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So You Want to Tell a Rape Joke

So the conversation about rape jokes continues to go on and on.

“Harmful.”
“Just a joke.”
“Not a laughing matter.”
“Funny.”
“Not funny.”
“Is so.”
“Is not.”
“Sometimes, yeah.”
“Not now.”

I thought I’d clear things up a bit. Have a visual aid to make things easy.

Isn’t it simple?

Comments

  1. says

    Well… simple but not easy?

    There’s a reason why people can say things like “I heard person X tell a funny rape joke” but you never hear anyone say “I heard person X tell ten funny rape jokes”… the rape joke is a tough nut to crack and even the funniest comic alive can’t find too many different ways into it. Better for most comics and all amateurs to leave it alone.

  2. says

    The Onion must have this chart up on their wall or something. Most of their rape take one or more of the ideas above and turns it clearly on its head. Very little chance anyone would come away thinking that the point of the joke had been any kind of approval.

  3. Beth says

    Hey! That made me smile. You just made a rape joke with this post. You get the irony award for today.

  4. MichaelD says

    Only quibble is there’s probably more reasons why you might still not find it funny but other then that I think this lays it out nicely.

  5. smhll says

    I wanted to add that if ‘you’ tell a rape joke and the effect of the joke depends on the fact that you don’t fucking mean it, then better limit your audience to a very small number of people who know you well enough to know that you don’t fucking mean it. Go narrow, not wide with your audience.

    I don’t want to hear any shit about how “of course, no reasonable person could mean this” — because, ha-ha-ha (bitterly), you are so wrong.

    Someone did a series of photos on the internet of rape survivors holding up signs of things their rapists had told them. It was very chilling, and people who know very little about rape should be encouraged to read them. I’ll warn in advance that none of them are funny. (End bitter irony.)

  6. callistacat says

    I’ve said this on Ophelia’s blog already, but asking if it might not be immoral to rape someone isn’t a rape “joke.” There isn’t a punchline. Musing on whether someone is so awful or annoying that it might be justifiable to rape them is a violent, hateful thing to say. If someone asked “would it be immoral to castrate or lynch (well-known male atheist)” would there be any question the person asking really, really disliked this person? Bullies laugh at people’s pain and humiliation, but just because they laugh it doesn’t make you Jerry Seinfeld.

  7. Kimz says

    I think you might be referring to Project Unbreakable – it’s on tumblr and it’s incredibly poignant.

  8. Wowbagger, Deputy Vice-President (Silencing) says

    This has about fourteen too many boxes for most of the people who make rape jokes, and fifteen too many for those who find them funny.

  9. Lucifer's Colon says

    I don’t call myself a feminist. When it comes to the simple definition of “believing women should possess equal rights,” I feel about as stupid calling myself a feminist as I would calling myself someone who believes blacks should have equal rights. Well, no shit. But I’m feeling a huge disconnect between my own beliefs and modern feminism. It seems like it’s morphing into a frenetic beast, striking blindly at every phantom it can find, leaving behind rational discourse and losing sight of the most important issues.

    Think a woman bears some responsibility for her pregnancy in non-rape cases? Slut shamer. If you think it’s poor judgment to get trashed in an unsafe place around strangers? Victim blamer. Acknowledging certain negative stereotypes as often true? Misogynist.

    Even excluding extremists like Dworkin, I feel that feminism has been blinded by zealotry into forsaking rationality. Logical arguments have been abandoned in favour of accusing the opposition of being misogynists.

    Like I said, I don’t see a lot of use in this day and age in pointing out to people that I think men and women should be treated equally. I also don’t see vocal self-proclaimed feminists doing their cause very many favours.

  10. says

    Think a woman bears some responsibility for her pregnancy in non-rape cases? Slut shamer. If you think it’s poor judgment to get trashed in an unsafe place around strangers? Victim blamer. Acknowledging certain negative stereotypes as often true? Misogynist.

    Yeah… I think you like the IMAGE of yourself as an egalitarian more than you do the reality of it.

    Otherwise you wouldn’t be spouting strawmen created by anti-feminists.

  11. interrobang says

    If you think Dworkin is an “extremist feminist,” you also don’t get out much, nor do you know fuck-all about the breadth of feminism. (And for the love of squid, don’t ever pick up any writings by Valerie Solanas.)

  12. says

    @6 smhll: As far as I can remember that project was called Unbreakable. It’s ongoing, with submissions received constantly, I think. There’s even a facebook page for it. Terribly sad but at least it’s bringing this endemic problem into the public sphere.

  13. Francisco Bacopa says

    Think a woman bears some responsibility for her pregnancy in non-rape cases? Slut shamer. If you think it’s poor judgment to get trashed in an unsafe place around strangers? Victim blamer. Acknowledging certain negative stereotypes as often true? Misogynist.

    I think you are perhaps exaggerating things here. No one disagrees that women bear some responsibility for many pregnancies. There are many ways to talk about this without slut shaming. Just read RH Reality check for some examples.

