Is it okay to joke about rape?
Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you already know that the answer is no. By now, most of us understand that it’s not okay to joke about rape, sexual assault, or consent. And besides, why would you? Making light of something so serious and traumatizing makes you somewhat of an asshole. The rationale behind rape jokes is something that's so often overlooked. As it is, there is something disturbing in the idea of finding humor in the violation of another human being. Even in a time where social change is become more and more of a prominent topic, jokes about sexual assault is still something that runs rampant in our society.
Having conversations about sexual assault can be difficult. Just how we all weren’t blessed with the gift of giving inspiring pep talks or being able to compute complex math equations in our heads, not everyone has the ability to talk about these sensitive topics with confidence. It's hard to bring up sensitive issues to our children and friends and students, hence why talks about sexual assault are so often swept under the rug.
However, for those of us who struggle to come up with the right words when talking about these stressful situations (myself included), there seems to be a scapegoat: comedy.
I know, I know. Comedy? Isn’t comedy supposed to be used to make fun of people? Well, yeah. Comedy can be used for this. We see it from the people on Fashion Police and the different impersonations done on Saturday Night Live every week. It’s very easy to pigeon-hole comedy and see it as a way to simply joke around and make light of whatever’s going on in the world.
However, comedy can be used for so much more than this. In some situations, comedy can be used as a way to spark conversation – and sometimes, can be used to bring attention to some of the most important issues our society is facing today.
Take Jon Stewart, for example. As someone who watches The Daily Show nearly every night, I’m willing to admit that I get most of my news this way (aside from the CNN updates on my phone). Not only this, but The Daily Show makes the news a bit more comprehensive. Although he leans to the left, his humor used makes the news easier to understand for the rest of us. To put it in plainer terms, comedy – particularly satire, draws upon the worst aspects of a situation to make a joke about it. In doing this, the social problem is instantly more accessible.
When it comes to comedians bringing issues of consent into light, however, don’t just take my word for it.
Inside Amy Schumer – Football Town Nights
Amy Schumer is making a name for herself as one of comedy’s funniest ladies. Watch one episode of her sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer, and you’ll see that she’s much more than funny – she’s brilliant. In this sketch, a take off from Friday Night Lights, she address the issue of sports teams being notorious for being involved in rape scandals – and what happens when the new coach in town decides to break the mold.
This sketch is a perfect example of how satire is used to draw attention to a larger issue. Notice how the football team can’t wrap their heads around not raping people after a big game? Yeah. It’s funny the first time, but why exactly is it funny? Maybe because it’s true?
Just Between Us - What is Consent?
These two ladies make me laugh. There seems to be a trend of best lady friends being funny together, and I’m all for it. In their videos, Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn offer up their own quirky advice on varying subjects. In this video, they tackle the daunting (and for some, confusing) topic of consent. Furthermore, Just Between Us made this video specifically for the request of Project Consent! Check out our interview with Gaby Dunn from a few months ago.
When talking about something as delicate as consent, sometimes it helps to infuse some humor into the conversation. Think about it like this: if your friend got a really ugly haircut, you wouldn’t just tell them point blank, would you? Whenever something seems to be a bit more difficult to talk about, we as humans tend to joke about it so it’s easier to swallow. Case in point: this video right here.
Anna Akana – How to Not Get Raped
When it comes to talking about rape, one of the main things that comes up is the issue of victim blaming. It totally sucks. You’d think that it would be obvious by now that rape and/or sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, but unfortunately, there are still a few wayward souls who haven’t understood this concept yet. If you know one of these said people, show them this video! Anna Akana is always hilarious, and this video is no exception.
Again, she uses her sense of humor to make light of something that’s already ridiculous enough as it is. Pay attention to some of the examples that she uses to “avoid getting raped” (and pay special attention to the final reason!!). This is a great example of using humor to poke fun at the ridiculous things other people believe that are ridiculous. Awesome.
Laci Green – She Asked For It
Laci Green is easily one of the most prominent speakers about consent and consent awareness, and I’m not alone in saying that I love her. She’s always so intelligent and concise with what she has to say about sexuality, body positivity, gender identity, or, in this case, victim blaming. Another video on this incredibly important topic, Laci Green uses her sense of humor to make her more accessible to her viewers. No one wants to be talked at when it comes to a delicate subject like sexual assault.
Notice how she uses comparisons to show how ridiculous victim blaming is. Not only is it funny to make these comparisons, but it sheds light on a more serious situation, as well. It’s cute and smart and funny, but more importantly, informative.
Comedy is a catalyst. So many people toss it to the side and think of it as just a form of entertainment, but it has the power to do so much more. The next time you turn on the TV, watch an episode of Inside Amy Schumer or The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. Turn on a stand-up comic’s special and really listen to what they have to say. Go online and scroll through some articles from The Onion. Pay attention to what comedians have to say.
Sometimes, it makes more of an impact than you think.