What’s so funny about rape?


Stand up comics say rape “is the new black.”
I’m a big fan of stand up comedy. (Wanda Sykes and Margaret Cho, swoon!) I like dirty jokes, controversial comics and dark humor. What I don’t think is funny, however, is this:

[Comedy festival] Fringe 2009 also welcomes back Aussie standup Jim Jeffries, whose jokes include: “Women to me are like public toilets. They’re all dirty except for the disabled ones.” Jeffries tells me: “You can’t do a joke these days about black or Asian people – and rightly so – [but] you can do rape jokes on stage and that’s not a problem.” Why does he think rape is now less of a taboo than racism? “I don’t write the rules,” he says. Nor, it seems, does he seek to challenge them. [San Francisco comedian Scott] Capurro told me, with some distaste: “For a lot of comics, it’s OK to talk about raping women now. That’s the new black on the comedy circuit.”

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. From Family Guy to Seth Rogen, folks joking about rape and violence against women seems to be the oh-so-hilarious thing to do. (Though of course, it’s hardly a new trend.)
What I truly don’t understand is how anyone could possibly think that joking about rape is being edgy or somehow fighting against the mainstream – which seems to be what the comics in this Guardian article are arguing. They say they’re taking taboos head-on. But the thing is, rape jokes and mocking violence against women are mainstream. They’re not a taboo at all – they’re the norm, sadly. So all of these comedians giving themselves a pat on the back for being sooo controversial – when all they’re doing is upholding the status quo – really fucking irk me.
Because if their rape jokes were actually challenging the mainstream, they’d be subversive, not holding up what American culture already perpetuates – that rape is a-okay. I think what is particularly telling is that so many of the people arguing that jokes about sexual assault are fine are dudes – the demographic that tends to be ones who, well…rape.

Similarly, some of the comedians arguing that racist jokes are okay are white – and appear to believe that we’re in some sort of Utopian world where racism and sexism don’t exist anymore.

A younger generation see things differently: challenging taboos is less a betrayal of their recent forebears, more a concession to a changing world. “In the 1970s, black and Asian people were getting shit put through their letterboxes,” says [comic Richard] Herring. “But the world has moved on. Now we accept the [anti-racist, anti-sexist] tenets of alternative comedy as true, and don’t need to patronise audiences any more.”

Perhaps the world “has moved on” for Herring – but it sure hasn’t for a lot of other folks. So long as racism, sexism, rape, and violence are accepted norms, telling these kind of faux-controversial jokes will do nothing but prop up a culture that thinks rape is not just not a big deal, but hilarious.
Related: Sense and Humor
Melissa’s “Rape is Hilarious” post series
I’m Going to Rape You Later

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84 Comments

  1. proudfeminist
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    A big part of commedy is laughing at the PITFALLS of life. Family guy also joked how the American army is way over its head in Iraq, to the point that 2 dead guys are guarding the ammunition depot.
    It is always funny, untill it is something that toutches you, right ? With that logic, commedy is dead.

  2. Sabriel
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Jessica! You articulated very well something that I have tried to say before (that racist and sexist humor isn’t edgy; it’s conformist). I’ll have to re-read this a few times so that I can express myself more clearly when I’m on the spot.

  3. RMJ
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Family Guy is apparently tackling abortion soon. I just can’t wait!

  4. proudfeminist
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    What I am asking is simple. When it comes to commedy everybody has a hot spot, the mother who lost a son in Iraq probably can not laugh about a sketch that revolves around dead us soldiers in Iraq. Please tell us why of all things should those that offend you, are a hot spot to you, Jessica, be censored out and ultimately banned off commedy ?

  5. llevinso
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    “A big part of commedy is laughing at the PITFALLS of life.”
    I wouldn’t call my rape a “pitfall.” I’d describe it as the worst thing that has ever happened to me and made me feel like I wanted to die. It happened over 8 years ago and I’m still struggling to survive every day dealing with this shit.
    To describe rape or murder or something like that as one of the pitfalls of life seems pretty dismissive and offensive IMO.

