Why I removed my video on Feminism »« Gender Differences – SkepchickCON/CONvergence panel

Just a quick poll.

In your opinion, rape jokes are:

1. Never funny;
2. Sometimes funny;
3. Always funny.

Later edit: I made this poll because I’ve seen a lot of feminists say that “rape is never funny” (just google it). As a feminist myself, I find this to be very odd and I wanted to see how the FTB community feels about it. I don’t know how anyone can make a general statement about any given subject NEVER being funny. Obviously, rape itself can never be funny (I feel weird for even having to make this disclaimer), but I think that a lot of good comedy originates from horrible tragedies. I guess what I should have asked was if you consider ALL types of rape jokes offensive.

For instance this one:

Comments

  1. Zhaggy says

    I need more definition for “rape joke”, since I distinguish between;

    – jokes that condone rape and male-bonding rape culture

    – jokes that ridicule rape and male-bonding rape culture

    …of which some may be….

    – jokes that observe rape and rape culture as part of the absurdity of the human condition

    Depending on which you mean, I’d vote 1,2,2 respectively

    • Joshua Bennett says

      ^ This.

      Btw, Christina, props to you for asking what your readers think, instead of just telling us how you think things are.

      • says

        Agreed. It’s great to see somebody willing to say “I don’t know everything” in the rationalist community. Sadly, a lot of us can wind up with our heads too far up our own backside to realise that just because we’re on the rational team doesn’t make us experts on everything.

      • julian says

        Oh lord. This is gonna turn into one of those stupid “ask the viewers” bs newsrooms do, isn’t it?

  2. Lzrd says

    Jokes involving rape can be made to be funny, but rape in and of itself is not. But that is not a property of rape, but a measure of the storytelling ability of the maker of the joke.

    • Annie says

      Agreed. No topic is off limits, at all, ever, as long as you know what you’re doing. Telling a story involving a rape in a funny way, so that you’re kicking at the victims or glorifying the act…not okay. Telling a story involving rape in a funny way that takes a stab at rape and perpetrators, that’s fine. It’s a matter of asking yourself who or what will be the butt of the joke and what the effect will be.

  3. says

    I would say that a joke making fun of rape culture can be funny, but a joke about rape directly cannot. There was an article about this on Feministe, but I can’t seem to find it.

    • Happiestsadist says

      Pretty much this. It’s the difference between making fun of misogyny and those who perpetrate it, and saying “LOL, people get raped!”.

  4. Nathan says

    Sometimes funny. You can make a joke about anything. Humor doesn’t lie in the subject matter. It all depends on the setup and punchline.

    • julian says

      No it doesn’t. Comedy is largely based on the perception of the viewer and the mood they are in. Timing may be important but more so is the biases, prejudices and thoughts of the viewer.

      Take Jesus and Mo for example. I don’t find it funny. I find it stale and obvious. But ask your average atheist: “Oh, Jesus and Mo! Funniest webcomic out there! It’s so true!”

      • Jeff Johnson says

        Well, it’s always been the case the true believers in any cause take themselves and their subject of passion too seriously and don’t know how to laugh about it. Everybody else gets the joke though.

        • julian says

          But this holds true no matter the topic. For example, married white men and their wives. Those jokes are beyond stupid and so totally predictable you could recite every punchline before the teller is half way through the joke.

          And yet Blue Collar Comedy has a large following and many people seem to think I wanna here those jokes when I share this or that aspect of my marriage with them. (Why I’ve stopped doing that.) It has little to do with the out group not ‘getting’ the humor, at least from what I can see.

      • Paul W., OM says

        Part of what makes things funny is often mental exhilaration at being quickly and efficiently reminded of things you know and why you believe things, and a few new reasons to believe things you already believe, or make minor changes to what you previously believed.

        The comic gets you to draw “important” (surprising and emotionally loaded) inferences faster than you could do so yourself, but in a way that you can intuitively follow in real time.

        (A joke usually depends on NOT explicitly telling the “real” punchline, and relying on the listener/reader to reliably, automatically conclude the surprising thing that makes
        it funny. It’s a lot like Socratic questioning, reminding the listener of things she knows and/or feels in just the right order, at just the right times, so that she draws the crucial inferences for herself, and is subtly guided through a better or more efficient argument than she could easily construct by herself.)

        It’s kind of like skating holding hands with a better skater, who can pull you along and stabilize you. You get a feeling of what it would be like to be such a skater, whizzing along quickly and gracefully, even though you couldn’t do it yourself.

        (And of course it’s largely an illusion. The comic isn’t that smart either, and is making something that they’ve revised and practiced for maybe a year seem casual and easy for less than an hour.)

        I think of this as “freebasing smart”—the comic constructs a fast, smart ride and you get to go along almost as if the comic were really that clever, and you were almost as clever as the comic.

        That’s how I feel about Jesus and Mo, fairly often—the writer makes a tremendously compressed version of an argument I could make myself, but not that quickly and efficiently, e.g., distilling a logically valid and important reductio ad absurdam argument to a two-line joke.

        Often that’s actually a good argument that’s distilled too far down to actually use in an argument with somebody who doesn’t already agree—too many “easy” steps are left out, to be automatically filled in in the reader’s head. Somebody without the same background knowledge might simply not get the joke, or they might not get that the joke really is the backbone of an actual valid argument that would actually work. You’d have to spell out the missing pieces, slow things way down, and mostly kill the joke.

