Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rainn Wilson Apologizes for "Poorly Conceived Date-Rape Joke": What Would RAINN Think?

When I saw a twitter headline today that read, "Rainn Wilson Apologizes for "Poorly Conceived Date-Rape Joke", I first thought, "Is there ever a well conceived date-rape joke?"  Next I thought, "Well- that's certainly a coincidence."

The coincidence being that the other RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) plays an important roll in calling out celebrities (and educating them) regarding the consequences of throwing around the term "rape".  The misuse of the term seems to be hitting epidemic proportions lately:
  •   In June 2010, "Twilight" actress Kristen Stewart compared the constant scrutiny that she receives from the paparazzi to a woman being raped.  "What you don't see are the cameras shoved in my face and the bizarre intrusive questions being asked, or the people falling over themselves, screaming and taunting to get a reaction," she said of the constant paparazzi crush. "The photos are so ... I feel like I'm looking at someone being raped. A lot of the time I can't handle it. It's f---ed. I never expected that this would be my life." Stewart later apologized.  
  •  In October 2011, actor Johnny Depp compared having his picture taken to being raped.  “You just feel like you’re being raped somehow. Raped. The whole thing,” he told Vanity Fair. “It feels like a kind of weird—just weird, man… Whenever you have a photo shoot or something like that, it’s like – you just feel dumb. It’s just so stupid.”  Depp later apologized.
  • In November 2011, "Jersey Shore" cast mate Vinny released a song about raping strippers.  I will not repeat the lyrics here.  Vinny later apologized.
  • In January 2012, actress Kim Novak took out an ad in Variety magazine to declare that she felt raped by the makers of the Oscar nominated film "The Artist" because the film used a score from one of her old movies.  The difference here:  Novak's team is not apologizing. 
Whether we like it or not, celebrities influence social norms.  When celebrities use the term "rape" as a joke or to describe their dislike of having their picture taken or their work borrowed, it cheapens what it really means.  It is meant to describe a violent act against women, men, and children...and it is a serious public health issue.  As with any public health issue, it is influenced at multiple levels (individual, interpersonal, community, society). The language we use everyday (whether to friends, family, co-workers, twitter followers, facebook friends) impacts our society on every level.  So think about the words that you choose and do your part to change the conversation.  

National Sexual Assault Hotline:  1-800-656-HOPE (4673)


  1. Really good article. I never realized how common it was celebrities to ill-use and mis-use by celebrities. I think its important to bring light to these ills, especially by celebrities who influence so much. Thanks for bringing light to this.

  2. Thanks Lilia. I appreciate you reading and commenting on Pop Health.