When Rape Culture Meets Populism

Apparently rape is not always rape here in Italy, and there’s no better way to uncover the strange mix of rape culture and populism that recent events have spawned than two comic strips on the subject.

RAPISTS ARRESTED. The punishment they deserve…The punishment they will get…

The first comic strip refers to the African gang who raped two tourists in Rimini on the 25th of August. According to the renowned cartoonist Ghilberto, they won’t be hanged by their balls as deserved but will instead be put in a nice house of correction*.

License, registration and anti-rape insurance!

The second strip refers to the two Italian policemen who raped two American students on the 7th of September. In the cartoon, a police officer stops a woman driver and asks for her license, car registration and “rape insurance”. Here Ghilberto demonstrates his support of  the widespread view that the students somehow framed the police officers in order to obtain money from an unspecified rape insurance policy. The fact that a 5 second Google search reveals this to be a bufala, or fake news, doesn’t seem to bother him. (I have already shown with my experiment that a bufala can spread like wildfire  even when the author clearly admits that it’s fake)

The two cartoon strips perfectly summarise how the two events have been treated very differently by the Italian media. Firstly, the police rape has been always been reported with extra convoluted use of the conditional, subjunctive and inverted commas. Then the rape was of course contextualised: the American girls were drunk and probably dressed provocatively, they asked for a lift home, had smoked marijuana, and were basically “looking for it”. When that was not enough, they let their imagination run wild and made up pictures of the drunken victims and rape insurances.


“These are the two American tourists that accused our honest police officers of a terrible crime. Thanks Boldrini!” One of the fake pictures that went viral; it actually shows two Ukrainian girls in a club in Kiev

I suppose I could help Ghilberto and help him with his next artistic creation by mixing his last two comic strips: 


RAPISTS ARRESTED. The punishment they deserve…the punishment they will get. “Rape please!”

Because we know that the two Carabinieri will be let off lightly for this crime, it may be important point out that rape by police officers while on duty – the very people that are encharged with protecting women – may be considered worse than when it is perpetrated by a street gang. But that would be contextualising rape, and we leave this to populists and idiotic cartoonists.

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