  5. Egbert says

    There are two types of people: Roundheads and Cavaliers. Cavaliers are somewhat colourful, emotional, have long hair and have a carefree lifestyle, and are conventional rule breakers. Roundheads are serious, puritanical, rational and conventional rule makers.

    Cavaliers enjoy life and have a sense of humour, and would answer (2) or (3). Roundheads lack humour and would answer (1).

    • Nepenthe says

      Women (myself included) typically have long hair. Does that mean that a large majority of us are rape-joke loving Cavaliers?

      Or was your little exercise only supposed to refer to default people?

  6. Siobhan Perricone says

    I would have said 1. never funny a while ago, but I recently read an article wherein there were several mentions of comedians who took on the rape joke successfully. The key was context and what, exactly, they were poking at. In all these cases it wasn’t the victim.

    So now I say 2. Sometimes funny with the caveat, it takes a professional comedian with sensitivity to make it funny, and even then, there will be people who wouldn’t be amused.

  7. pj says

    Who is the butt of the joke? The rape victim? Rapist? Rape culture? People who find rape jokes funny?

    Laughing at the victim is punching down and should not be dignified with the term ‘comedy’.

    • says

      That’s where I am with this. Wrote a post on my blog about it, in fact. No joke that attacks the weak, disenfranchised, or otherwise less powerful is ever funny, and since the vast majority of rape jokes are aimed at the person being raped, then they tend to be not very funny. However, jokes that aim at the powerful, that strike out at the person who has specifically taken power from somebody else, those can be hilarious. So can jokes about rape culture that aim to take down the assumptions that go into making rape so pervasive.

  8. karmakin says

    Sometimes, as long as it’s the rapists/enablers that are targeted. The controversial example that comes to mind for me is the Penny Arcade “dickwolves” comic, which was quite funny I thought as it was making fun of game design that got players to ignore terrible travesties in front of them if they already reached the goal.

    • says

      I do not find the Darwin awards funny a vast majority of the time. Sometimes I find what they did funny…but then the punch line is that they actually died. I find other people laughing at the Darwin awards worse than the awards – because they usually go too far with pointing out how stupid the person was and then end with some stupid shit like “and now they are out of the gene pool”….oh yeah, unless they already had children who now get to go to the internet and find out that the death of their mother or father was the butt of someone’s stupid-ass joke.

      Death can be funny – but not the stupid “Darwin awards” – which is just yet another ass-hat thing that someone decided to attach Darwin’s name to.

  9. StevoR says

    Hmm .. no option for it there, but very, very once in a million or billion even funny maybe.

    Nah, put me down as a “never funny” vote. Nearest correct answer.

    Theoretically, maybe it isn’t impossible that a rape joke is actually grimly humourous on possibly a 0.0000000000000000000%~age occassion but in practice? Exceedingly expectionally especially rare for one tobe if one ever is.

  10. says

    Option 2.

    Like others I agree that a rape joke can be funny, but only if the one telling the joke frames it correctly. Doing what they call “punching up”, which means making the joke about the rapist or rape culture, is just fine with me. A victim should never be the butt of the joke.

  11. quietmarc says

    I would have said “2”, but after reading through the morass of stupid, hateful comments and connecting those comments with women I know, many of whom have been assaulted or in other ways have had their gender or sexuality used against them, I’m really in more of a “1” place right now.

    One question that just occured to me that I haven’t seen discussed….can’t something be both “funny” and “harmful”? Is the question really whether rape jokes are funny, or should it be more about the cost/benefit of getting a laugh? If you have to victimize a person to reach your goal of humour, is it worth it?

    • quietmarc says

      By hateful and stupid comments, I didn’t mean in this thread, just on the internet at large over the last couple of years.

  12. says

    As other people have said, if the butt of the joke is rape culture, it can be funny, depends on the skill of the comedian. If the butt of the joke is the rape victim, the comedian’s a phenomenal douche with a microphone.

  13. machintelligence says

    I would have to go with sometimes. Context is very important, and if sufficiently revolting, will kill off the humor. This reaction will vary between individuals, of course. The phrase “That’s not funny, that’s sick (or awful, or disgusting)” pretty much sums it up.
    For a recent book on the topic of humor, I recommend: INSIDE JOKES Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind by M.M.Hurley, D.C.Dennett and R.B.Adams Jr.

  14. says

    My $0.02 – very occasionally funny, as long as it makes fun of the rapist not the victim, but it takes a huge amount of skill to pull this off, and people who think they can do it often show the Dunning Kruger effect. I liked the comments made in this article

  15. Patrick says

    The way I see it, jokes that make fun of the victim or condone the act are in poor taste. Louis CK’s rape jokes are good because they don’t do either of these things. Also, I remember the Penny Arcade controversy from a while ago, which I thought was misguided because the comic was making the player’s lack of empathy the butt of the joke.

  16. mcbender says

    I would have said no, before reading this blog post:

    http://kateharding.info/2012/07/13/15-rape-jokes-that-work/

    So I’ll answer “Seldom”. The key seems to be that the joke must condemn rather than condone rape and rape culture; when most people are discussing “rape jokes” that doesn’t seem to be what they mean, so I am hesitant to endorse “rape jokes” sans caveat for fear of being misunderstood.

    • Hayden says

      One that I would add to that list is a line from “The Life of Brian”.

      Mother: He was a Centurian in the Roman army.

      Brian: You mean, you were raped?

      Mother: Well, at first, yes.

