Monday, June 17

Some Heavy Stuff (rape jokes, graphic violence and society's lack of boundaries)

Introduction- This post was prompted by a fb share of a very dear friend. I often see him post or share things on subjects that I also have very strong feelings on. The link below was one of those shares-


I needed a little time to collect my thoughts and figure out how to say what I wanted, beyond just the obvious, "People are horrible." So here goes...

I think the issue here goes beyond just how language affects culture, and I feel it goes much farther then just rape and rape jokes. The same concept of the effect on culture is why I have problems with overt violence in mainstream media (shows, movies, video games, even comics and pictures).

I get that my husband (for instance), with is strong sense of morality and not being inclined towards violence, isn't going to play a violent video game and then go shoot people in real life. However, I feel by normalizing graphic violence it could tip the scale for some. A glance at the news any day is enough to see this hypothetical individual may be more prevalent then most want to admit. I'm not worried that Good Guy Gary is going to see normalized violence and suddenly decide, "What the flip!? Lets go see what it's like in real life." I'm worried about the one already with a tendency who might never have crossed that line if our culture and environment was clearly against it. I don't believe that this is the case with all violent criminals, but I do feel it might be with some. There is surely a reason violence and crime occurs in larger percents with certain demographics in certain areas. Personally, I firmly believe it is not the color of skin or income but rather with the culture surrounding the individuals in those demographics that makes this difference. Violence portrayal and rape humor by peers, family or media - I think it's the same. For someone already confused about where the line is, this normalization might be the hand that wipes the line away.  

In other words- it's not reasonable to say that these things in media and mainstream are ok because everyone knows that they are wrong; because plainly, that is not the case... or this post would not exist. 

I've always felt this way to an extent, but my experience as the mother of a now 6 year old with autism/aspergers symptoms has shown me how words and what is seen repeatedly can deeply affect how someone behaves. Trisitan doesn't have the instinctual boundaries and behaviors many take for granted. When Trace hits his brother and hears my voice you can see in his immediate demeanor he knows he did wrong. He understands that he just hurt his brother, without ever having it explained. He may eventually hit that why stage and where he wants it spelled out, but he may not. It's different for Tristian. There is no 'why stage'- only the ever present, WHY. When Tristian hits and hears my voice he waits. There is no immediate change as when Trace is caught misbehaving, Tristian is waiting to hear what I will say, because until then he simply does not know. Tristian hits because he has seen others do so. When you tell him not to he asks, "Why?" fully and completely not understanding. You have never truly considered the reasons behind why hitting/pushing/biting/etc is wrong until you have to find a way to explain it to an autistic child. As a parent it is a constant struggle not to get frustrated at him for what he 'should know better'. Should know better doesn't exist for Tristian all too often.

Tristian can't automatically tell how to act in social settings and has no grasp at all of social cues, tone of voice or sarcasm. All of that has had to be taught, repeatedly. Normal to him is what he is told is normal &/or what he sees portrayed. How he behaves in society is verbatim what we tell him or what others have done (and depending on his interpretation that can render some very interesting results). I understand his case is different from the majority (although with the rise in understanding of autism spectrum it makes you wonder how much different is it really- or is it simply more obvious?). Words, rules, what others say is ok or is not makes a drastic change on his world. I can't believe that he truly functions so differently then the rest of humanity. I think there are a lot of Trace's out there that seem to be born understanding; but there are a lot of Tristian's out there too and not all are autistic (or obviously so anyways). If that's true, then how big of a part do scenes and jokes about prejudice &/or violence in media or by those around us play in our culture's obvious problems?

I am all for freedom of speech; however, I feel there is a difference between an institute censoring speech and societal censoring of what is OK. I feel that society should censor certain things. There should be lines that it is not ok to cross. I understand that many hot topics are murky and up for debate, but I'm talking about what is unquestionably wrong. MURDER, RAPE, PREJUDICE, ABUSE, CRIMINAL NEGLECT, BRUTAL VIOLENCE. These should not be hard lines to recognize as a culture or society. These lines should not be this much of a question or debate. Not everything should be ok to commercialize or joke about.

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