Like many of my friends, I am sick to death of being told that I have no sense of humor because I don’t find jokes about rape funny. I wanted to take a moment to clarify, once and for all, why jokes about rape are (generally) not funny. The best way to do that is by focusing, first, on the exception to the rule…
Click to watch The Daily Show: V-Jay Day
This clip from the Daily Show, that uses the word rape several times, is incredibly funny (and thank goodness for that, because the source comments are so horrendous that I need Jon Stewart’s sarcasm to restore my faith in humanity just a bit.) This clip is funny because the butt of the joke is not the survivors of rape, it is the people who make light of rape and belittle survivors to make a political point.
Not funny? Jokes that make the SURVIVOR or the act itself, the punchline. For example…
The other day, through comments of a post on xoJane (a website that has published some POWERFUL posts about rape), I am directed to one of the editor’s twitter feeds. On her twitter is a rape joke that she tweeted the day before:
Here’s an article about the assault that this joke refers to. The woman in question was robbed, sexually assaulted, and then had her life and the lives of her loved ones threatened if she dared to report the crime. The LAST thing this woman needs, on top of everything else, is people joking about how she probably ENJOYED her rape.
THIS joke is not funny. As someone who has spent countless hours supporting rape survivors I will never, ever be able to find a joke funny if the punchline is at the expense of the survivor of an assault.
Jon Stewart’s piece is funny because the punchline is making fun of the ridiculous individual who claimed that military women were being raped “too much” (as opposed to “just enough” rape?) In this context the idea of rape is seen as abhorrent, unacceptable, awful… as it ought to be.
In the instance of this tweet, however, the survivor of the rape is the joke. This belittles the experiences of real survivors by telling them that their assault is funny and, therefore, their pain is invalid. This is what makes it so hard for people to feel empowered to report their rapes in our society. This is what empowers rapists to hurt people, secure in the knowledge that their crime will likely not be taken seriously at all. This is what makes me sick to my stomach.
So maybe I frown just a little more often than people who don’t care about rape jokes… I’d still rather frown than hurt another human being with my laughter.