So we’re back to bitching about rape jokes.
You know, I don’t want rape accepted or normalized any more than it already is. But I disagree entirely with the notion that rape jokes validate or normalize rape. Before I go much further I have a question: when we’re talking about “rape jokes” do we have a standard definition for that term? Because a joke that laments rape is still a rape joke, right? And a surrealist bit that happens to contain the term “rape” is also a rape joke, yes? And a joke that tangentially touches on the idea of rape is a rape joke too, isn’t it? And does “joke” include a humorous line or two within a larger piece of work? A song? A gesture? Or do you have a narrower definition? Maybe we can decide what the fuck a “rape joke” is before we get all self-righteous about people making them. Maybe. Or probably not, given the tone of the post I just saw with 57,000 notes on it. Maybe to say “rape” in proximity to anything amusing is to invoke the specter of normalization. If that’s true, we’re going to have a really hard time discussing it meaningfully and honestly, because it’s human nature to laugh at horrible things in the process of coping with them.
So, we don’t even know what a rape joke is, but I’ll try to move ahead on the assumption that anything involving the topic of rape that elicits a laugh is perforce a rape joke. Are these jokes increasing the acceptability of rape in our culture? Is there an established cause and effect there? Is there even a reasonable correlation? I’m asking because I don’t know of one, and I think having one is kind of important if you’re going to assert that rape jokes normalize rape in our culture. That data should be easily available, right? Oh, wait. No, it can’t really be teased out among other causal elements relating to the normalization of rape, can it? We can’t isolate the lowly rape joke as a cause. It just seems like it has to be a problem, right? Because, omg, you’re laughing at rape.
The post I saw created a scenario where a male is telling a rape joke in front of either a putative rapist or a putative rape survivor. The assumption the writer makes is that the rape survivor, on hearing the rape joke, is instantly transported to the traumatic memory of the rape. And the rapist, hearing the same joke, is smugly validated in his choice of having raped. And that is a lamentable scenario, most certainly. But it’s a very narrowly circumscribed scenario dependent upon crucial details which simply cannot be available to anyone other than the participants themselves. Yeah, rapists suck for having raped someone, but that doesn’t mean that hearing a rape joke makes them feel valid AND that therefore a rape joke should not be told. Likewise, the writer assumes a rape victim will hear a rape joke and suffer trauma. A logical conclusion, but, again, not necessarily true. Because many rape survivors laugh at rape jokes. And no one but they themselves can say if their laughter is genuine.
I’ve been raped. I laugh at rape jokes if they’re funny. I detest rape and the pervasiveness of “rape culture”. But I would never presume to know what’s in a rapist’s or a victim’s head as a means to silence people who might make rape jokes. Has anyone perhaps considered that rape jokes are more a symptom than a cause? That finding and exploring humor in ugly, hateful topics is one of the most powerful, life-affirming, and effective coping mechanisms some people have? I’ve considered it. And I’ve decided that I’m in favor of funny jokes about any topic. And while “funny” is anything but an objective standard, I can use my honest reactions to something as a reliable enough gauge. Humor doesn’t really normalize or validate anything but laughter. If shitty rapists laugh at shitty rape jokes and feel okay about having raped someone because of it, the problem is not the joke. It’s much deeper than that, and it’s going to take a lot more than censorship to solve it.
apricotica expresses my feelings on the topic precisely (and far more eloquently than I ever could).
One interesting feature of the “Rape Joke Freak-out” is that a significant percentage of the freaker-outers have made rape jokes themselves. One recent (during the Tosh blow-up) example was a high profile Twitterer, whose intelligence and humor I admire greatly, was found to have at least one rape joke in his timeline after he spent a day denouncing any and all rape jokes.
Of course his joke was funny, and the joke had the “correct” perspective that rape is bad, but that embarrassment is what happens when you take a black-and-white approach to something as massively complex as humor.
We now return to our regularly scheduled dick jokes, already in progress.
Above I present for your edification Monkey Jesus With Colby Replica And Thighs, a multimedia piece (resin, ceramic, leg) brought to you by myself in conjunction with celebrated artist and madman smartasshat, who just happens to have been my Secret-ish Santa and who just happens to have done a bang-up job with my gifts, to wit: a truly excellent bas relief Monkey Jesus of my very own and, as a special bonus, a ceramic version of Toni and Dan’s famous Colby the Traveling Cheese Cube. Many thanks! This is just awesome.
I enjoyed making these, but not nearly as much as I enjoy their current presentation. I’m glad you like them!