What is National Rape Day, the TikTok manosphere’s most enduring and disturbing idea?

By Abby Amoakuh

Published May 11, 2024 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

At this point, the emergence of a new, disturbing TikTok trend is quite unsurprising. We’ve seen everything now from the oatzempic diet, DIY tooth gems, face wax challenges, and NyQuil chicken (don’t ask). However, there is one particular fad that rears its ugly, disgusting and illegal head every year and it falls on 24 April, commonly referred to as ‘National Rape Day’.

What is National Rape Day?

‘National Rape Day’ or ‘National Sexual Assault Day’ is an alleged holiday claiming to legalise sexual assault for the entirety of 24 April. Disturbing, I know. But let’s be crystal clear here, this concept—which feels as though it’s been pulled straight out of The Purge—is completely fictional. There is absolutely no holiday in the UK or anywhere else in the world that legalises sexual assault at all. Rape and sexual assault are, say it with me, serious criminal offences, and will continue to be so throughout the entirety of 24 April.

@gemini_piper

Replying to @mdb722 hopefully this explains for some people what April 24th is

♬ original sound - Piper
https://www.tiktok.com/@redthoughts_050432/video/7361178478340771115

The idea, like so many other disturbing fads, seems to have originated with a TikTok video that was made in April of 2021, potentially because April is currently known as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The original video was allegedly made by a group of men who then encouraged others to seize the opportunity and assault people without the risk of legal ramifications.

Yet, some sources say that talks of a National Rape Day began on the anonymous online bulletin board 4chan and then became a TikTok trend. Overall, there seem to be differing opinions about where the idea started, but most sources cite TikTok as the origin.

The video was taken down after it started gaining widespread traction and TikTok has also blocked the hashtag #NationalRapeDay. Yet, every April since the myth first made its way into the mainstream, there is an instream of videos, comments, and vocal concerns around this day that will allegedly provide an exemption to one of the most gruesome and terrifying crimes a person can be subjected to.

@melissallgall

This video is for women. The fact that April 24th has been set up as a day where men glorify violating women makes me so enraged as someone who went through s3xual ass@ult. Violence against anyone, especially women needs to stop. Stay safe today 💓 #abuse #mommyissues #healing #trauma #breakthecycle #innerchildhealing #abuser #familyabuse #abuseawareness #mentalhealth #mentalglowup #daddyissues #homeless #growth #change #selfcare #selflove #abusestory #healingjourney #healingtiktok #healingtrauma #fyp #staysafe #womenempowerment #youmakemedotoomuchlabor #women

♬ labour - Paris Paloma
@krysmay

Please be safe that day and every day 💕 #learnontiktok #krysmay #WorthTheWait #ZitHappens #viral #trend #tips #health #girls #boys #foryou #pov

♬ Calabria 2007 - Instrumental Mix - Enur

How big is this ‘Rape Day’?

This April 2024, German politician Katharina Günther-Wünsch decided to pen a warning letter to schools, in which the member of Berlin’s government called on schools to be vigilant and educate students about rape and sexual assault in class to make them less susceptible to trends like these.

Following her poignant address, Günther-Wünsch was applauded for taking the online lives of young students seriously. The politician recognised that TikTok was not just a space for dance videos and lipsyncing, but also a sight of serious cultural and political reflection for young adults.

How susceptible are young people to trends like these?

In 2021, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) published a landmark study regarding hate speech and extremism on TikTok, which raised the alarm on a wide range of concerning content on the platform. Among the worrisome findings was the presence of incel discourse, supporting misogyny and gender-based violence.

For context, incels or involuntary celibates have been linked to a lot of organised violence in the past, such as the shooting by Jake Davison of five people in Plymouth in 2021 and an attack in Toronto, Canada, in which self-described incel Alek Minassian drove a van into a crowd killing 11 people in 2018.

Monitoring of hateful and extremist ideologies revealed that these groups of men, who feel that they can’t enter into sexual relationships with women, have gained significant access to the mainstream. As a consequence, their type of misogyny and disregard for women grown out of resentment and frustration is now openly being posted and promoted on engagement-driven platforms.

The presence of incels in online spaces such as TikTok, which are populated by many young and impressionable minds, has thus been thoroughly critiqued and contested. In October 2023, researchers from the University of Portsmouth found multiple “prominent” incel accounts on the video-sharing site. This intensified calls for more online safety regulations on the site, as studies indicate that it’s among the top apps used by Gen Z and beyond.

The millions of videos and pictures posted on social platforms daily are incredibly significant for identity formation and creating self-images. It was only in 2021 that accusations from researchers emerged, showing that Instagram exacerbates disorders such as anorexia in girls and young women.

Now, we are also increasingly confronted with men who explain what manliness means, promoting a hyper-masculine and testosterone-filled wet dream to their audience: men have no feelings and deserve unlimited sexual freedom, earn money, and treat women as property. Ironically, that was not even a reality in the 1950s they tend to be so nostalgic about it.

Most young men likely know that sexual assaults have legal consequences and that a figure like Andrew Tate, who is currently being charged with rape and human trafficking in the UK and Romania, isn’t exactly the summit of virility and freedom, despite him claiming otherwise.

Yet, myths like ‘Rape Day’ can create the impression for potential offenders that there are like-minded individuals.

Young men who aren’t educated on misogyny, on the other hand, might start to perceive these crimes as less severe if other men are publicly demanding exceptions for them and even proclaiming a fake day of “celebration” for their blatant disregard of women’s rights and autonomy.

Most scarily, however, the myth of ‘National Rape Day’ and its enduring popularity reflect a persistent climate of misogyny within our society and a lack of recognition of rape as a real and punishable crime.

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