  6. ShellyB
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    This is a great post Jessica. I was talking about this very thing with my boyfriend the other day. He made a joke about me needed to “get back in the kitchen.” We both enjoy slightly offensive humor, but i rolled my eyes a little because i heard a variation on this joke about me several times this week. It was never offensive to me, because I considered the source each time (and oft was from feminist, albeit male, friends). But then he said he thinks the only way to draw attention to social issues sometimes is through humor.
    I couldn’t agree less.
    Ya, there are many things I will joke about and laugh at, but not rape. And not because it’s “so taboo” (which, as you say, it isn’t) but because I volunteer in a local rape crisis center. I see the faces, hear the voices, know the struggles that rape survivors face for the rest of their lives. We live in a country that is not nearly as forward-thinking as it thinks sometimes, and I will not laugh at a rape joke. The thing is, guys can joke about rape, because most guys have not experienced a violation of their body and space– whereas most women experience that regularly.
    Whether its the woman in the bathroom at a bar the other day who exclaimed that my “boobies” were “huge and awesome!” and asked if she could bury her face in them, or the guy who came up to me at a club in california a couple years ago and yelled “DO YOU WANNA SUCK MY D*CK?” or the time I narrowly escaped sexual assault by screaming loud enough for my roommate downstairs to hear, these incidents aren’t funny.
    I don’t think its funny to joke about being touched when you don’t want to. And I don’t think its funny to joke about a problem that is as common and under-reported as rape (for both men and women, btw).

  7. alixana
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    If “commedy” is about laughing at the pitfalls of life, how is it then that men are making jokes about rape, white people are making jokes about black and asian people, etc. etc.? When have men and white people ever experienced those “pitfalls”?
    Logic fail.

  8. Jessica
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Who said anything about censorship or banning? I’m just saying they’re not funny (nor clever or controversial).

  9. proudfeminist
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, by pitfall I did not mean your car getting a flat tire. I was more thinking of the Iraq Invasion with millions of death the bush presidency, which borderlined on Villany a crumbling economy, etc. those sort of things.
    Just like rape they are no laughing matter to the people affected, yet those are thopics almost all commedians picked up. I am sure your rape was horrible for you, but again, why should a topic that is horrible to you be banned out of commedy ? Who are you to dictate what is acceptable material and what is not ?
    You say I have been raped, I do not want to be reminded of it in commedy. Next the guy who lost his son in Iraq comes forward and says I find jokes revolving around the Iraq war in poor taste, they should be banned and so on, untill everything is a taboo a dont and censored, because everybody is too afraid of offending, hurting somebody.

  10. alixana
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    ETA – upon rereading my comment, I don’t mean to insinuate that men can’t be or aren’t raped, but I was responding specifically to the quote in the OP that “For a lot of comics, it’s OK to talk about raping women now.”

  11. proudfeminist
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Well, okay, I guess the same sketch does not work the same or at all for everyone.

  12. proudfeminist
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Either a commedian is funny, or he is not. If he can entertain a certain percetage of the audience the reaction is laughing and acceptable ratings.
    If a commedian does not get positive reaction, because his material is offensive, the audience wont laugh and TV stations wont air him, seen as they do not get the desired ratings, or even a drop in ratings and none of us will have to endure him/her again or ever.

  13. nikki#2
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure I agree with comparing jokes about rape and jokes about dead US soldiers in Iraq. We all know it is sad and tragic when someone looses their life. The problem with joking about rape is not everyone seems to understand that it is also a tragedy. There is a stigma attached to having been raped. There is victim blaming, and people saying she deserved it or wanted it or is lying, etc.
    What does everyone else think? Can joking about rape be funny without taping into the idea that rape is okay?

