I’ve always found it troubling when I hear people use the word “Nazi” metaphorically.  Terms like “fashion nazi,” “food nazi,” even Seinfeld’s famous “soup nazi” episode, seem to trivialize the Holocaust.  Of course, we often recognize the hyperbole and that’s part of what is supposed to make it funny.  But do we really want to make fun with such an idea?   Lots of people didn’t like it when PETA did it.

In any case, I was thinking about similar uses of the word “rape.”  The word “rape” seems to be everywhere.  People use it not just for its literal meaning, but to describe all manner of unpleasant experiences.  For example, in this story at bestweekever:


Do other societies use words like rape and murder metaphorically?  Have we always done so?  Must we?  Or are there alternatives that may be more sensitive to people who lost loved ones in the Holocaust, were raped, or knew someone who was murdered?

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.