      • LeftSidePositive says

        Oh, HELL NO. Look, I love Monty Python, but that “if you just rape her enough soon she’ll start to love it” trope is so deeply embedded in rape culture, and one that elides the really toxic dynamics of abusive relationships and situations where rapists manipulate vulnerable victims and also casts rape in the “just-another-type-of-sex” frame that ultimately excuses rapists, that I really have to say bad on MP for that one.

  17. Garnetstar says

    I’m with Zhaggy @2.

    I define a “rape joke” as Zhaggy’s definition #1, and those are never funny.

    The video above, though, is ridiculing both rape culture and seeing it as part of life’s absurdities, so I consider the comedian’s joke’s not to be rape jokes.

  18. Brad says

    Solidly 2.

    This might be funny, but I’m not sure, so I apologize if it isn’t, and remind the reader that it’s a sarcastic statement:
    “So that’s the real tragedy of rape, then, that rape victims cease finding rape jokes funny.”

  19. says

    Option 2. It can be funny. It can be the case that somebody laughs at a joke about a very serious subject. That doesn’t make it ok, but it does make it (objectively speaking) funny. Rape shouldn’t be a laughing matter in our society, but at the same time humour just happens to be a method people use to deal with all sorts of unsavoury things. A joke can be offensive while being funny to somebody. Sometimes the same person. Also, as lots of people pointed out, it’s all about context and where the barb is pointed. It’s meaningless to say rape jokes are never funny. Blanket statements are never correct (irony intended).

  20. Jeffrey G Johnson says

    I think sometimes funny. This is my honest opinion at the risk of offending those whose understandable seriousness about opposing all kinds of violence prevents them from admitting this truth.

    There is nothing funny about rape, nor is there anything funny about getting poked in the eye, bonked on the head with a heavy object, slipping on a banana peel and falling down, having huge boulders or pianos falling on your head, or having explosives malfunction so that ones clothing is badly shredded and one is covered in black soot from head to toe.

    These forms of violence and pain have been used in humor since antiquity, and we can see them in modern times from the three stooges to the Road Runner and wile E. Coyote. Why are these things funny? That is a deep psychological and philosophical question I won’t attempt to answer.

    What is definitely not funny is to suggest women invite it in any way, to suggest they secretly enjoy it, to suggest men are simply doing what comes naturally to them, or that any kind of natural entitlement could be invoked to excuse them for a crime of violence and terror.

  21. tiny says

    Rape is never funny.

    Rape jokes, well, I found most of the ones in your video okay because they were actually rapist jokes and a satirical portrayal of what the constant threat of rape does to women.
    Towards the end of the video it got a bit… well, the husband using the pussy without permission to me was borderline, and the last joke about his friends coming by… that one I didn’t find funny at all. It made me feel sick to the stomach, actually, and I was glad that the video was over.

    The key phrase is: ‘I didn’t find’ it funny.

    I think that everything can and should be joked about. BUT there also is a wrong place, a wrong time and wrong company for everything.
    This is not about censorship, it’s about being considerate and respectful. If you’re in the company of a person who has been raped, sorry, but your right to tell rape jokes ends where this person’s triggers and flashbacks begin.

    In other words: Joke about rape all you like, but please take care that you don’t do it within earshot of me and do not ever think that the act of rape is funny.

    • tiny says

      I have to add something; it’s a quote from http://jezebel.com/5925186/how-to-make-a-rape-joke which perfectly describes the way I think about rape jokes/how a rape joke must be constructed for me to find it enjoyable or even funny:

      “”The world is full of terrible things, including rape, and it is okay to joke about them. But the best comics use their art to call bullshit on those terrible parts of life and make them better, not worse.””

    • Unrepentant repenter says

      Interesting I didn’t associate the end of the shtick with rape at all. I thought while listening to it that the humor in the end was meant to be the absurdity of the the whole idea of a detachable pussy. The funniest part was not the opening rape prevention while jogging at night which I found only mildly amusing but the calling her friend because she was having such good time on her date but she left her pussy at home. That was the funniest joke she got out of the whole concept for me.

      • Alan B d says

        That’s funny because I instantly understood what she meant at the very end of the scene. I understood what she was getting at the moment she said “a couple of the boys stopped by”. The insinuation(?)was that the husband shared her pussy with his friends and that the “boys” used her pussy without consent.

        I admit I found the humor in it but I also instantly GOT the joke.

  22. Andre says

    Sometimes funny, but context is very important. Unless its a man getting raped, then it is always funny. Don’t trust me? just play dueling banjos around any guy and just try not to snicker.

  23. Paul W., OM says

    Sometimes funny.

    Usually but not necessarily when the bottom line “message” of the joke is anti-rape.

    Sometimes funny even when the joke has no message at all about rape, so long as it’s clear to the audience that the speaker wouldn’t condone rape.

    By analogy to the Holocaust, consider Louis C.K.’s joke at the very end of his recent appearance on the Daily Show.

    He said that he hoped we could all learn from this rape joke kerfuffle, get past it, and get on with killing Jews.

    I thought that was brilliant. (And notice that it was a non-Jew speaking to a Jew, joking about genocide against Jews.)

    It illustrates that you can make a funny joke about the canonically evillest thing, without expressing any obvious point of view about that thing—e.g., that going around killing Jews is a very, very rude thing to do. Louis C.K. just assumes—rightly, I hope—that everybody in the audience assumes that of course he’s very much against that sort of thing. It goes without saying.