  14. davenj
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Rape’s been joked about forever, and male rape in prison in particular has become a comedic trope whenever a male character in any piece of fiction goes to jail. It’s simply something that people laugh at, either because they don’t think it will happen to them or because they believe the subject of the joke is deserving of derision.
    That said, what’s funny about a lot of stuff that people laugh about? We laugh about murder. We laugh about war. We laugh about poverty. Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. Getting old. Dying. We laugh about just about everything, in general.
    Now, specific individuals find certain things more or less funny as they pertain to their life experiences, hopes, fears, etc. That alone, though, is not enough to say something “isn’t funny”, as if one person or group can be the arbiter of comedy.
    Put succinctly I don’t think any humor ought to be off-limits or taboo, but I think that the person who makes the jokes runs the risk of alienating people. It’s an issue of attitude. There are plenty of funny jokes that aren’t acceptable because as a society we deem them unacceptable for use.
    The issue isn’t the jokes. It’s the culture. Jokes are merely a byproduct of culture. If we live in a culture that minimizes the effects of rape why would we expect our humor to do any different?

  15. Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what folks here think of David Cross’ bit about being raped by the Virgin Mary. It’s pretty wildly absurdist, but the punchline, such as it is, is that when he tries to report it to the cops, they laugh at him and tell him he was asking for it by dressing provocatively.
    So it seems pretty clear to me that what the bit is doing is satirising the way that (usually female, of course) victims of sexual assault are blamed by traditional authority structures for the crimes committed upon them. And that seems to me like a worthy idea, in the abstract. (But if you disagree please tell me why; I understand that as a man my perspective on this may have blind spots, and if so I’d like to rectify that.)
    My question for the thread is whether this could be an appropriate way of discussing rape in a comedy routine, or if the subject is so inherently awful that even engaging with it for the sake of satire at the expense of patriarchy is morally out of bounds.
    The link is here (though I suppose I’m obliged to add a warning about the content).

  16. cestlavie
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Man, the censorship argument is TIRED. I really don’t know how many times it can be explained: The only way to censor something is to have enough political and financial power to actually prevent it from occurring, and potentially enforce punishment if it does. People expressing dislike for something DOES NOT equal “censorship”. Give me a break.
    That said, no, rape is not funny, in any context. But rape jokes are already too prevalent–I really struggle when I encounter people in daily life (men and women alike) who enjoy using the term “rape” as a colloquialism. “Man, that test really raped me.” “You better watch out or I’ll rape you!” Har har har.
    It turns my stomach every time. The few occasions where I’ve had the opportunity to tell the person involved that I don’t find it charming to joke about sexual assault, they’ve naturally become defensive…but I guess I hope my open criticism will be enough to give them pause next time they joke about it. It’s just so freakin tiresome.

  17. spike the cat
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    There’s a lot of comedy out there from those who have actually been through hardship and who look to humor as a means of healing and teaching.
    But why is so much “edgy” stuff at somebody else’s expense?
    Prison rape jokes seem to be pretty darn popular too. To me this carries on the tradition of disparaging people who have less status and fewer rights and freedoms—sort of kick them because they’re down, mentality. But notice how it doesn’t matter how you came to be in this category of people deemed to be the latest punchline? You can be born there or life circumstances can put you there.
    I can’t help but sense a deep lack of empathy surrounding this stuff…

  18. Jessica Lee
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I agree with almost everything in this post, except the idea that only white people are fighting for the right to make racist jokes. Non-white comedians often make jokes about other races as well (take someone like Chris Rock, for example). I’m not saying one is more or less acceptable than the other, but it does go both ways.

  19. proudfeminist
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Commedy is a bad example then, for what you are trying to say. It oftentimes picks up tragic events and turns them into something we laugh at. You might be right, that rape is not seen as a tragedy or bad in certain parts of the world, or even your country (I hope that is not true though), but I fail to see how comedy is to blame for it.
    That would mean anything commedy toutches is not a serious matter in the end.

  20. magi
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    There is something of a double standard here. Prison rape, primarily male, has been joked about and used on TV to the point that no one really cares or notices. How old is the joke about dropping the soap? Office Space is a good example, mediocre movie that got no media attention for being taboo or racy, yet spent a lot of time talking about federal pound me in the ass prison. This was accepted, laughed at, and no cared enough to complain. Why is it rape jokes are only bad when they’re about women?

  21. alixana
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s true that anyone doesn’t care. However, the OP and its comments are women who are protesting male comedians joking about raping women. I’ll certainly support the idea that prison rape jokes aren’t funny. Rape isn’t funny, no matter who the victim is. But the power imbalance that exists in woman-rape jokes being told by men is just creepy and is deserving of being noted.

