic incident, the narrator returns immediately to a matter-of-fact tone. Jordan achieves ethos in this line. Jordan proves that the narrator is not an unstable little girl whining about a man hurting her, but a clear-headed adult, stating the facts of her case. Because Jordan the narrator’s credibility, so too is her argument made credible, thus, audience becomes inclined to pay attention.

Finally, through various poetic devices, Jordan utilizes pathos to let the reader’s emotions

June Jordan

inspire a changed perspective. Pathos evokes empathy. Empathy catalyzes action. Action prompts change. But pathos is a difficult element to master, for the line between too much and too little is fine. “I was raped for the second / time in my life the first occasion / being a whiteman and the most recent / situation being a blackman actually / head of the local NAACP” (Jordan, lines 10-4). No punctuation breaks these lines. Not even a period concludes this stanza. The repeated enjambment makes the last line of mere description appear to be an after-thought. The fact that this line proceeds the adverb “actually” makes the information regarding the second criminal was a “blackman” and “head of the local NAACP” have a peculiar note of surprise. The NAACP was meant to protect the civil rights of black people. The narrator, a woman of color, is supposed to trust this organization and those who lead said organization. But the rape breaches her trust. Who is she supposed to turn to now? She turns to her own voice. “Whiteman” and “balckman,” like the titles of two species, are the only indicators of distinction between perpetrators. The act is the same. Hence, the colors, “white” and “black” appear separate from the act. This poem crystallizes this devastating moment in a way only poetry can. Stanza 2 describes the episode in graphic detail. “Stradling,” (Jordan, line16) unclear whether acting as a participle or a verb, and “forcing,” (Jordan, line 19) describing “his […] powerful left hand,” (Jordan, line 18) are both present sense and in action. “Stradling” and “forcing” speed up the scene until “while” (Jordan, line 20) breaks the rhythm and the past tense verbs “rammed,” “described,” and “shouted” reduce the last lines to a crawl. The languid pace weighs down the final lines; their significance becomes unavoidable and sobering. While the lines “he rammed / what he described as his quote big dick / unquote into my mouth” (Jordan, line 20-23) explains the rape literally. The fact that the following words, “and shouted out” (Jordan, line 24) continue with the same pace and tense indicate that the question the man shouts and the silence that follows is too part of the rape. This entire scene, the ebb and flow of the cadence and the crushing progression of violence brought to life with each poetic device, throws the reader into the scene with the rape victim.

Just as the title “Case in Point” suggest, the narrator’s argument is proved within the example itself. Her argument being that rape is an example of society’s depravity.




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“Rape Joke” by Patricia Lockwood

“Rape Joke” by Patricia Lockwood

The Second Wave changed the discussion and legal view of rape significantly. However, antirape activists have yet to win the war. The rape epidemic continues, so poetry is once again used to confront it, as exemplified by Patricia Lockwood’s “Rape Joke.” Teenagers, however, are beginning to employ this classic method of evoking empathy to combat sexual violence through poetry with a twist. Hence, the genesis of Pain Memes.