    If you trust Louis C.K. not to be an antisemite or sociopath, he’s obviously being very, very sarcastic—it’s over-the-top slapstick.

    If you don’t—suppose he had a reputation like Mel Gibson’s—you might interpret it very differently. You might think that whether or not he’d really be in favor of the Final Solution, he might be making a Holocaust joke because he wants to bring up something painful to Jews, or is insufficiently horrified by such things, or

    One should be able to make a rape joke like that; it should go without saying that rape is a very very bad thing.

    Unfortunately, a lot of comics tell more or less sexist or “sociopathic” anything-for-a-laugh jokes, which understandably makes some people suspect that no, they’re not really as anti-rape as they ought to be, and a maybe are revelling in the fantasy of rape a bit too much, or are using the joke partly as an excuse to express some degree of real hatred for women.

    Yikes.

    I think that rape is actually a great subject for comedy, in principle, because jokes generally work by telling an ambiguous story with two different interpretations with very different, strong emotional loadings. Rape is a loaded subject, so it’s a good subject for comedy, at least in terms of basic, solid joke construction.

    But you’ve got to be very, very careful with it, given that too many people in our culture are sexist and don’t take the subject of rape seriously enough, and that too many people are likely to have been raped or to have experienced serious fear of rape.

    (Imagine how fraught the subject of the Holocaust would be if you knew a fair fraction of the audience was more or less sympathetic to Naziism, and another fair fraction was Jews who lost relatives in the Holocaust.)

    Also, I agree with what an earlier poster seemed to imply about there being a difference between something being too painful to joke about and the jokes themselves not being funny.

    A joke can be both, and if you say “that’s not funny” you generally sound blind and dogmatic. If you mean that a joke isn’t funny enough for you, given how painful the subject is to you (or to “too many” people), don’t say “that’s not funny.” If you do, you sound like a stereotypical humorless feminist who really doesn’t even get the joke and has no real appreciation of comedy, or the well-known fact that humor is subjective, and is insufferably bossy.

    If you don’t mean not funny, don’t say “not funny.” Say something true and enlightening instead, so that you don’t sound like somebody with a broken sense of humor trying to impose it on everyone else, too.

  24. julian says

    Of course some find rape funny. Remember the kids who laughed along when you were being beat up at school? Many people find the trauma and pain of others amusing/entertaining. Why would the rape of another be any different?

    More importantly, why should I think it ok?

  25. A Hermit says

    Depends own the intent, the context and the skill of the person making the joke. If you’re dealing with something like rape, or race you better have a point and it better be good. People who can do that with something like rape are pretty rare in my experience…even Carlin, whom I love, falls a bit flat when he goes there.

    The problem is too many people think it’s “cool” and “edgy” just to make a joke, any joke, on a sensitive topic without having a worthwhile point or the skill to pull it off. Those people are what I like to call “wrong’…if you’re just looking to be offensive for the sake of being offensive then what you’re doing isn’t comedy…it’s hate.

  26. Paul W., OM says

    I can only think of one kind of rape (or rapey) joke that I can recall telling myself, but it’s sort of an example of what I was talking about above, and I’m wondering what others here would think.

    When discussing something very unpleasant or unfair that somebody has to put up with, I’ve been known to say something darkly humorous like “Just lie back and think of England,” or maybe even “Bend over and take it like a man.”

    Depending on my tone of voice, that can send two more or less opposed messages about what to do in the situation.

    I say it with a touch of wry sadness, it can mean that yes, you should put up with that crap, but yes, it really sucks that you have to—it’s a bit like being raped.

    If I say it in a sarcastic tone, it can mean than no, you shouldn’t put up with that crap (or depending on context, really shouldn’t have to)—it’s too much like being raped and is way over a line.

    Both of those jokes refer to horrible things, without any particular comment about those things. The first refers to women being treated as objects, with “wifely duties” like “putting out” whether she wants to or not, because it’s basically her job due to stereotypical sex roles being societally enforced. She’s stuck being a sort of whore, servicing her man. Ew.

    The second refers to anal rape of a man, likely in a prison setting. It’s a prison rape joke. Ew ew.

    I am very much anti-rape, and very much horrified by the general U.S. population’s callousness about prison rape. (Way too many people think it’s funny to joke about and not a problem that something needs to be done about, because it’s basically okay, and even funny, if terrible things happen to criminals. Fuck ‘em.)

    I don’t think actual rape is funny, nor is the way we treat prisoners as subhuman, including many prisoners who don’t deserve to be there at all. (E.g. harsh sentences for minor drug offenses, wildly disproportionately meted out to young black men.)

    If you know me, you know that endorsement of rape is certainly not why I’d make such a joke. I’m assuming that it’s at least understood that anal rape is very seriously very bad—the kind of thing you’d avoid if you possibly can. Whether or not you adopt a “fuck ‘em” attitude toward prisoners, you know it’s really not something you want happening to you.

    But maybe I really shouldn’t make that joke around anybody who doesn’t know me and where I’m coming from on the prison rape subject. It might sound like I might be apathetic about actual rape in prisons, but not for somebody like you, who doesn’t “deserve it.” (At least with the “think of England” joke, anybody who gets the joke at all understands that I’m describing a stereotyped situation that’s generally agreed to be a bad one. The phrase is pre-loaded with that.)

    Anyway, I think these jokes are passably funny in a basic joke sense—not to say particularly funny—even if they’re not worth making in some contexts, and/or for some audiences, or at all.

