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Is Rape Really Funny?

by July 27, 2012
filed under Activism

I keep hearing the phrase “humour is subjective” a lot in the past week.

So, as you may or may not know, shock comic (and all-around bad person) Daniel Tosh recently told a woman who told him that rape jokes weren’t funny, that it would be funny if “she was gang-raped by like…5 guys. Right now.” The woman left the show amidst jeering calls by other men and went and talked to the management of the club she was at.

This decision has been defended by many people and comics, including a particular eloquent tweet by Dane Cook telling people to “kill themselves” if they are offended by things. Thanks Dane! I see you are trying to be relevant again. Good luck with that.
Now, as a lot of people are quick to tell me (thanks for that, by the way), Daniel Tosh is known for this kind of stuff. His show Tosh.0 is notorious for dredging up the worst of the worst on places like YouTube and Reddit and poking fun at it. He’s featured sexual assault before on the show (Google it if you don’t believe me) and he’s encouraged people to touch women without their consent before. Clearly, I should be expecting this!

He often uses offensive tropes, like racism and classism to make fun of the subjects of these clips. So, again, as people are quick to tell me, it should be of no surprise that he used an offensive joke to fend off a heckler. And anyone who is offended is just too sensitive.

Now, humor and jokes can be a pretty powerful tool when it comes to certain topics, such as rape. You can frame the joke around attitudes facing that topic to make people both laugh and think. Many comics have done this in the past.

Tosh did not do this.

He used a threat to silence a woman who said something he didn’t like. This threat managed to chase the woman out of the audience. He used sexual assault as the basis for a threat, while framing it as a harmless joke.

And what’s worse is the fact that so many people are defending this “joke.” They go on about how “HE DIDN’T MEAN RAPE WAS FUNNY.” Well, what is the punch line to the joke? I don’t see one other than “hey, I find it funny that this horrible, degrading thing will happen to you.”

It’s nothing new, of course. The same excuses and interjections happen any time someone tells a rape joke. But here’s the thing: They are making a joke out of one of the worst violations a person can go through. They are saying to that person’s face that it’s funny. The worst part is that they are also kind of asking another person (who may be a survivor of rape or some form of sexual assault) to laugh at their own pain. It encourages the already rampant attitude that rape isn’t serious and therefore contributes even more to the rape culture we live in.

Rape jokes just aren’t funny. A joke has to have a point to it, a punch line or funny quip. If you are the kind of person to tell rape jokes, and then clarify that you don’t find rape funny…then why tell the joke in the first place? I don’t understand the logic of finding the humour in telling someone “I hope you get raped.” If a person doesn’t find rape funny, then they should find another joke.

People need to stop telling others that they are over-sensitive or whiny for talking about things that affect them. That’s why rape victims are silenced. That’s the whole problem with rape culture.


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