Here’s a little mystery I stumbled across yesterday when looking up a BBC New podcast—apparently iTunes sensors the word “rapist” in their album, podcast, movie, etc. descriptions, along with a few other strange ones like “murder.”
I tried looking into this phenomenon to read some other opinions on it, but came up empty-handed except for a few random message board posts reading something like: “Why is rapist censored in the Law and Order episode descriptions?”
The word is censored with asterisks (i.e., r****t), and it took me a minute to figure out what word they were censoring. My feeling is that this is a really bad idea. Besides being generally opposed to most censorship, this seems like it could have more adverse effects than positive. On the one hand, it’s a nice sentiment to consider rape a true “four-letter word”—something that is vulgar and intolerable. But I feel like censoring the word rapist is affording some kind protection to rapists. I know that sounds really melodramatic, but I’m not sure how else to say it.
Considering that silence about rape in the public discourse, stigmatization of rape, and shaming rape survivors all play into the guilt and emotional trauma that often make it difficult for survivors to report the crime, seek medical help or heal emotionally, more silence and stigma does not seem very helpful. Instead of sending the message that “rape is unacceptable,” I think this censorship might be easily misinterpreted as meaning “talking about rape is unacceptable” or “calling a rapist a ‘rapist’ is unacceptable.” Not to mention that I wonder where they draw the line. Would they censor “terrorist,” “Hitler,” “violence,” “sex”? If not, why only “rape” and “murder”?
I’ve never seen this anywhere else, but I personally hope it doesn’t become a trend.
Thoughts on this?