  27. mildlymagnificent says

    I’ve never heard a rape joke I found funny. (But then I worked in a 100 men to 5 women workplace in the 70s – I’ve probably heard far too many.)

    I think comedians should look at this sort of topic as being like tightrope walking without a safety net. If you’re very, very good, very, very focused and very, very careful you might get away with it – most of the time.

    You’d be better off finding other material that’s easier to work with and with a less dangerous landing if it doesn’t go exactly right.

  28. stubby says

    I think rape jokes are rarely funny. It takes a skilled comedian and it has to be done in a way that makes misogynists the target.

  29. jehk says

    2.

    You covered most everything. Rape cannot be the joke. However, a joke can mention rape and still be funny. The joke is on something else.

  30. iknklast says

    Never funny. Never, ever, ever funny! Yes, there are topics that cannot be made funny, because they are too painful.

  31. mimi says

    Yes, anything can be made funny:

    ex.

    Q: Where did Christa McAuliffe go on vacation?
    A: All over Florida.

    Racist and Blonde jokes can be funny, too. Really, really funny. Are they right? OK? Worth the laugh? Big ethical quandry about these.

  32. kraut says

    Rape jokes to me are about as funny as the jokes “ex” nazis tell about the jews in the gas chambers..

  33. Hazelwood says

    I personally think this is the wrong question. So what if a joke is funny? I can hardly be the only person who has had a little chuckle at something they actually think it horrible? Sure, a rape joke can be funny. The important question is, is it defensible?

  34. mel says

    Rape jokes are never ever funny no matter how you try and state them. IT demeans the very real anguish people go through and as such any one who amkes jokes about rape are disguiting human beings

    • oolon says

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZTahQZs76Y

      Could be seen as a Frankie Boyle rape joke – and it made me laugh. Not sure if its sometimes due to the reaction with Boyle though – sort of I cannot believe he just said that and laughing as a reaction.

      Anyway I’d go for a 2 personally. I doubt anyone really thinks they are never funny and no one should think they are funny.

      • hannanibal says

        HaHa. Good one. Mock The Week isn’t the same without Frankie. Somehow, his dour, pessimistic, Scottish accent makes him funnier.

  35. mirax says

    #50

    that ‘joke’ was at the expense of a child, a disabled mixed race one. It was so offensive on so many levels that one wonders what fucking context would make it less putrid.

    that said, I would go for a very, very qualified 2 where the it needs to be crystal clear that there is no victim blaming and the butt of the joke is the rapist and/or the kind of society that condones rape culture.

  36. Makoto says

    @52 – Anything is fair game for comedy, true, but that doesn’t mean the jokes are funny. And I’d estimate that 99.9999% of rape “jokes” aren’t funny, and aren’t even told to be funny.

    To me, that’s the bigger problem, not whether a skilled comedian could make a joke at a rape culture’s expense, but that most people use these so called “jokes” for a completely different end.

    • hannanibal says

      Some people do find them funny though. Comedy, especially stand-up comedy, is the most subjective thing out there.
      The people who complain about one aspect of dark humour may like a completely other branch of humour that someone else finds repulsive and offensive.
      If someone says they find all rape jokes, at all times, offensive then fair enough. They are entitled to think that. And I’m entitled to disagree.

  37. says

    I’m gonna say; 2; they are sometimes funny. I will add that a lot of funny things are also something else, like “cruel,” “Morbid,” etc. I won’t pretend my sense of humor always fits my sense of right and wrong, but I certainly don’t let it define my sense of right and wrong either.

    I would also add “rape-joke” is inherently vague. Most of what I imagine the phrase would convey seems like pretty morbid jokes at the expense of the victim. Non-offensive alternatives may be possible, but they certainly would be the exception.

  38. smhll says

    I have definitely heard some feminists say that that particular Wanda Sykes joke is funny.

    Something like “you should be raped” or “wouldn’t it be funny if you were raped” doesn’t seem like it could ever be funny.

    A short burst of laughter could mean something is shocking or incongruous more than it is funny.

    Torture jokes and dead baby jokes don’t really make me laugh.

  39. baal says

    2 but just by a little. The female comedian you link is a riot! I’m also against blanket statements; too much falls on a spectrum. All too often though, rape jokes are just Tosh.0’s massive fail to get anywhere near funny and thuggish crap from assholes.

  40. The Rose says

    At this point in my reasoning, I’d say #2.

    Don’t we all reason that you must joke about everything, or you can’t joke about anything?

    And, also, are you thinking what I’m thinking?

    A lot of other people seem to be saying (in defense) the same thing here. And my example is this: I was reading Greta Christina’s blog where she said fuck Mitt Romney. Down around comment #14 someone said, “yeah, fuck Mitt Romney with a broom handle wrapped in rusty barbed wire”. She told him never use that kind of violent imagery on her blog again. To his credit, he didn’t — I’d respect that too. But I got a snort out of it. Why? The hyperbole of it. It’s a “word” joke, right? Is it violent? Yeah, I guess so if you think about literally doing that. I don’t think that’s why I laughed though.
    On the other hand, I’ve never read an Al Stefanelli blog that didn’t have you %100 on his side, following his reasoning. So, I’d really like to hear the reasoning behind his answer, and if he thinks my example is indeed a “rape joke”, or (if one finds this sort of thing funny) a joke based on taking it way, way too far, and, therefore, not what we’re talking about here?

