Okay, (trying to think clearly here) I'm going to try to contribute my thoughts but be warned I am having trouble with getting the words out properly tonight.
I think it is really important that we try to see why words have such a great hold on us - especially when we are scared to use them or we see people use certain words to hurt other or put them down.
I have come to think that words are just things and what gives words so much power is not the words themselves but the meanings we attach to them.
Let me explain myself...we use words everyday to explain our own reality - we have a word for a 'man' or a 'woman' but man and woman existed before we had the words for them eg in ancient greek time the word 'man' and 'woman' did not exist but there were words that explained men and women as different versions of one sex. The two sexes did actually exist...just not as we know and understand them in our own concept of 'man' and 'woman'.
So when I use the word rape I use it with reference to my own reality - that of shame and hurt and confusion and all the other millions of feelings i have - and thats why it is hard to say, because my reality is so hard to face.
(Dont know if this is making sense) but perhaps the word rape (and other various non-mentionables) are scary because of the lenses we individually see them through - because of the meanings we give those words and of our interpretation and our associations with the words, we fear using them like we fear the acts themselves?
I can quite easily say rape in a conversation at uni but could no way utter it (even if someone offered me a million bucks to say it) when talking in relation to myself. And I can talk about almost any sexual act except for one, because of my association with that word. I believe that as my interpretation of words change and as I no longer own the terror associated with those words, my inability to say them will change.
How to explain why I can say rape when talking in terms of others? i think it comes from not feeling responsible for the words - there is no connection of those words to me when speaking of others so i feel safe using them. But get me to talk about my own story and I my throat seizes up and Im dumb founded - my ability to speak vanishes.
I also believe the social context in which words are used determine their meaning - because there is a feeling of shame about rape in our society, we attach that shame to the word and therefore also to ourselves...because we know it is shameful to be raped, we feel shameful just saying it. Perhaps once a person stops owning responsibility for the act they can stop owning the shame and can start using them without feeling as bad as the act itself made you feel? And perhaps because the act conjured up bad feeling, so to saying the word will conjure up those feelings you associate with it.
And here endeth my sketchy linguistics lesson. Dont know if that made any sense but at least i tried?!?! One thing is for sure - I know that the day i stand on my rooftop and can yell every word for every bastard thing what was done to me I will no longer own the shame and guilt that should not be put upon me and then the shame will be his reality, not mine.