We interrupt the happenings of my life to talk about rape jokes because it’s a big deal on the internet right now. As it should be.
I have a friend who was raped. One of her coping mechanisms has been to joke. Everyone is different. That’s her way. Others might not be able to handle it, and that’s fine, too. Mainly, she makes light of her personal experiences. Her jokes never suggest that rape itself is a funny thing. Does this make all rape jokes 100% okay to be said by anyone at any time? Absolutely not. One’s personal sense of humor may come in to play to a degree, making some things less problematic than others, but that and my friends coping mechanism of choose are not excuses for blatant sexism in humor and implications that are downright scary.
A story is making the internet rounds about two women who decided to go to a comedy club. One of the acts was Daniel Tosh. I’ve heard pretty shitty things about Tosh recently, but the problems remained kind of unclear because when I went looking for the questionable “Tosh.0” content that’s been brought up, it had been removed. Anyway, his reputation makes this story unsurprising. He started insisting rape jokes are always funny. Sure, I’ve laughed at some of my aforementioned friend’s tasteless but witty jokes, but I’d hardly say that rape is all laughs all the time. In fact, we’re going to talk about why it’s not in a little bit. But one of these women was brave enough to yell to Tosh that no, rape jokes aren’t guaranteed hilarity. He responded by talking about how funny it would be if that woman were immediately basically gang-raped.
I’ve noticed that men frequently don’t understand the problem with making casual statements like, “That test raped me.” In fact, I’ve noticed many men don’t understand why rape is such a touchy subject with women, and I’m still trying to figure out why. My cousin’s boyfriend once said, “Every girl I know is afraid of being raped,” as if he was genuinely confused about why this is such a common fear. We’re raised to be afraid. We’re raised with the knowledge that some men want to violate us in the most horrible ways, not to mention the fact that society teaches girls not to get raped rather than teaching boys not to rape.
I haven’t been raped, but I have been in situations where I was truly concerned the man I was with was capable and willing to do such a thing to me. It’s frustrating enough for me to hear comments like, “Rape is just women regretting it the next day.” I can’t imagine how women who have actually been through that feel hearing such things.
The best explanation I can come up with–and it still excuses nothing and is unacceptable–is that men, for the most part, have little concept of just how scary it is to be in a room with a man that could overpower you and literally force something on you. Sex is a very intimate, personal thing, whether within a relationship or one-night stand or whatever other personal boundaries people have for their sex lives, and someone claiming that by force because they like the power is a terrifying thought.
So, I don’t think Tosh gets it. As a woman, I don’t understand how someone could not understand it, but my conversations with men on the subject have led me to believe that’s what it is.
We should be furious with Daniel Tosh. People making statements like that should be called out, and I applaud the woman who had the courage to do so publicly, even though she was ultimately ridiculed for it. Tosh (and others) have to know that this is wrong, but maybe we can move forward as a society by explaining why it’s wrong. No, we shouldn’t have to. We’re by no means obligated to, and as women, it’s not our job to say these things. But maybe doing so is a start.