I have a big problem with rape, and you should too. If you’re not really sure why, go ahead and leave a comment at the bottom of this post. But any self-respecting person, I think, will agree with me without having to think about it.
Okay, you want me to think about it? Shall I spell it out to you? My body is MINE, and yours is YOURS. If I like you, I might offer to put my body close to yours. If I really like you, or love you, or if you’re willing and so am I and you seem trustworthy and not a psychopath, I might even let you put part of yourself IN my body. Because it feels good and it’s fun and we’ll most likely both be in a really good mood afterwards. But you cannot use my body, or even come close to my body, unless I consent to it, and vise versa. Any questions?
I wanted to share two articles. The first is an article written on Jezebel about the recent drama surrounding Tosh, a comedy club, and his “joke” (read: threat) about how a heckler ought to be raped ASAP by others in the audience. Viciously.
The article is called “How to Make a Rape Joke,” and it’s very well articulated. I’m not going to post ALL my favorite parts (which include most of the article), because I want you to read it. Here are just a few of my favorite parts:
The reason that “rape jokes” become such a contentious issue as opposed to, say, “cancer jokes” or “dead baby jokes” (yawn) is because rape is different from other horrors in some very specific ways.
So, comics. This doesn’t mean that everyone is obligated to be the savior of mankind. You can be edgy and creepy and offensive and trivial and, yes, you can talk about rape. Doing comedy in front of a silent room is scary, and shocking people is a really easy way to get a reaction. But if you want people to not hate you (and wanting to not be hated is not the same thing as wanting to be liked), you should probably try and do it in a responsible, thoughtful way. Easy shortcut: DO NOT MAKE RAPE VICTIMS THE BUTT OF THE JOKE.
The author gives a list of four comics and videos of their jokes at the end to show how rape can be incorporated into a joke in a way that doesn’t hurt victims, but shines a light on our society and the absurdity that rape happens, or that there are massive amounts of people who find it hilarious or even acceptable. Read the article. Am I totally 100% in agreement? No. I would never, ever try to use rape in a comedic way. Then again, I’m not a talented comedian and wouldn’t know the first thing about forming a joke around rape that was funny AND poignant AND couldn’t be misinterpreted. The comedians she chose seem to do those three things very well.
The other article is an old favorite of mine. It’s called. “Feminists don’t think all men are rapists. Rapists do.”
6% of college age men, slightly over 1 in 20, will admit to raping someone in anonymous surveys, as long as the word “rape” isn’t used in the description of the act. [the article was hyperlinked to another article, but that article has since been removed, unfortunately]
A lot of people accuse feminists of thinking that all men are rapists. That’s not true. But do you know who think all men are rapists?
They really do. In psychological study, the profiling, the studies, it comes out again and again.
Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape.
But, here’s the thing. It’s very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys, at some point or another someone told a rape joke. You, decent guy that you are, understood that they didn’t mean it, and it was just a joke. And so you laughed.
That rapist who was in the group with you, that rapist thought that you were on his side. That rapist knew that you were a rapist like him. And he felt validated, and he felt he was among his comrades.
You. The rapist’s comrade.
Since I couldn’t get that link to work, I thought I’d throw some factoids about rape in for reference (thanks, RAINN):
1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).1
17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.1
There is an average of 207,754 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.1
54% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to the police, according to a statistical average of the past 5 years. Those rapists, of course, never spend a day in prison. Factoring in unreported rapes, only about 3% of rapists ever serve a day in jail.
So if 1 in 6 U.S. women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape, the statistic of 1 in 20 college men admitting to rape isn’t a difficult concept to grasp.
That means that you’ve probably had a conversation with a rapist before, and that he got away with his rape, and he might have tried it again. And he might still try it again. Because nothing bad happened to him for doing it in the first place, and he probably thinks most other guys have done it, too.
This is why we need to make sure that the words we use are clear – especially in jokes. Especially in lighthearted conversation. Because people don’t always take things the way you intend for them to be taken, especially if the message is vague or nobody makes a point to confirm it.
Maybe I’m a kill joy – I always have been. And that’s why the first article meant a lot to me – I’m often so concerned about offending someone or hurting someone or triggering PTSD in someone who has endured something traumatic, that I will go above and beyond to make sure they know that I do not condone things like rape, war crimes, etc. But sometimes that can be clear, if our jokes are clear, too. Tosh’s “joke” wasn’t clear. Did he really want people to gang rape the woman who didn’t find his other rape jokes funny? Doubtful. But did the rapist in the audience (as statistics confirm is probable) pat himself on the back as rape was rewarded with laughter? Yeah. Probably.
*For clarification, I don’t believe all rapists are men, or that all rape victims are women, or that rape is solely a heterosexual occurrence. Perhaps you find my post hyperbolic, but study rape a bit and you’ll come to find it happens way more than you think, completely more than it should, and surprisingly more than you’d expect it to in a developed country like the United States. Obviously joking about rape is only the tip of the ice berg.