Are Rape Jokes Funny? The Answer May Surprise You
The answer is no. Surprise!
Content warning: As evidenced by the title, this article will have mentions of rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, and related topics. This content may be triggering to sexual abuse survivors.
I took a look at my calendar this morning, and I’m pretty sure it’s 2016. In fact, I’m 100% sure of it. Seeing as we can all agree that it is the 21st century, and that we are all civilized beings, why is it that in this, the year of our Lord, 2016, this high-tech, modern society still insists on resorting to such base humor as this:
It’s lazy, to say the least. Someone can’t think of anything clever enough for a punchline and so must resort to cracks at sexual violence and pedophilia.
And it’s not like this is a new phenomenon: this happens every damn day.
At most, it’s downright disgusting. Rape is a very serious crime that’s rarely treated seriously enough, and these “jokes” are dehumanizing. It’s life-altering, and it’s highly damaging. Victims of sexual assault — be it by a man, woman, or nonbinary person; whether or not either party was under the influence; be it penetrative or nonpenetrative; even if consent was given and then revoked; be it through outright force or coercion; even if they look like they mean no, but they say yes — are among us. They are everywhere. They are people of all backgrounds from all walks of life; they are gay, straight, bisexual; they are transgender and cisgender; they are black, brown, white, yellow; they are men, women, everything in-between; they are mere infants and the oldest among us. They are people. And rest assured, our number one goal is to be able to talk with our friends, scroll down our timelines, walk down the street, whatever… and feel safe.
No one deserves to be raped. All the victim-blaming tries to refocus rape as purely a sexual crime. Rape is about a display of power, and no one is “asking for it.” But rape is so highly stigmatized in our society that reporting such a crime rarely results in conviction, let alone a proper rape kit. And recounting the experience can only serve to retraumatize victims, especially when treated with hostility instead of openness.
Why does all this matter when you’re just making jokes with your friends? Because we’re everywhere. Assault victims live everywhere you live and go everywhere you go, and they have to be reminded of the horrible experiences they’ve gone through every time you open your mouth to make a crack about school girls in short skirts deserving to get groped on public transportation, or when you casually agree that Bill Cosby memes are worth a giggle or two. When you endorse Erykah Badu’s misguided tweets about grown men “naturally” being attracted to high school girls, you perpetuate the cycle of violence towards survivors. You condone sexual assault and abuse, even if you personally don’t commit an act of sexual violence. You do a tremendous disservice to those among you who have been shamed into keeping quiet. You could be sitting next to a survivor, guffawing about blacking out and waking up naked in a strange room, not realizing that you are chuckling at her life story, trivializing all her pain just to get a laugh.
There’s still much discourse surrounding rape and the way we interpret it, but one thing I’m eagerly awaiting in the years to come is the day when we, collectively, as a whole, dispense with humor at the expense of the most vulnerable among us. If I can’t convince you based on human dignity — basic human decency, even — then at least know this: it’s cheap humor. If you aim to make me laugh, try something actually witty instead of scraping the barrel.
Originally published at theodysseyonline.com on April 19, 2016.