Painting of Patricia Lockwood

Patricia Lockwood’s “Rape Joke” is a modern poem about a rape incident, that addresses the same issues about rape as presented in Adrienne Rich’s “Rape,” Sylvia Plath’s “The Jailor” and June Jordan’s “Case in Point,” for even though the Second Wave changed the legal landscape, rape itself has not changed. A similar element Rich’s “Rape” poem is “the rape joke said you were the one who was drunk, and the rape joke said you remembered wrong, which made you laugh out loud for one split-open second” (Lockwood 5). Lockwood utilizes anaphora, repeating “the rape joke said you“ to emphasize the rape joke’s shifting of the blame. Such is the case Rich makes in the question “will you swallow, will you deny them, will you lie your way home” (Rich, line 30). The woman knows the truth even if the whole world forces them to lie. Rape has not changed. Lockwood’s “Rape Joke” connects to as well to Plath’s “The Jailor” in the line “the rape joke is he wants almost murdered a dude by throwing him through a plate glass window” (Lockwood 2). “Murdered” is a strong, grotesque word. “Dude” is a layman’s term that belittles the event. This demonstration of violent, raw power cast aside through casual wording was a crucial element in “the Jailor” as well, for in both poems the rape victim futilely wishes to their situations were less grim. Rape has not changed. The “Rape Joke” and “The Jailor” end similarly as well. Lockwood wrote on the last page of the “Rape Joke” “So, you did dream of killing the rape joke for years, spilling all of its blood out, and telling it that way. The rape joke cries out for the right to be told” (Lockwood 6). The girl in the “Rape Joke” dreams “of killing the rape joke” just as the captive wife in “The Jailor,” wishes her husband “dead or away” (Plath, line 38). Both women fantasize about killing their demon but neither one can. Rape has not changed. The “Rape Joke” shares an element of Jordan’s “Case in Point” too in the line “the rape joke is that he was your boyfriend” (Lockwood 1). The reader stumbles upon the devastating realization that the man who raped the narrator of the “rape joke” was a man who she had trusted: her “boyfriend.” A betrayal like this happens to the narrator of “Case in Point” for her perpetrator was the “head of the local NAACP”

(Jordan, lines 14). Rape is always a form of betrayal. Rape has not changed. Like in “Case in Point” the “Rape Joke” tells the story of the silence that falls upon the raped woman in the line “the mattress felt a specific way, and your mouth felt a specific way opened against it, as if you were speaking, but you know you were not. As if your mouth were open 10 years into the future, reciting a poem called Rape Joke” (Lockwood 4). The narrator repeats “felt a specific way,” as she replays that moment in her mind. She relives the experience so acutely that she can find no other words to accurately

describe it, yet she describes the silence perfectly. The victim’s silence in that moment gave her a voice in the future. That is the silence Jordan states is “peculiar to the female” (Jordan, lines 26-7)  in her poem “Case in Point.” The silence when a girl is raped and her silence that follows her rape is what halts the outcry against the crime committed against her. One thing has changed. Through Pain Memes, these girls are starting to find their voice.

Teenagers on YouTube, both young girls and young boys, are beginning to use Richard Dawkins’s “Meme Theory” as their modern vessel to carry their uproar against the rape epidemic. Meme Theory is Richard Dawkins’ principle that certain ideas have the ability to spread though cultures like wildfire if the presentation of the idea and the idea is ideal for such the conditions of the time. Teenagers have found the ideal “meme” for transmitting their stories about rape: Pain Memes. According to Kaitlynn Mendes, the author of “Digitized Narratives of Rape: Disclosing Sexual Violence Through Pain Memes,” Pain Memes are “a means of storytelling in which a script is written as a short passage, conveying painful personal experiences through the visceral means of hand-crafted signs.” This multimedia storytelling device is as elegant as it is simple. In each video, words, written in informal text, appear on a screen either digitally or on flashcards. Music plays and no words are spoken as the words appear and disappear. Using this platform, rape victims make their stories known to their audience both conceptually and emotionally. The personal touch of different forts and languages, the alluring ambient music, the silent victim behind the screen all draw in the viewer and allow them to connect on a deeper level with the story they read. No longer are rape victim’s words begin monitored by the patriarchy. They can share their experiences without being immediately judged to their face. The Pain Memes have proved to be a personal form of healing for those still suffering from the trauma. YouTube gives them the feeling that they are being heard, and many of them are. Millions upon millions of people have access to and actually watch YouTube. And rape victims have the access to share their story with them all. As Kaitlynn Mendes writes in her examination of the modern outcry against sexual violence, “finally, although it is unlikely that everyone who shares their experience of rape considers this to be an activist, or even a feminist, act, making oppression visible has always been a key tenet of feminism” (Mendes). There is still hope.



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