  41. AndrewV69, Visiting MRA, Purveyor of Piffle & Woo says

    The rape joke business apperas to be subjective. Here is one take that I think some should read:

    http://kateharding.info/2012/07/13/15-rape-jokes-that-work/

    I am a feminist. I have been raped. And I think the following 15 rape jokes are hilarious. So please fuck all the way the fuck off with your “You just don’t understand comedy” bullshit. (Here’s an alternative proposal: Maybe you just don’t understand being a decent human being.)

    On a tangent, the following may explain why some women, especially if they are a feminist may strongly react in a negative manner.

    I have a suspicion that some women have fantasies about that sort of thing, and of those that do some feel ashamed and/or embarrassed about it.

    Let me emphasize that I am not talking about the “really for reals rape”, but fantasy about being submissive, and this appears to be common for a lot of people, not just women.

    In other words, acting out submission with someone dominant.

    I guess for a feminist this could stir up all kinds of emotional turmoil, instead of recognizing it for what it is, just a harmless fantasy that satisfies a behavioural trait.

  42. Daniel Kolle says

    Rape jokes always have the potential to be funny. Shit, everything always has the potential to be funny.

  43. dougal445 says

    FFS! Do we really need to answer this question?
    It’s not rocket science.
    Some jokes are funny to some people, other jokes are funny to others, whatever the subject.
    I’am often dismayed by people who self rightously dismiss certain topics of comedy as inappropriate, while they will laugh at other topics which are equally questionable or distastefull. My position on a particular joke may be “meh! That doesn’t make me laugh” but i won’t tell other people what they should or shouldn’t find funny.

  44. NateHevens says

    Ignoring the comedian themselves, rape jokes mainly fail to be funny when they’re at the expense of the victim.

    Seeing as it was Daniel Tosh that started all this…

    I’ve no clue what jokes he was telling that prompted the woman to heckle him (this is what she did), but his response to her wasn’t funny. It wasn’t clever, edgy, funny, witty, or any of that. It was man-spirited, disgusting, stupid, pathetic, misogynistic, and just plain idiotic. Tosh should be ashamed and he should utilize a lot more than 140 characters to apologize.

    That said, any rape joke that is told for the purpose of making fun of rape culture, rape apologists, victim-blamers, and rapists can, depending on how good the comedian is, quite hilarious. I have no problem with people finding the funny in horrific events like the Holocaust and 9/11 and murder and rape and cannibalism and whatever else. The jokes fail when the victims are the butts of the jokes. They succeed when society, the apologists, and/or the perpetrators are the butts of the jokes.

    It’s all about context, which this post on Jezebel highlights quite nicely.

    And even then, as seen in this very thread, some people will still not find them funny. And they have every right to feel that way, since comedy, especially stand-up comedy, is extremely subjective (as has already been pointed out). It’s imperative to respect other people’s opinions, especially when dealing with subjects like this.

  45. nohellbelowus says

    The Hammurderer is quickly becoming regarded as the worst-received advertising mascot since Kool-Aid’s 1989 discontinuation of ‘The Grapist,’ a huge purple monster who sodomizes thirsty children.

    I tapped out after reading that, and now must vote #2.

    (Props to AndrewV69 for posting the link to the KateHarding site.)

  46. nohellbelowus says

    From #62:

    And they have every right to feel that way, since comedy, especially stand-up comedy, is extremely subjective (as has already been pointed out). It’s imperative to respect other people’s opinions, especially when dealing with subjects like this.

    Actually, people do not have any right to not being offended. And you’re contradicting yourself in the second sentence, because it is just as important for people who are offended by rape jokes to respect the opinions of those who do find them funny.

    • NateHevens says

      Um… yeah. I agree. I didn’t think I’d have to spell that out, though, considering that I thought I was preaching to the choir, so we’d all recognize that.

      The turn-around on what I said is just as true as what I said.

      Stand-up comedy is one of those rare moments when opinions can’t really be wrong no matter how badly you want them to be (opinions like “Dane Cook is a comedian” and “Daniel Tosh is funny” are opinions that really should be wrong, even though they can’t be said to be wrong).

      So yeah, I agree with you. I was never trying to say any differently.

      Although… I do have a quibble:

      Actually, people do not have any right to not being offended.

      I hate this trope oh so fucking much. You have no idea how often this was used on me in grade school when I was being bullied. Whenever I hear or read this line, I associate it with bigot using it to excuse their bigotry. It tends to go along with the “what about my free speech?!?” trope, and it’s fucking stupid.

      It’s true that it is literally impossible to not offend people. Hell… the very fact that I don’t believe in any gods is offensive to a holy hell of a lot of religious people. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was offensive to a majority of religious people. However, free speech is not consequence-free, and I, as a Humanist, believe that we have a duty to attempt to minimize the amount we offend people as much as we possibly can.

      Sure, there are caveats. I love offending rapists, murderers, willfully ignorant Young-Earth Creationists and the preacher YECs, misogynists, assholes, people who think they’re better than everyone else, abject morons who’s level of intelligence barely matches that of an egg (you know the people I’m talking about; the ones who, in math class, after the teacher copies down the numbers in a word problem onto the board, raise their hands to ask where the teacher got those numbers… and no, I’m not being sarcastic… there was at least one of those people in every math class I ever took, even in college), and people like that.

      But the vast majority of the people who make up my social circles don’t really fall into any of those categories, so I do my best not to offend them.