  22. analogue.rockk
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    I think the discussion we should be having here is just “why is rape humor so prevalent?”. I feel, like one poster, that no topic is off-limits for comedy,it’s just the way in which the topics are presented.
    Family Guy, for instance, uses just a situation of sexual assault for humor. No punchline, just assault, cue laughter. Such as the sketch where the ending scene from “16 Candles” is transformed into a rape scene, or Peter is a strawberry being eaten from the bottom up by a worm and it becomes a rape scene. I don’t find them funny or clever *even if it contained offensive material, I think I could objectively admit if it was clever* , but they just keep coming. Why? I haven’t seen an episode of that show in years that didn’t have at least one rape joke.

  23. Auriane
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    What is commedy? It reads like a cross between commode and teddy.
    As a feminist and as a survivor of rape, I’ve certainly heard one or two jokes on the subject that made me laugh. Context is everything. Jeffries can certainly be funny at times, but for the most part I find him rather plain, like a less imaginative Andrew Dice Clay.
    His distinctions are kind of weird, too: “You can’t do a joke these days about black or Asian people – and rightly so – [but] you can do rape jokes on stage and that’s not a problem.” Rightly so? Not a problem? I wonder how he makes the distinction, and why? It’s like he’s fine with treating women like crap, and with badmouthing religion, but he can’t seem to put two and two together when it comes to mainstream religion’s persecution of women. How very dull.

  24. cestlavie
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    >>but they just keep coming. Why? I haven’t seen an episode of that show in years that didn’t have at least one rape joke.
    Why? Probably because people keep watching, silently. I imagine if you and other viewers refused to watch the show due to the rape jokes, or wrote to the network/producers with a complaint every time a rape joke is made, it’d be more likely they’d get the message the jokes are unacceptable.

  25. Nona
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    proudfeminist: I’ll leave the prison rape joke debate up to others, but the reason joking about Iraq and joking about rape isn’t the same is that war is political and rape is (should be, at least) nonpartisan–as in, virtually everyone agrees that it’s bad, right?
    I agree that jokes about dead soldiers could offend a mother who’s lost a son, but ultimately Family Guy is criticizing Bush and the Iraq war, while rape jokes just ensure that rape stays mainstream and acceptable (unless the concept is used in a subversive way, as Jessica pointed out). Big, huge difference.
    Basically, comedy, including Family Guy, has traditionally been a tool to fight against conventional wisdoms, which is why this rape thing is so perplexing.

  26. another constellation
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Dane Cook actually had a bit on his most recent televised special against rape jokes. There is a lot wrong with his comedy, but I appreciated him making the joke that, if you talked to a woman who has been raped and ask her what it was like, she’s probably not going to say “[Tearfully:] have you ever gone to a mechanic and the bill was twice as much as the quote? It was like that.”
    Tobes Talks addresses that skit here and Shakes here. As several of the commenters mention, if Dane Cook, in all his date rape movie-making realizes that throwing around “rape” like it’s nothing is minimizing, it’s got to be really obvious.

  27. RAINN
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Every 2 minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. Think about your mother, your sister, your girlfriend… 1 in 6 women is a victim of sexual violence. Think about your father, your brother, your best friend… men are victims too. This is an important and very serious issue. If you or someone you love has been a victim of sexual violence, you are not alone. To get help or information about how to help, consider calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE or instant messaging online with a professional at rainn.org. The hotlines are run by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) and are secure, anonymous and confidential. To find out more about RAINN, check out rainn.org.

  28. XXLAshley
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Oh noes! I was on my way somewhere and now I’m falling down this horrible… I don’t even know, it’s some sort of… Hill, no, no, more like a slope, a slope which is quite slippery!