    And yes, it can be imprudent to become overly drunk in certain settings. But I think you are confusing saying that a counterfactual is true with assigning blame. Perhaps this is because in many cases where we assign blame, we actually do assert that a counterfactual is true. “If Joe had actually done the scheduled maintenance he signed off on, the plane would not have crashed” is just such a case. However, there are many counterfactuals that can be true where we still think the person who made the antecedent of the conditional true is not blameworthy. Suppose you were looking for a bar that was open in the morning. Hey, the bars down by the port are open in the morning to accommodate night shift workers, so you go there. Huge culture clash and you get assaulted. Do you not still think that the person who punched you did something wrong even though it is true that if you had not gone to that bar you would not have been assaulted?

    And yes, you can find actual living examples of negative stereotypes about women. So what? It is not misogynist merely to say that is sometimes true. What matters is your reaction to such examples. Maybe conforming to such stereotypes is a way of getting by in the world. Perhaps what should be done is to undermine the stereotypes in order to give people better choices.

  14. reneerp says

    @LC – #15

    What’s the point you’re trying to make here? To point out that someone has said the things you’re pointing to as wrong? Unless it’s specifically on this post or in this blog, you’ve take your SIWOTI to the wrong spot.

  15. Shplane says

    Does your joke reference the idea that anyone other than a sexual partner(s) can provide meaningful consent?

    I’m not sure what this is supposed to mean. How are “sexual partner(s)” being defined here? My understanding of the term would essentially make this statement tautological (“Only people who agree to have sex with you can agree to have sex with you”).

    Otherwise, yes. I like this post.

  16. Sally says

    Isn’t it simple?

    I simply cannot wait for this coming feminist utopia where people must refer to flow charts before opening their mouths.

    Fuck me.

    This is the sort of crap you expected in a nasty little totalitarian state.

    Too funny.

  17. says

    Fuck me.

    No, thank you. I have no interest in a sexual partner who isn’t bright enough to tell the difference between social disapprobation and a totalitarian state.

  18. A Hermit says

    I simply cannot wait for this coming feminist utopia where people must refer to flow charts before opening their mouths.

    I think the goal here is to get to a point where we don’t need to turn to flow charts to explain simple concepts like how to treat each other with a little respect. (Keep trying, maybe you’ll get there some day.)

    Until then visual aids are just one way of reaching out to the empathy impaired among us.

  19. Brad says

    @18
    Nobody’s saying anyone has to refer to a flowchart before anything (in this case, anyway, there are legitimately required flowcharts. Like mcdonalds training). I would say (general) you should refer to an internalized heuristic version of what that flowchart goes into detail upon. Much like Richard Carrier says that if you’re thinking with the correct methodology, even though you’re not working out Bayes Theorem in explicit detail, you’re using a shortcut version of it that humans have on an intuitive level.

  20. says

    In case people somehow missed it — the comment(s) by “Lucifer’s Colon” do not appear to have anything to do with the post. If the Colon would like to make a comment that was actually on topic, maybe we could discuss that. But I don’t really see why a random mention of the fact that the Colon doesn’t like what e wishes to describe as “modern feminism” is relevant to this post. In Greta Christina’s phrase: “Thank you for sharing.”

  21. felixBC says

    Is there some short hand for “slyme pit denizen on the troll, and reporting back to the slymers with glee and extra slyme”?

    We could just use an acronym and post it where relevant many times a day. It’d save time and pixels.

  22. Philip Langmuir says

    I’m not even going to comment on your trolling, oversimplifications, and sexism. I’m going to comment on this, instead:

    > Not my words: the words of PZ Meyers’s daughter, Skotty, last year.

    Who’s PZ Meyers, and why do we care what his daughter Skotty thinks? I’m obviously familiar with PZ Myers and his daughter Skatje, but I don’t see why he’s relevant to her argument

  23. Dan M. says

    I share the confusion of Shplane @17. Is this just saying that nobody can consent for somebody else?

    (I like the post; just asking for clarification of that one phrase from it.)

  24. mildlymagnificent says

    “… nobody can consent for somebody else?”

    I’ve never heard such a ‘joke’, but I presume this refers to people inviting others to a three-or-moresome with their own partner who wasn’t expecting any extras. Surprise! might be one super punchline.

    Other scenarios now come to mind but I’m not thrilled to think further about those.

  25. ambassadorfromverdammt says

    The first thing I thought of was arranged marriages where the bride and/or groom was not a willing participant. Then I thought of Lot’s daughters.

    You could even include ‘wifely duty’, where the consent comes (metaphorically) from God.

  26. Gale says

    I’m not sure what this is supposed to mean. How are “sexual partner(s)” being defined here? My understanding of the term would essentially make this statement tautological (“Only people who agree to have sex with you can agree to have sex with you”).

    It would be nice if it was tautological. However, I will remind you that there are cultures in which many people, especially women, are viewed and treated as little more than property. This includes America, where it was relatively recently that the law was changed to acknowledge that a woman can be raped by her husband; an attitude which many religious subcultures continue to hold strong. “Only the people who are agreeing to have sex with you can agree to have sex with you” is, unfortunately, still something that needs to be stated, clearly and firmly.

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  1. […] many, many ways in which one advice columnist gave terrible advice on the topic. I also created a flow chart for people who want to tell rape jokes that may help them avoid jokes that reinforce rape culture. I explained how consent and boundaries […]

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