The disturbing popularity of the #itaintrape hashtag
Twitter is keeping rape culture alive and well with the #itaintrape hashtag, an abhorrent trend which first gained popularity when it emerged from comedian Roland Powell’s Twitter page. . . over four years ago.
That’s right, the perpetually trending hashtag has been around for quite some time. Powell, also known as Lil Duval, hosts MTV2’s “Guy Code”—a popular television show that refers to itself as “the ultimate guy’s guide to the laws of manhood. Every bro knows the code.” In 2010, Duval tweeted: “#itaintrape if u naked of Yo Twitter profile pic”, “#itaintrape if I’m paying child support”, “Lmao RT @MrCashFanatic: @lilduval #itaintrape if she doesn’t remember it.”
From there, his followers took the hashtag and ran with it.
Following Duval’s lead, Twitter began referring to rape in a myriad of disgusting ways: as requisite payback for money spent on a date, as some sort of inevitable result of intoxication on the victim’s part, or as the consequence of the victim’s date initiation.
What’s most disturbing about this trend is the ease and casualness (or, worse, pleasure) with which certain celebrities address the issue of sexual assault. They refer to rape with lighthearted, sometimes comical affect. To these individuals, their statuses and/or occupations often serve to protect—if not, at times, completely absolve—them of their despicable behavior.
Consider the controversy surrounding comedian Daniel Tosh’s rape references a couple years back. During an act in Los Angeles, Tosh made rape jokes and declarations about the hilarity of rape until a female member of the audience verbalized her objection. Tosh paused after the woman spoke, momentarily acting as though he were deep in thought before saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her. . .”
To show their support for Tosh, several comedians jumped into the online discourse after the controversy made headlines. Addressing the female complainant who’d initially spoken out at Tosh’s show, fellow comedian Dane Cook tweeted: “If you journey through this life easily offended by other people’s words I think it’s best for everyone if you just kill yourself.”
Comedy Central comedian Anthony Jeselnik chimed in on Twitter, stating, “This Daniel Tosh rape joke controversy really has me questioning some of my rapes.”
These statements only serve to further desensitize the public to the severity of sexual violence via the use of social media. They make light of it. Trivialize it. They open the door for vitriolic violent statements disguised as humor to be made and perceived by others as comedy. In a social media-focused population, these men and women are enablers.
As Julie Burton and Michelle Kinsey Bruns so eloquently and accurately stated in a 2012 article on cnn.com, here is how and why attaching such nonchalance to rape is dangerous:
That last sentence is particularly profound. With the #itaintrape trend, that notion, that promotion of fault on the victim’s part, is taken a step further and turned into a joke. Others see it and mimic it and—presto—the stage is set for a large-scale trend to flourish.
The fact that the hashtag is still popular—a resurgence, in fact—after its original inception in 2010 is just as disturbing as its origination. Several instances since have played out in the public eye: the Steubenville rape cases, the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons, the UVA rape controversy. And still we’ve got celebrities making irresponsible rape jokes and hordes of admirers ignorantly following suit.
Thousands have responded to the #itaintrape hashtag in support of victims of sexual assault. Should one attempt to find the “positive side” of this outrageously disgusting movement, it could be found in the enormous backlash it’s provoked.
Obviously we still have a long way to go. And there ain’t nothin’ funny about retrogression.
(Contact Jake Urbanski of MTV2 here with your comments and questions regarding MTV2’s “Guy Code.”)
Abby Higgs is a writer in Baltimore. In 2012, she received an MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from The University of Baltimore. More of her words can be found here: www.slowclapabby.com. On Twitter: @AbbyHiggs
(Images via Twitter, featured image via.)