  29. Ariel
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the thing: it’s not just men.
    I actually had a horrible experience at a wonderful music festival with Natasha Leggero, a comedienne.
    Highlights of her set:
    “You ever notice how it’s your ugly friends who are the most worried about getting raped? It’s like– you have nothing to worry about. There are several people in front of you in line.”
    “So some people are really offended by my rape jokes. This one girl, from Chicago, comes up to me after a show and goes (here she commences a voice to imitate a person of color) “Yo. You know- you makin’ jokes about rape, but it’s not funny. You’ve never been raped?” Natasha says, “Um, no. I’ve never been raped.” The girl asks “Well– ain’t you ever woken up at a party, and some guy’s inside you?” Natasha laughs condescendingly, “I’ve never woken up at a party!”
    I hope this young woman from Chicago who confronted Natasha about her careless belittling of assault was able to speak out about her experience to someone who wasn’t a complete dick. How dare she.

  30. jenniferlpozner
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen this trend transform one of my favorite hangouts — the UCB Theater in NYC — from a brilliant home for cutting edge improv comedy, into a centerpiece where uncomfortable, offensive and just LAME/cheap/lowest-common-denominator rape jokes are often the default.
    In the early years of the UCB Theater, I would see shows once or twice a week, nearly every week — always sharp, funny, offbeat. Around five years ago, though, the rape jokes started happening here and there… and I began to cut back on the number of shows I’d see there. By around four years ago nearly *every* show I’d go to at the UCB included rape jokes, and so I’ve basically stopped going except to see a couple of time-tested groups that don’t resort to that non-funny, lame-ass crap they’re trying to pass off as humor.

  31. jellyleelips
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Rape jokes, when told by dudes, will always be tied to the notion that rape is okay, because, as Jessica said, dudes are the ones doing most of the raping and, for the most part, not being raped. Also, most dudes don’t realize the number of women who have been raped, sexually assaulted, or abused in their lifetimes. I have never been raped, but I’ve been assaulted, and it amazes me how insensitive some men can be to the very idea.
    Though, I have heard a funny rape joke, but that was because it was chastising the rapist. This Daniel Tosh video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRPwuFzwEAw
    is great. He calls Kobe Bryant out for being accused of rape and then wondering why people hate him. Daniel Tosh is often surprisingly feminist in his jokes, it’s awesome. Though of course he has the usual white guy humor, but he puts a twist on it. Same topics, different view.
    I think the joke can only be funny if it sheds light on how fucked up rape is.

  32. jellyleelips
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Nobody is saying comedy is to blame for rape. We just want to point out that by making rape something to mock and laugh at, comedians (the vast majority of whom are male) are trivializing and normalizing a ghastly crime that predominantly affects women. It leads to further denial of a commonly covered-up and misunderstood phenomenon. And, worst of all, it’s entirely not funny.

  33. jellyleelips
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Okay, the fact that rape is not funny isn’t the worst thing, that was poorly worded. But in the context of proudfeminist’s post I felt it was appropriate. Just wanted to emphasize that when I realized my own comment could further trivialize rape.

  34. Jake N.
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    jellyleelips said, “Rape jokes, when told by dudes, will always be tied to the notion that rape is okay, because, as Jessica said, dudes are the ones doing most of the raping…”
    This is an extremely dangerous outlook. If any one man is expected to carry the burden of all the stupid things some other men say and do, then this just seems like it would lead to saying no men should speak about gender issues.
    Comedy that has to do with sexual abuse can be offensive or proactive regardless of who is saying it. A female rape victim could joke about rape in a way that many people would find offensive, while a “dude” (a condescending epithet, like calling women “chicks”) could tell a joke in a tasteful way to point out the ludicrousness of rape in the media or something like that.
    Flat out saying that any male who jokes about rape is propagating a view that rape is okay is very offensive to this male reader. Almost anytime a blanket statement is made, people’s eyebrows should raise in question.
    I refuse to be directly linked to men who belittle the seriousness of rape just because I’m a man (just the same as I refuse to be linked to Nazis for being part German, Crusaders for being born Christian, segregationists for being white, etc.). We are not defined by our societally-imposed labels

  35. SarahMC
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Man-on-woman rape is not a “pitfall” of a male comic’s life. It’s a violent reality in a lot of women’s lives. Why is it OK for the oppressor to make light of what it does to the oppressed?

