Naming Sexual Assault

Trigger Warning: As indicated in the title, I’m going to discuss some issues surrounding sexual assault here, so I figured I’d give a heads up that it may not be appropriate for everyone.

Also, who knows… you may not see your favorite names the same again.

I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about “the rape of [name_f]Proserpina[/name_f]” being the Google search optimization that comes up for [name_f]Proserpina[/name_f], one of my favorite names. It has been about 6 weeks since I’ve posted about it as I’ve been mulling it over, but nothing about this issue is simple or one-dimensional, so I’m still not sure where I stand except to say that [name_f]Proserpina[/name_f] is not off the table for me yet.

From this post here.

For those of you interested in going down this rabbit hole, I found these two articles quite interesting on the subject:

The Brutality of Ovid

Reading [name_m]Ovid[/name_m] in the Age of #metoo

In terms of the pure name discussion, though, I would love to get a sense of where people are in this. So many names popular here on Nameberry and elsewhere are names of either those who have experienced rape/assault, or those who have perpetrated those rapes/assaults. So many names on my list, and probably on yours, too. Of course not just ancient ones, either, but that’s where this discussion is stemming from.

Wikipedia “List of Rape Victims from Ancient [name_m]History[/name_m] and Mythology”

Wikipedia “Category: Mythological Rapists”

So, if you love [name_f]Persephone[/name_f] but don’t love [name_f]Proserpina[/name_f] based on one name’s widespread use as a name and the other’s lack of widespread use, what is that? Is it really about the Google search? Is it about the goddess? Is it about the taboo of assault? Is it really about protecting the child from seeing that in connection with their name, because one would assume that [name_f]Persephone[/name_f] would also come across the rape story eventually if you didn’t talk about it first? Isn’t [name_f]Persephone[/name_f] about so much more imagery than rape, which is why we all love the name to begin with?

Why love [name_f]Daphne[/name_f] but not [name_f]Io[/name_f]? Or why be OK with [name_m]Apollo[/name_m] but not [name_f]Sabine[/name_f] (apart from the glaring stylistic difference there)? Perhaps some of you have gone so far as to remove rape-related names from your lists. I’d love to hear about that if that’s the case.

I’m sensing so much covert (to me, until a few months ago) sexism in my own name list, as well as so much feminism. And like I said, I still really don’t have any idea where I truly stand on this or what the implications will be for my future naming prospects. I know I haven’t taken [name_f]Proserpina[/name_f] off my list, but I also continue to use [name_f]Apolline[/name_f] in every middle combo ever (as an honor name for [name_f]Pauline[/name_f]… I think of the name as so bright and sunny yellow, but doesn’t it have this dark underbelly, too?). [name_m]Endymion[/name_m] is among my top boys’ names, but we don’t hear about his rape when he comes up on the forums.

What does all of this mean to you? I’ve been trying to work it all out in my head, but I can’t. I’m not the most qualified person in the world to talk about this sort of thing, so please understand I’m coming at the topic with genuine curiosity and a willingness to keep an open mind. Genuinely interested in discussing this with all my favorite internet people. Thanks, Berries!


I think you really hit the nail on the head here, we tend to avoid talking about names in relation to assault because society in general avoids talking about assault.

Quite honestly, I don’t fully know what the relationship between names and sexual assault means to me. I learned around age 9/10 that my name ([name_f]Aurora[/name_f]) belonged to a goddess with “insatiable sexual desire” which led to her literal abduction of several young men. It was a truly horrible thing to learn, especially as a child who had previously only been told about the beauty in my namesakes (the dawn, the northern lights, etc). Knowing that connection certainly tainted my relationship with my own name for several years, and until I was about 14 I couldn’t forgive my parents for giving me the name of an abuser/nymphomaniac knowingly. Now, I’m fine with it. The name does have more positive connotations than negative ones, and the story of [name_f]Eos[/name_f]/Aurora in mythology is quite niche.

That said, there are some names that I can’t quite figure out what to do with in relation to their connections to sexual assault or coercion etc. [name_f]Sabine[/name_f] is one that I love but likely wouldn’t use due to the Rape of the [name_f]Sabine[/name_f] Women. [name_m]Ansel[/name_m] is a name I adore, but I’m concerned that after the recent allegations of abuse and assault the actor [name_m]Ansel[/name_m] Elgort is facing, that that would be the main association of the name for most people of my generation. On a related note, but not quite sexual assault, [name_f]Salome[/name_f] is a name I adore but I’ve been told the story associated with the name is far too heavy/awful to ever give to a child. These are all names that I just don’t know what to do with. Remove from my lists due to the associations? Keep because there’s more to a name than its history? Relegate to a middle name only place? I don’t quite know if there is one clear answer, but I would love to hear one.


