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Corrective Rape- A South African Speaks


Okay, I wasn’t going to do this, but it kept eating at me (and other people around me). So. Let it be known that I am a South African Bisexual cis female.

“Corrective rape was a term coined by South African lesbians! Thus this is a lesbian-only term!” is something that’s getting thrown around a lot by the Discourse Brigade. 

The first time I saw this I burst into laughter. I mean, I am the victim of corrective rape and never have I ever been told by any of my lesbian sisters to not use this term. It never occurred to anyone I know that I would not be able to use this term, or that this is not what my sexual assault was.

It was yet another example of how silly people could be. Were people who had never spoken to a single LGBT+ South African really going to be this ignorant? 

I never took it seriously for a second because, really? Surely nobody actually thought that South African Lesbians were gonna expect everyone to conform to some nebulously specific list of things to qualify to use the term “corrective rape”. 

But hey, as an African you get used to people talking over you and thinking you ride to school on a lion. Whatever, you laugh and you move on. 

But I couldn’t move on. 

Because people kept telling other people that they were, I don’t know, spitting on people’s graves, for using this term “incorrectly”. 

So let me tell you this right now: If your assault happened because you do not conform precisely to your society/culture’s cisheteronormative* values, congratulations! You get to use the term corrective rape. Compliments of your South African brethren. 

End. Of. Fucking. Discussion. 

Now- let me tell you why I couldn’t move on. 

Because the assholes that are policing the use of this term are spitting on the graves of every single one of my fucking ancestors. 

Allow me to explain. 

South Africa is a really unique place. Did you know we have eleven (11) official languages? That’s not including the minority ethnic groups that call my country home. 

Now, when you realise that you have nine (9) traditionally black South African cultures, two (2) white cultures, the Chinese people, the Indian people, Other Africans… You may begin to figure out we’re really fucking diverse. 

And we’re pretty proud of that diversity. Post Apartheid. 

Apartheid was a system built- at its core- on ‘us’ vs ‘them’. It wasn’t inclusive. It separated people. It put some people in positions of power over others. It redefined the term ‘gatekeeping’ (in my opinion).

It was really fucking nasty. 

It killed a lot of people. 

And then Nelson Mandela came along. You know the story- he was imprisoned and instead of hating everyone he taught love and inclusion (after Winnie Mandela got him freed whilst running the Struggle- go read up on her. She’s a true feminist icon). 

He is the father of our nation. And he taught us that hatred and bigotry and exclusion are never ever the way to go. 

Afrikaans is still an official language. Part of the old Afrikaans anthem is still included in our official anthem. 

We are taught that this is our country’s way forward. 

We’re the Rainbow Nation! 

LGBT+ people were granted every single right American LGBT+ people are still fighting for in our constitution in 1994. 

But unfortunately, this lead to a huge homophobic backlash. 

Thus- corrective rapes started happening all across the country. 

But! The assholes who rape people? They don’t ask whether you’re lesbian or gay. They don’t check your credentials. 

They can rape the girl who’s a little too ‘butch’ for their tastes, or the boy who might not play football (soccer for the Americans). 

They do not care if you are a card carrying member of the LGBT+! They care only for the fact that you don’t look masculine/feminine enough. That you might have been staring at a boy/girl. That you said no earlier. Maybe you have a LGBT+ friend, so obviously you’re the same. Or hell, maybe your parents know you’re LGBT+ and they pay someone to rape it out of you. Maybe your arranged husband does it on your wedding night. 

They do not care how you do not conform to societal standards- only that you do not. 

And in South Africa we know this. 

We know that no one’s rape is exactly the same as anyone else’s. Because it could never be exactly the same. 

So yeah, here a completely straight white girl could use the term “corrective rape” and no one, no one, would bat an eyelash. Because she was correctively raped. 

Because we know that united we stand, but divided we fall. And we have fallen so very very far in our past. 

So no. 

You do not get to fucking gatekeep this term which my brothers and sisters and I in this struggle have shed our blood and tears in. 

You do not get to exclude people in our name.

Not when we freely gave this term to the world to use as and if needed.

Kindly respect us and our culture enough to not spit directly into our and our forefathers faces. 

*I’m so sorry Trans Tumblr. I couldn’t find another word that really worked here. 

** Yes, I have spoken to my fellow LGBT+ brethren. This is a PSA from the majority of us. If only because I cannot speak for all South Africans. Some of us are assholes too. 

*** I know the UN wants to rename it “homophobic rape” but we will never us this term since it throws our Trans/NB/intersex/Bi/Ace/Aro/Agender/Questioning/Ally siblings under the bus. It frankly goes against what we invented it for. You, however, are welcome to coin the term yourselves. 


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