  36. SarahMC
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    How is mocking rape victims “speaking about gender issues?”
    Rape jokes can be funny. For instance, if the joke-teller is a victim using gallows humor, or if the joke-teller is making fun of rapists or rape culture. But the majority of rape jokes perpetuate rape culture. As a man, you may not want to carry the burden of other men’s actions, but you could at least refuse to ADD to the burden rape victims and potential victims carry. That’s what misogynist rape jokes do.

  37. Jake N.
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    I was expanding the poster’s original logic––sorry for not being clear. But if I can’t speak about rape because other men rape women, then I don’t know how I can speak about inequalities in marriage or equal pay or maternity leave because other men are acting out misogyny and heteronormativity and racism in those areas, too.
    I’ll be frank in saying that I am not one who makes rape jokes, and that I cringe any time I hear a joke about rape, whether or not is is misogynist. I can understand how for a survivor, comedy can be a means of catharsis, of finally coming to terms with the gravity of sexual assault.
    But, as men can be victims and women can be assailants in rape, I think it is extremely unfair to say that there is always a connection between a comedien(ne)’s gender and thinking “that rape is okay.”
    That’s all I was trying to say. I apologize if it was unclear.

  38. lal46
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    You don’t get to ignore male privilege, sorry. I’d highly recommend that you read this:
    http://cereta.livejournal.com/652008.html
    and consider what you can do to actually help dismantle the rape culture in which we all live. Just saying that you’re not a part of it and “refuse to be linked” to it isn’t enough.

  39. Logrus
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to see a specific reference to the joke(s) in question.
    George Carlin tackled the notion that “rape is never funny” with Mickey Mouse raping Santa Clause. Might not be funny to you, was funny to some people.
    As to people in this thread being apologists for jokes about Iraq: You’re not familiar with the show if you think that the joke is only at the expense of Bush. There have been numerous jokes about the stupidity of anyone willing to join up and go fight the war, you know soldiers. Soldiers who get killed and maimed.
    To some people a joke about rape, in any iteration, will never be funny. just as a joke about war and death will never be funny to others. However I’ll stick with the belief that each individual can make up their own minds after hearing the material.
    There are far too many, here and elsewhere, applying blanket ideas without citing anything specific that they object to but instead stating, as fact, what they perceive to be the intent and meaning of all “rape jokes” while doing the same to war jokes (one is good for unspecified or anecdotal reasons, one if bad for the same reasons).
    Fact: Anything can be funny to some people.
    Fact: Some things will never be funny to some people.
    If you believe that humor, or attempted humor, has this impact on society then you’re opening the door to the notion that rap music and video games and movies make people violent or rapists.
    Talk about a “slippery slope”.
    In other news, watching “Larry the Cable-Guy” will not make you enjoy fishing or want to hang an engine block from a tree in your yard and more than watching Cheech & Chong will make you want to do hard drugs.

  40. RioM
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    One of my guy friends told me today that when he was in eighth grade, a friend of his said that when he grew up, he would get a balaclava and go around raping women for the hell of it. It wasn’t clear whether or not he was serious, but my friend punched him in the face and told him that he was talking like a complete idiot. It made me proud of him.
    Some of my friends have made rape jokes before, and I’ve looked them square in the face and said, “That’s not funny. That will never be funny.” But sometimes they continue.

  41. rustyspoons
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Excellent post. And for the record, I never found prison rape jokes funny either.

  42. Newbomb Turk
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Your “logic” certainly did fail.
    Whether someone has personally experienced something has nothing to do with whether or not it’s funny. I’ve never jabbed someone in the eyes with my fingers like the Three Stooges, never slipped on a banana peel, never been hit in the face with a pie, never blown myself up with dynamite -yet I reserve the right to laugh out loud if I see or hear about those things happening to others if it amuses me. I’ve also never had to share a prison cell with the Tossed Salad Man.
    Comedy is tragedy plus uh, timing.

  43. Newbomb Turk
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Exactly.
    Sure it’s sick and cruel, but it’s funny. I’m a big fan of celebrity death jokes (esp Princess Diana jokes) myself. Oh, and also jokes about the Columbine shootings.

