If you are from Malaysia, chances are you would have heard of this already. A Tiktok video made and uploaded by a Form 5 student on 23rd April 2021 exploded all over social media, sparking debates, commentary, and content on rape jokes and sexual harassment/assault.
@ant33aterpls make the school environment safer for us, as teachers u have lots of influence with your mindset. #xyzcba #tiktokmalaysia♬ original sound – ain orkid – ain #MakeSchoolASaferPlace
17-year-old student Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam’s Tiktok talked about a Physical and Health Education class she had which touched on sexual harassment and self-protection. However, the class turned disturbing when the male teacher started making jokes that became more lewd as the class went on. One of his “jokes”, according to Ain, was sparked by a discussion on how there were multiple tough laws against rapists who raped minors.
“So, if you want to rape, don’t rape those who are below 18 years old, just rape those who are above 18 years old,” said the teacher in class.
In the same Tiktok, Ain mentioned that the girls in the class kept quiet, but her male classmates laughed at that “joke”.
In the few weeks that have passed since Ain’s Tiktok went viral, she has:
- been threatened with rape by male classmates for exposing the joke,
- had her body commented on by various anonymous cowards online,
- been accused of painting her school in a bad light for uploading the Tiktok video,
- started a movement on the Internet to #MakeSchoolASaferPlace,
- been called “Satan’s spawn” by her very own principal, and
- been threatened with expulsion from school.
All the above are signs of rape culture, where the heinous act of rape is swept aside as a joke or something to be brushed off and not taken seriously. Judging by the reactions of the people around Ain, her reveal of the “joke” was a far more serious “sin” to them than the actions of the teacher who should not have made such a “joke” in the first place.
It has been said before, but it should be said again and again until society takes it seriously: rape jokes are not funny, never funny, and will never be funny.
People can accuse me of not having a sense of humour, but if rape jokes are what passes for humour for you, you might want to question your sense of morality and decency instead.
By its very definition according to Merriam-Webster, rape is an:
“unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against a person’s will or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent because of mental illness, mental deficiency, intoxication, unconsciousness, or deception.”
Which part of that sounds funny?
The whole “it’s just a joke” excuse does not fly. Rape jokes may not directly lead to the act of rape, but it frames the act of rape as less serious than the crime it is.
Yes, rape IS a serious crime. Sex should be consensual between two adults of legal age, and forcing another person – whether male or female, adult or underage – to participate in sex when they do not want to is a felony punishable by the law.
Apart from rape jokes, here are 3 other things we should not allow anymore to prevent rape culture:
a) Blaming the victim
Rape victims are victims of a crime that they did not want to participate in. Yet, somehow, there will still be people who blame the victim for the crime that happened to them, as though they were “asking” to be raped.
“What was she wearing?”
“Why was she out so late?”
“She should not have been drinking.”
“She should not have gone to a man’s house alone.”
“She is only saying it is rape because the man is not handsome.”
“I bet he enjoyed it.”
Comments like this means many rape cases go unreported, emboldening future rapists to do what they do. It is already lonely and arduous for a rape victim, female or male, to have their body violated. To report the rape case means to relive their pain repeatedly at the police station and at trials.
The least we can do is to have empathy for them and shut up if we have nothing supportive to say.
b) Paint the rapist as someone with a bright future
I honestly do not care how bright a future a rapist has. He or she has destroyed their own bright future by violating another person’s body.
And yet, it is common in the media and for the legal system to consider the rapist’s future more than the future of those who have been raped.
One of the more prolific examples of this is Brock Turner, the rapist in the 2015 Stanford University sexual assault case when he attacked an unconscious Chanel Miller outside of a frat party. He also happened to be at Stanford on a swimming scholarship, a fact repeated across many media outlets.
In the end, Brock was only sentenced to 6 months in jail, because the judge said he considered the effect a harsher conviction would have on Brock’s life.
Perhaps Brock should have considered his own future before he sexually assaulted someone who was unconscious.
iii) Painting rape as romantic or forgivable in pop culture
“He adored her so much he could not help himself.”
“She was just in love.”
“If you love me, you’d do this for me.”
Having passionate feelings for someone is not a sin. Acting on those passionate feelings and forcing them on someone who does not want those feelings is not only annoying, but also a crime if those acts involve assault, threats, or rape.
Rape is never romantic. If anyone absolutely loved and respected you, they would never force you to do what you are uncomfortable to do. We should stop romanticising rape in books, films, and the media, and paint it for what it is – assault and a crime.
It is only when we start taking rape seriously as a crime that rape culture stops. Judging by the reactions to Ain’s story, there is still a long way to go – but I am thankful for bright young women like Ain who can speak up for themselves and try to right what’s wrong. We need to raise more Ains in this world.