      If you must offend somebody, make sure it’s somebody who legitimately deserves it. Don’t just offend people for the sake of offending them. Because… no offense… if that’s what makes your humor, then you aren’t funny.

      • nohellbelowus says

        Well said, but now I have a quibble:

        It tends to go along with the “what about my free speech?!?” trope, and it’s fucking stupid.

        Is the truth stupid? Sure there are responsiblities and consequences associated with free speech, but that doesn’t imply that any particular expression of the concept is “fucking stupid”. A trope maybe, but stupid? Do you have a better, fresher, more egalitarian way of phrasing the idea?

        I respect your opinion on the matter, obviously.

        • NateHevens says

          That trope is stupid because it’s used mainly by bigots who want to continue being bigots without consequence.

          Just because you have a right to free speech does not mean you have the right to avoid the consequences of your speech.

          • nohellbelowus says

            Bigots expressing their right to free speech using a perfectly good English sentence doesn’t make the sentence inherently “stupid.”

            Your second sentence was redundant, btw. Not stupid, but irrelevant. We already agree there are consequences.

            And you didn’t answer my question. Please provide a “non-stupid” expression of free speech.

  47. says

    Hi Criss. I can’t think of a case where it would be okay. That does not mean there isn’t one, but not that I can envision. You just need to put yourself in the position of someone trying to get over the terrible trauma of rape, and think how that person would feel about hearing the joke, and watching people laughing at it.

    That is the best answer I can give you. Brave of you to ask this question, however.

    • nohellbelowus says

      The question was do you find them funny, not if they are “okay” in any particular context.

      • says

        Yes, that is correct, I did not address the question of “funny.” For me, it doesn’t even get up to neutral on the way to funny for anything I have heard or can envision. Again, that does not disqualify what I have not, so some evidence could change my evaluation.

        Got evidence?

      • says

        “They,” all of “they”? As I said, maybe there is such a joke, but not that I can envision that I would find funny.

        It is a good question for the neuroscience folks to look into. For example, they could scan subject’s brains when telling them jokes that some find funny and others find hurtful, and look at the relative activity in the parts of their brains that deal with those reactions. There may be a part of my brain that finds all kinds of offensive jokes funny, and that may not have been any problem back in childhood when other parts of my brain had not developed enough to get a bigger picture of life.

        • nohellbelowus says

          I bet what they would discover is that the laugh impulse is more primitive, and that it precedes deliberate, cognitive processing. It’s impulsive, and only after it occurs is it then subject to correction by cognitive reasoning.

          Just like staring at a woman’s breasts, for instance.

          • says

            Yes, I would bet that is correct as far a timing goes. It is interesting to listen to the timing distribution of laughter in an audience when a good comedian is working. Some people unconsciously anticipate the punch line (or that it is going to be funny) and start the laughter before it even gets completely spoken. Sometimes “getting” the joke requires a great deal of cognitive processing, and the audience just sits there, and then a few start the laughter, which then spreads (some laughing along without the benefit of getting it). Some of the best jokes have a simple funny surface, but then a deeper funnier connection that requires some thought. On those, you may hear some regular laughter, a die-down pause, and then followed by an even louder second wave.

            As far as this issue Criss asks is concerned, I am not as interested in the timing (interesting though it is) as the internal battle with whatever part gens up empathy for whoever or whatever is the butt of the joke.

  48. Simon says

    Please be aware that you are drawing a fair amount of MRA’s (ie haters) with this topic. I highly doubt you’ll be able to draw any kind of meaningful conclusions from such an audience.

  49. hoary puccoon says

    nohellbelowus @65– “…it is just as important for people who offended by rape jokes to respect the opinions of those who find them funny.”

    No.

    I don’t respect the opinions of lots of people. I think the people whose opinion is that President Obama was born in Kenya are idiots. I think the people who use rape jokes as veiled threats against women are worse.

    In a democracy, you have the right not to be persecuted or prosecuted for your opinions. You do not have the right to demand respect from people who find your opinions contemptible.

    • nohellbelowus says

      hoary puccoon:

      They have a right to express their opinions. That’s what free speech is all about. Yes, one must accept the consequences of free speech. No, you personally don’t have to technically “respect” anyone’s opinion, but they have the right to express them.

      The other side of that coin is a lot worse, as I’m sure you recognize. Read Orwell if you need a refresher course.

  50. Eric says

    “my brother in law got so many DUI’s, that he had to go to prison for a year. Now his only concern was getting raped, so he didn’t take a shower for that entire year… Because he was so busy getting raped.”

  51. hoary puccoon says

    nohellbelowus @ 69–

    Did you actually read my entire comment? What part of, “In a democracy, you have the right not to be persecuted or prosecuted for your opinions” did you not understand?

  52. Miles says

    I thought about whether rape could be funny, and couldn’t come up with anything.

    Wanda Sykes, however, has succeeded where I have failed.

    So… a good comedian can make ANYTHING funny.

  53. jascollins says

    The biggest reason rape-related humor is such a sore point in the US is, I think, mostly backlash. There used to be a certain type of joke that was popular among fucktards until the past couple of decades. This class of “humor” tended to be both INSANELY insensitive and have a strong (implicit or explicit) element of victim-blaming.

    The first example of those that pops to mind is “How do you keep from being raped? lean back and enjoy it; then it isn’t rape.”

    I think “traditional” (i.e. misogynistic) rape jokes are a trigger for victim-blaming experiences (Which by many accounts can be as bad or worse than the rape itself).