I’ll be quite interested to read more of these responses!

So I have a much easier time taking a stance on this because, honestly, not many of the names on the Wikipedia lists are favorites of mine. The ones that were, have several other associations that severely drown out the sexual assault. Unfortunately, those lists don’t even scratch the surface of the number of rape stories throughout history, so it might be fair to say that many names are linked to something like that, only within an unheard of story. Furthermore, is it important to consider that mythology is, well, a myth? I’m curious if that makes a difference here.

If I’m being honest, it really is a lot about the Google search that gets me. Allow me to explain. I found @rorawhale’s story to be particularly interesting because I’d never heard about that side of the name [name_f]Aurora[/name_f] before. It’s far more associated with the Disney princess and the Northern lights for me.

I think that’s the bottom line for me. I can’t stop my kids from finding something negative about their name in the future, but I’d prefer if it weren’t easy. Saying “it’s the Google search” sounds so picky and critical but what it translates to is the ease by which someone can come across the horrible story. I remember being 8 years old or so, sitting with my friends at a sleepover, Googling our names to see what came up. At that age, I don’t think I even knew what rape was (not sure I even knew what sex was, to be honest).

I’m certain that I could find a story like this linked to my own name. However, it’s not the first thing that pops up when I perform a Google search. Someone would have to go looking in order to find it, whereas with [name_f]Proserpina[/name_f], it’s very easy to find. So easy, that it might be findable for a child who might not be ready to know what “rape” means (of course, the “sex talk” conversation is one that’s entirely different from what we have here). I also just think it would simply bother me. Not saying it has to be that way for everyone, but it is something that would leave a bad taste in my mouth. I’d be worried about my child finding it at too young of an age, and I’d be worried about nasty kids in junior high finding it and making light of a serious situation like sexual assault (maybe the boys I went to middle school with were just awful but I wouldn’t put it past them). So I’m not sure if its the story itself but rather how easy it is to find the story.

I love [name_f]Proserpina[/name_f] as a name, but I probably wouldn’t use it because as a character, her story was not a particularly inspiring one for a little girl. This is probably due to societal norms at the time that the myth was perpetuated. She was a woman who was continuously victimized by men and stripped of all autonomy, and unlike [name_f]Persephone[/name_f], does not have much of a legacy beyond that.

I do think that this is a very important discussion to have, though. I have always loved the name [name_u]Jaycee[/name_u] after the inspiring [name_u]Jaycee[/name_u] Dugard, but I feel like it would be appropriating her story and reducing her to the things that happened to her to actually use the name. That is my problem with using names like that in general. We can’t use a name because we like part of it, while ignoring the aspects of it that aren’t so great.

I don’t feel like I’m getting my point across . . . .

I don’t think that the name [name_f]Proserpina[/name_f] is unusable because the role that she plays in literary history is primarily that of a rape victim.

A good example of a name I do find useable despite connotations is [name_f]Virginia[/name_f], after [name_f]Virginia[/name_f] [name_m]Woolf[/name_m]. She was a woman tortured by mental health problems and haunted by the impact of her childhood sexual abuse. However, she was also a revolutionary part of literary and feminist history. So I think it all depends on the full story behind the name.

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Proserpina is a beautiful name, however I probably wouldn’t use it because if the connotations. I was a kid who loved to google my name and my friends names and I probably would have been uncomfortable if a rape was the first thing to appear on the search. Also this is kind of a horrible thought, but what if she ends up being sexually abused someday, maybe she would feel kind of jinxed. Ultimately though, if the associations with [name_f]Proserpina[/name_f] don’t bother you and you don’t think you would have been bothered had [name_f]Proserpina[/name_f] been your name, go for it.

According to the calendar, my name belonged to a courtesan who ruined men, deftly playing with them. Later, however, she repented and was canonized by the church for this. ([name_f]Taisiya[/name_f] Egyptian in the Orthodox calendar). I was 12 y.o. when I heard this story, and I cannot say that it bothered me a lot. I mean, the names have different owners, and talking seriously about people who lived in a completely different historical context (which doesn’t diminish my sympathy for victims of assault in any form) … in that case, we can only use modern invented names to avoid unpleasant associations

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