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When you ‘Like’ rape on Facebook, you support rape culture


Sarah Cheverton
WVoN Co-Editor

On 6 August, one of our co-editors, Jane Osmond, published a story about a page on Facebook that really disturbed a lot of the WVoN team – You know she’s playing hard to get when your chasing her down an alleyway.

We encouraged readers to report the page, thinking that Facebook would take it down.

They didn’t.

On the 18th August, feminist and author, Barbara Hannah Grufferman wrote about the same page in the Huffington Post.

Today the page has generated 189,000 likes, and continues to attract more ‘likes’ and comments.

It generated the petition highlighted by Jane in her second post on the topic, and her third.

That petition has attracted over 3000 signatures, and was also the subject of a discussion on BBC Radio in which Jane took part and in which Facebook issued a statement where its representatives likened the page to a rude joke:

We want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views whilst respecting the rights and feeling of others.

We sometimes find people discussing and posting about controversial topics

It is very important to point out that what one person finds offensive another can find entertaining – just as telling a rude joke won’t get you thrown out of your local pub, it won’t get you thrown off Facebook.

Now there’s a second petition to Facebook to remove not only this page, but others like it, including “Raping your mates girlfriend to see if she can put up a fight” (170 Likes to date), “Wiping makeup off your shoe after a long day of kicking sluts in the face” (85,855 Likes), “I know a silly little bitch that needs a good slap” (12,074 Likes), and “Riding your Girlfriend softly, Cause you dont want to wake her up” (85,653 Likes).

The second petition has attracted over 30,000 signatures so far and John Raines, who began the petition states that all these pages should be removed because they “clearly are in violation of Facebook’s own policies”.

For info, Facebook’s policy seems fairly clear. As John Raines points out in his petition:

“Facebook’s own Terms of Service prohibit content that is “hateful, threatening,” or contains “graphic or gratuitous violence.” Moreover, users are specifically barred from posting content that aims to “bully, intimidate, or harass” any user.”

It would seem fairly straightforward – unless you don’t think that any of these pages count as ‘hateful’, ‘threatening’, ‘gratuitous’, ‘violent’, ‘graphic’ or ‘intimidating’.

And I have to be honest here, I really don’t understand how anyone can think the titles of these pages alone don’t count as any of those things, if not all of them.

When I started hearing about these pages, my reaction was mixed. I’m a big supporter of freedom of speech and often have many concerns about how censorship can be used once we start demanding it against things we don’t like.

I wondered how much impact a Facebook page could really have in the world, and thought on balance that pages like these were just the mindless meanderings of people with too much time on their hands and not enough sense in their minds.

To try to understand the pages better and work out what they meant, I spent some time wading through them and through the never-ending comments they attract, which are often strangely repetitive.

It’s as though the readers have a 20 second memory for bad comedy, and you could give them a three minute, looping clip of Roy Chubby Brown and they’d be gurgling contentedly away at a television screen for life.

Some of the comments are offensive (and not just because there’s no reason why anyone with access to a computer can’t also easily access a spellcheck), like this one: “It’s funny when they think they can out run you”.

Most of them are either incomprehensible, stupid or both, and many seem to be conversation threads taking place amongst a small group of friends who already know each other. I’m also willing to wager that most of them didn’t meet each other regularly in their English lessons at school or college.

But the comments I’m really interested in are the ones like these:

“…this page is a joke, if you can’t see the humerous side (one of my best friends {a girl} has been victim to it and can laugh at this) then don’t join the group, as if any of these people have actually raped someone. Why so serious dude it’s fuckin facebook… Get a life”

I’m interested in this because a lot of the posters and commenters on this page echo this sentiment in one way or another. Judging by their profiles, a lot of them are young people – interestingly both men and women.

And these men and women genuinely seem to find no problem with this page. Many of them deny it’s even ‘about rape’, and others who use the often repeated – and seemingly never tired of – flippant saying ‘It’s not rape, it’s surprise sex.’

Having spent more time on these pages than was good for my faith in humanity, I agree with Barbara Hannah Grufferman’s analysis that these pages are actually a really big indicator of western society’s broader ‘rape culture’, defined in her article as:

“. . a term used to describe a culture in which rape is common, and can be condoned through cultural attitudes and behaviors, including the way its victims are portrayed in the media, and the objectification of certain people (usually women) that seems to make their bodies open to violation.”

And rape culture I do have a problem with. That’s why I supported Slutwalk, although I understood it was controversial and often completely misunderstood.

And that’s why I support these petitions.

The concept of rape culture is also often controversial and frequently misunderstood. Raising the subject leads to long conversations that are often highly divisive and anger all involved.

But the fact that the phenomena of rape exists on the scale it does, and the fact that we have such a problem prosecuting rape for the men and women who suffer and survive the ordeal, tells me rape culture does exist.  It damages both men and women and it poses a threat to our evolution as human beings.

This Facebook page and others like it do not really offend me. Apart from researching this article, I don’t hang out on pages like this and I don’t hang around with people who do.

But does it worry me, as part of a broader rape culture that more than offensive, I find damaging to all of us, men and women, as human beings?

Well, hell yes.

So I’m signing both petitions, I’ve reported the page and if you agree with me, go ahead and do the same.

this page is a joke, if you can’t see the humerous side (one of my best friends {a girl} has been victim to it and can laugh at this) then don’t join the group, as if any of these people have actually raped someone. Why so serious dude it’s fuckin facebook… Get a life

  1. Reporting people who set up or join these groups to their employer (if you can work this out) or friends is a fairly effective deterrent – works equally well with EDL racists and sectarian idiots. If everyone took 5mins to report a couple of people a day it might reduce the popularity of such expressions.

    • I wonder how many of those reported in that manner keep on bleating about ‘freedom of speech!’ as they’re shown the door?

      • But do you think people actually get sacked over joining groups such as these?

        I know that the news gives the impression that people are frequently sacked for writing stupid comments on their own facebook pages, but usually these relate to their jobs or customers they’ve dealt with, unless it’s someone in a public position of responsibility, like the Tory councillor recently in trouble for talking about ‘jungle bunnies’ in the riots.

        As Sarah points out in the article, our culture is set up so that people think joking about rape and expressing hate speech towards women is an acceptable part of daily life. It’s very different to membership of the EDL or BNP. Might their employers simply see their comments as a bad joke, or even funny? Employers aren’t magically smarter or more culturally sensitive than their employees.

        I also noticed by clicking through to the profiles of a lot of the commenters that many of them were at school, so threatening them with reports to their employers doesn’t work.

        • Ah, so a letter to the school asking for a better policy on education about rape and rape culture would be more apt? Or a letter to all schools in the area of the commenter. One addressed to the local education authority should do it.

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