I'M NOT LAUGHING: THE PREVALENCE OF RAPE JOKES IN COMEDY
Comedy: it's a beautiful part of entertainment. There is nothing better than forgetting your problems for a while and embracing laughter. However, for whatever reason, comedy can occasionally veer into controversial and often offensive territory. Comedians sometimes go too far in the interest of getting laughs. One of the most common examples of this lies in the use of the word "rape" in various capacities on the stand-up stage.
I honestly don’t know when it became acceptable to make jokes about something so life-shattering and devastating. I’m not sure why it’s even remotely funny to anyone. However, I feel like even with all the horrible cases of rape and sexual abuse coming out in recent years, the presence of rape in comedy and media in general as a “joke” has become much more graphic, offensive, and insensitive. One of the most widely known examples being when Daniel Tosh stated that “rape was hilarious” in his stand up routine and an audience member openly opposed his view. At that point, he said, “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if you got raped right now?” The woman left, terrified and humiliated.
It is never, I repeat, never funny to joke about rape. Rape isn't funny. Degrading victims, trivializing their pain, glorifying rapists, and silencing those who suffer, is unacceptable. You cannot go out on a stage and make fun of people who have literally been forced into a painful, emotionally scarring attack. You cannot promote the idea that the act of ignoring a person's rights, taking what's not yours, and both physically and emotionally harming another human being, is funny. If you choose to joke and laugh about the idea of rape, you are making a public statement that you believe rape is not only okay, but also funny. You are contributing to the tragic society we live in, where women don't want to go out after dark because rape is such a prevalent trend and a real threat. Approximately 1 in 6 women have experienced rape or attempted rape at some point in their life.
Daniel Tosh, Bill Cosby, Louis CK, and even Amy Schumer have all made rape jokes in their stand-up routines and/or supported other comedians when their rape jokes backfired on them. Aside from the fact that these individuals in the public eye made these jokes in the first place, there are other issues that lie in the audience’s reactions that are equally concerning. People laugh. People support the comedians who make the jokes. People defend them when they come under fire for their insensitive, inappropriate remarks. Perhaps the scariest detail of all is that as a society, we have to debate whether or not these jokes are acceptable. They're joking about someone forcing another person to have sex with them. They're joking about someone being stripped of their rights, their dignity, and their entitlement to safety. It's not funny and it never will be. There is no capacity in which a rape joke is okay, ever.
Many people will disagree. There have been countless articles written on the subject of "rape jokes," attempting to find the answer to what's funny and what's not. Trying to put a definition to what’s alright to say and what's not. Here's the bottom line: there is no "fine line," circumstance, or context in which making a joke about rape is going to be funny. There simply isn't and I don't feel like we have to compromise on that in the name of getting a cheap laugh.
It doesn't matter if joking and laughing is your way of coping with difficult topics or situations. You have no right to make another person's greatest suffering your joke. You have no right to dehumanize the victims of rape. You have no right to laugh about the act of taking away another person's voice and ability to choose whether or not to have sex. I can't understand what human being would want to inflict further, unnecessary suffering on another. But that's exactly what we permit when we allow rape jokes to be a part of our culture when it comes to comedy.
We can’t exactly pass a law forbidding anyone to joke and laugh about the subject of rape and sexual violence. We simply have no control over what others say and do. But, we do have a choice. We can all make a decision to not subject ourselves to this injustice. We can all decide that we will not tolerate this. It means standing up for what you know is right and rejecting what you know is wrong. It also means standing up in that club, making your position clear, and walking out with your your head and standards high.