  44. jeff
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Humor is a funny thing and I’ve never really understood what makes it work. For example, I’m going to admit, I laughed at the “disabled” joke in the excerpt from the article. Really, thought it was hilarious.
    And yet I consider myself a pretty damn decent feminist. I don’t consider anyone “dirty” (for that matter, I prefer experienced women), or espouse the attitude in any way that the teller of that joke is pretending (I assume) to have, the double-standard that it is. But the pure absurdity and cleverness got me. It’s all about the level that the joke is being conveyed at – you have to go beyond the words, beyond the obvious. A joke like that told and heard by intelligent and aware people is harmless. A joke like that told to or by a misogynistic moron is also probably harmless, since they’re already there. I just don’t see what the damage is.

  45. jeff
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    To add a thought: getting rid of jokes that are offensive if approached brainlessly is like getting rid of alcohol because six-year-olds can’t handle their booze. I hate the thought of watering down the available fodder for comedy because there’s part of the population that doesn’t get it.

  46. SarahMC
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse are fictional characters. Like I said earlier, I don’t think it’s true that a rape joke can NEVER be funny. I don’t think any subjects are off-limits. It’s the context that matters. And the context for the vast majority of rape jokes places the rape victim at the butt of the joke. How about something new and different?
    I don’t think anyone has suggested that people who like rape jokes are more likely to commit rape. But I don’t want one on the jury of a rape trial. What a person finds funny SAYS something about that person and the way s/he views the world. If the very act of rape is hilarious to someone, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume they’d be flippant about rape accusations or women’s lived experiences.

  47. Jake N.
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I don’t want this to become intensely personal, but I am not trying to ignore male privilege. I know that it exists, and I am aware of some of the ways it affects me (obviously I’m not omniscient enough to know every aspect of privilege), but I still will contend that simply being male is not prima facia evidence of thinking rape is okay, or of that message being an underlying message in what I say.
    That livejournal article (and I don’t mean to be elitist, but I take anything published on a livejournal with a grain of salt) is interesting, and I can assure you that on more occasions than I can count I have walked or driven home from parties drunk female friends. I am lucky to live in a relatively safe college town, but sexual assault still happens here, and I always want to make sure that my friends get home safe.
    In response to the linked poster’s question, “where the [explicit] are you?” I would quote a later part of the same article: “I don’t want a cookie.” Doing easy things to help out friends, especially when it could prevent them from being a victim of crime, is not always something that is done for credit.
    Just because some of the most vocal male voices on rape are rapists and not friends of women doesn’t mean that those men represent all of us. And I agree with the livejournal poster that men need to take it upon themselves to point out flawed views of other men on rape. I do that, and I don’t do it for any accolade: I do it because I would hope that my friends would do similarly if I were in a rough situation.
    I’m sorry for reacting so personally, but it is very frustrating to read so many comments which seem to propagate ideas that all men think/do/behave in the same way. It’s one of those awkward situations where I don’t want to say, “But I’m good! I do this and this,” but if my character is attacked by lumping me in with those criminal and misogynist men, and simply pointing out flaws in posters’ logic isn’t enough, what else can I do?

  48. nella
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    This is exactly why I cannot stand Family Guy. That Seth McFarlane guy has SERIOUS issues with women. I was almost sick when I heard FG had been nominated for an emmy.

  49. alixana
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    It has nothing to do with whether someone’s experienced something or not.
    It has everything to do with the inappropriateness of using someone who does not have a privilege you have as the butt of your joke.
    Three white men poking each other in the eyes is not a situation where one of them holds power over another, so why use it as an example?

  50. davenj
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    “It made me proud of him.”
    Joking about or making light of physical assault on someone else’s bodily integrity is NEVER funny. It’s insensitive to everyone who has ever been punched in the face.
    /kinda-sorta-but-not-really-snark
    Silencing folks through violence is funny or admirable, but rape is never funny. Sorry, not really seeing where you’re coming from here, and it just proves my previous point that certain things will offend certain people.

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