Last month my friends Martin and Jennifer wrote a pair of essays for the Woman Poker Player web site about poker players' use of the word rape to describe bad beats, coolers, or just generally running bad. I didn't say anything at the time, because I thought they covered the matter so well that there wasn't much left unsaid. Martin in particular expressed exactly what has long been my sense of squeamishness when such terminology gets tossed around so casually. My only disagreement with Jennifer is that I'm uneasy about expanding the use of penalties for linguistic offenses. I think that over the long run social opprobrium is a better tool than the rulebook, at least in this case.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
I did have one lingering question about the subject, though, and almost wrote a post about it at the time. In the end, I didn't have any good answer to my own question, so I let it drop. But it came up again Sunday evening, so once again it's on my mind.
Rob's friend "Prudence" was indisputably having a bad night, with a never-ending stream of second-best hands. At one point she exclaimed in frustration, "I'm getting murdered here!"
This was precisely the counterpoint that occurred to me when reading the essays about the offensiveness of rape language: What about similar use of various forms of the word murder? It is almost universally agreed that murder is a worse crime than rape, as evidenced by harsher criminal penalties for the former than the latter in every jurisdiction that I know of. So why is poker players' figurative use of murder less likely to provoke outrage (whether expressed or not) than the identical use of rape?
If this is hypocrisy, I confess to sharing in the guilt. I certainly noticed Prudence's language, because I spent a few minutes pondering this very conundrum just a few weeks ago, but still it didn't strike me with the same reflexive wincing and squirming that would have occurred if she had said, "I'm getting raped here!"
Why is that?
I'm still stuck with the same dilemma I had when I thought about writing this up last month: I don't have a good answer. But this time I'm going through with sending it out into the ether, hoping that somebody else does.