Thursday, July 12, 2007

Don't talk

Just a short post to say that, if you haven't already read the Harlot today, you should (OK, the assumption that there's someone reading my blog who hasn't read the Yarn Harlot makes me giggle, but just in case...). Fair warning, if you're a feminist or know and like women at all, this is going to make you sick. The short of it is that Tory Bowen, a pre-law student, is accusing a man of rape (I'm trying to be unpredjudicial here) and the judge at the trial where she is bringing her charges against her attacker has said that she cannot use the words rape, sexual assault, victim, attacker, assailant, or forced in her testimony. Neither can anyone else. It's apparently too prejudicial. This means that she has to describe her experience -- as if having to describe something so horrific in public weren't bad enough -- as "sex" or "intercourse". Now, as a linguist (and a cognitive linguist to boot), I can tell you flat out that the word "sex" calls to mind a cognitive model which involves consent on the part of the two people involved in the act. That may not always be the case, but it is most definitely the prototype. This judge is saying, quite rightly, that "rape" implies non-consent on the part of one participant, but is allowing, nay insisting upon, the use of a word which implies mutual consent. All I have to say is, what the HELL? I mean, really people. I thought we were past this kind of ridiculous prejudice against women. OK, I'm rereading that sentence, and I know better, I really do. I just keep hoping that I'm wrong. And I'm not. Now I have another article for my office door, another incident to tell my students about when they tell me that feminism is unnecessary and passe. I'll be filling out the complaint form against the judge which is mentioned in the comments on Stephanie's post, assuming I'm allowed as a California resident (the url is:, and trying to find a way to write to my state senators. I see a Supreme Court case in the offing; I'm just afraid that it won't go well... What's next? Telling victims of spousal abuse that they can't say they were hit by the assailant? What would they say? How much of the passive voice can we use and still be saying anything at all?

Here are some article links for those who, very rightly, like to check out other versions of the story:

1 comment:

Fiberjoy said...

This is extremely sobering and alarming. By binding her the use of correct terminology the judge is not permitting her, or anyone else, to tell the truth.