And then the conversation reaches its earth-shattering climax. Your text message alert pings. The message says ‘I can’t wait to utterly destroy you later.’
You blink, confusedly. Has Darth Vader accidentally sent you a text he meant for the President of Alderaan? Hitler’s phone has somehow found your name when he was looking for ‘Allies’?
Nope, it’s definitely not a mistake. It’s just another episode in the culture of violence.
Everyone’s favourite cesspit, UniLad, is taking an extended hiatus from broadcasting banter-filled bile, so the internet has become a quieter place in terms of utterly brutal misogyny. From references to banging a conquest’s head into the wall ‘to knock some sense into her’ to describing sex as ‘violating’, ‘destroying’ or ‘smashing’, the bottom-feeders at the online Lad Bible happily bandied this language about, unaware, like they seem to spend the majority of their days, just how much of an impact the use of this language has.
I have fond memories of Angels and Demons – the vastly superior prequel to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code – presenting one of the book’s villains as a nasty piece of work while considering the number of ways he could ‘violate’ a woman he had unwittingly tempted to his lair. This guy was bad, mad and with a fondness for violent sex. But nowadays, you don’t need to be a kick-ass killer assassin to use the word ‘violate’ to describe sex with a woman; you just need to have a few Bacardi Breezers in you. Antiquated language relating to sex has filtered down into the way we talk about it in the modern day, indicating just how much of a power play it remains. But while the position of women has shifted through history, the language we are subjected to thanks to porn and certain choice magazines implies that our role is still to lie back, grit our teeth and let them prove their dominance. Except we’re not courtly, virginal teenagers, and the gurning idiots hitting on us in the pub are hardly medieval knights, in shining armour or otherwise.
Is violent language through sex the only way these boys can convey their own perceived power? Let’s face it – we’re pretty terrifying as a species, we women. We can drive, we can vote, we can pay for our own drinks, and we can walk in heels. If a UniLad type even uttered the phrase ‘I’m going to violate you’ in our presence, we’d probably burst out laughing and spill our vodka tonics down him in mirth. So is that what they have to do, to ‘feel like men’? Is violent language the only thing that they have left to assert their dominance? And how much does this language demonstrate the violence inherent in our culture?
Young men are angry. That much is science – dictated by a cruel and irrational whirlwind of hormones, they just want to smash things up and get aggressive. So if society has forbidden the random smashing up of things, can we really deprive them of this simple outlet that is aggressive language? That would be a solid argument, if that’s really all it is. We know full well that the average young man is highly unlikely to ever be capable of ‘ruining’ or ‘destroying’ a woman in any other manner than ruining her sheets or destroying a perfectly good pair of tights, but there’s always those for whom violence has invaded not only their language, but their lives.
Take Chris Brown, affectionately named Beat-Her-Down by ‘celebrity’ blogger Perez Hilton, who recently took to Twitter to bash his ‘haters’ after winning a Grammy. Brown’s music veers between being about girls he meets in clubs and, as with all musicians of his ilk, where he came from. Rapping on Chipmunk’s motivational rap-sody ‘Champion’, he asked ‘I used to see my momma getting beat down/is that the real definition of me now?’ Sadly, yes, Chris. You may have atoned, done community service and all that, but that’s not going to be enough to make people forget that photo of Rihanna. And resorting to angry language about all the people that hate on you because of it doesn’t give us any indication that you’ve really changed.
All-round champion of women’s rights, Hugh Hefner, has encountered a similar PR disaster of late, with one of his sons being arrested for beating up his girlfriend (who, in one of the most revolting cases of sloppy seconds we could imagine, used to do Heff himself). Said girlfriend, a former Playmate of the Year, has said that she has no intention of pressing charges, only requesting a public apology – no doubt more damaging both to the rep of Heff the Younger and to Heff’s infamous morals than jailtime ever could be. When asked to comment on the unfortunate incident, Heff only said ‘If they care about each other, they’ll patch it up.’
I’m sorry Heff, ‘they’ll patch it up’? Aside from the LOLtastic choice of words (patch it up, injuries, geddit?) your son has been accused of a fairly serious crime. Your former bunny doesn’t seem to be aware of this, but as the father of a man who thinks it’s OK to beat his woman, maybe you should have a little look into that old parenting manual. Or at least teach your son that while you’ve made it acceptable to use women as objects for entertainment, like a smartphone, unlike a smartphone you can’t throw them against the wall when they annoy you.
Luckily, if you’re Chris Brown, there are still people out there who are not only OK with, but actively turned on by the fact that you’ll only ever be famous for being that guy what broke Rihanna’s face. This judging by the massive number of clueless women tweeting variations on the theme ‘Chris Brown can punch me all night if he wants *DREAM* <3’ as a response to Brown’s Grammy appearance.
While the sheer mind-numbing stupidity of these statements is obvious, the thing to take away from his is how far the actual words have become separated from the actions. To the UniLad types, ruining someone in a sexual context does not relate to ruining them physically, unless you rifle through their jewelry box and steal their chequebook afterwards. Except the negative implications associated with the language – that you want to leave someone in a worse state than when you started – follow it around. In the same way, I wonder what a victim of actual domestic violence would have to say to a woman begging Chris Brown to ‘beat’ her. They (the Chris Brown lovers) probably view it as a simple step up from the popular ‘rape fantasy’ that most women seem to have – published in Cosmo, appearing in behavioural barometer Sex and the City - and would, in their future fantasies, imagine Chris Brown lovingly bashing their faces in while they derive intense pleasure from it (as some people do) – they the simpering damsel overpowered by this pillar of masculinity (ooh-err).
But, of course, a fantasy and reality are very different. Women with violent fantasy tendencies will either not act on them or enjoy them in a role-play exercise with a trusted partner. The reality of an angry Chris Brown beating them mercilessly in the front seat of his car is no doubt totally different to what these women have pictured in their head. The disconnect is there in their minds, but their phrasing implies no disconnect at all.
And so, hey, it’s not just menwho use this angry language. Female friends of mine regularly indicate their interest in a man with the phrase ‘I’d hit that’ (a traditionally male phrase – clearly their modus operandum is ‘if you can’t beat (LOL) ‘em, join ‘em). We ‘hit on’ people. We ‘hit up’ Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon. Why, in a language with such a varied lexicon, do we always fall back on the most violent of terms, trivialising them to an extent that they become totally separate from their original meaning, and only being reunited with it in the witness box? We need to treat our language with the respect that we expect its use to treat us. Let’s try hitting up the dictionary for some new terms for those Saturday night sexts.