    THIS clip was hilarious. I think it’s because THIS clip seems to be more about putting one over on the potential attacker, so it has a non=innocent as the butt of the joke.

    I doubt I I would have gotten it less well a few years ago, when concerns about rape culture were further from my mind. I’d have wondered why the FIRST thought to pop into her mind would have been about personal safety. “I mean, ANYONE can get robbed, right? I can see why her hyperbolic descriptions of the situation would warrant leaving it at home, but why would you think of that FIRST? That seems pretty contrived.”

  54. says

    Some people seem to think that funny things exist in real life and comedy is about packaging these things up for an audience. That’s true to some degree. That’s pretty much how Jerry Seinfeld operates in his stand-up. Most comedy isn’t like that, though. It’s about anger at things you can’t affect or about the absurdity of things we take for granted.

    There’s nothing funny about racism, but Sarah Silverman, Richard Pryor and plenty of other comics have built careers on it. Or, there’s nothing funny about suicide or murder, but lawyers fidn this story hilarious:

    http://www.snopes.com/horrors/freakish/opus.asp

    It’s the meaning that makes them offensive or not, not the subject matter.

  55. jackrawlinson says

    I don’t think there is any subject that it isn’t possible to make a funny joke about, but then I’m British and so we enjoy irony and don’t find it distasteful.

  56. Beerzilla says

    2

    Not a very fair question.

    Saying that rape jokes are always funny would mean that ANYTHING can always be funny. Saying that rape jokes are never funny implies that ANYTHING can never be funny.

    Both of these are absurd, so 2 is the only reasonable answer.

    P.S. I’ve never heard a feminist complain about jokes that involve killing/death. If you believe that rape is NEVER funny and you would never laugh at a rape joke, you should feel the same way about murder jokes(and those are much more common).

    • says

      I don’t think that’s really fair.

      Death happens to everyone – can’t be prevented.

      Murder is much rarer than rape.

      You are much more likely to have several people in the audience who have been raped than have been murdered.

      (I think I’m going to hell for that.)

        • NateHevens says

          I would argue that rape can be worse than murder (please note the “can be”). Murder is taking a life, but I know rape victims who wish they had been murdered.

  57. says

    I must say, to the title, my mind said, “No!”. And I am a guy.
    I instant thought of how I hate gay jokes too.
    Then I watched the video and chuckled.
    Ah — wasn’t was I was thinking. OK, I guess it all depends.

  58. says

    One rule of comedy is that it has to be funny, and nervous laughs from shock value don’t count.

    Some comedy can also make use of shock value, though, in order to make a point, and I suppose the classic case is the well known Lenny Bruce ‘Nigger’ routine.

    I like Lenny Bruce, for lots of reasons. Among them, at his best before his problems got in top of him, he was very funny.

    I don’t think it impossible for a rape joke to be funny, but most aren’t, and it is a very fine line.

    I have to confess that I have laughed at jokes along the line of

    Bill Clinton and Ted Haggard are walking back to their hotel together after a conference, when they come across a girl with her head stuck in some railings.

    Clinton pulls down her panties and gives her one, and says to Haggard ‘Your turn’.

    And Haggard says ‘I don’t think my head will fit through the railings’.

    But generally rape jokes are a bad idea.

    As is revelling in the thought that David Mabus will suffer homosexual rape if the powers that be send him to jail for breaking his probation conditions, as has been the subject of some comment on The Atheist Experience comments recently.

    David B

    • says

      I actually really hate that joke. I’ve heard it before, and I hate it.

      (I’m going to describe the problems with the joke bluntly here.)

      First, it describes a rape in enough detail to just be bizarrely disturbing. The rape victim is dehumanized, is completely helpless, is not cared for by society (she’s out in the open, not being helped), etc. etc. The act is portrayed as this completely cavalier crime of opportunity. It’s just chilling.

      Then, the heart of the joke is that someone that the listener doesn’t like, Haggard, who is a homosexual – is willing to lower himself to the status of the girl.

      So, it’s essentially a “gays lower themselves to the status of women” joke. In this case, the status of women (girls of course, not women) is a helpless rape-opportunity with no social support or autonomy. She’s just a convenient hole for a powerful man – Clinton.

      Clinton, the rapist, is not being made fun of by this joke. Unlike in Wanda Syke’s jokes, the rapist retains power. The joke is not ON the rapist.

      The incredibly offending “joke” from the incredibly sexist guy at the Atheist Experience actually has the exact same basis.

      Wonder how he will like being someone’s girlfriend…[in jail].

      The reason he thinks this shit is funny, is because someone he doesn’t like is lowering himself (notice all the insistence that the victim of the rape has agency in this case by the person who made the joke) to the state of someone’s “girlfriend”. In this case, also, the status of women (girls of course, not women) is a helpless JAILED rape-opportunity.

  59. Deepak Shetty says

    I’ll go with if there is a funny one – I haven’t heard it yet.

    But funny is a subjective evaluation.

    So I guess the question you are wanting to ask is “Should you find a rape joke funny?” (given all the other caveats – it makes fun of the rapist, is told well etc etc)

  60. Jimmy says

    The question is an absurd one, that makes us sound like children. Oh that word is a no-no! it’s not allowed!

    For eons humans have joked about everything imaginable, especially things that are horrible. Sometimes this is a a coping mechanism, sometimes it’s just self-expression because humor is a kind of self-expression.

    Believing that self-expression can be cordoned off by social regulation makes you a fool. Believe that it should be makes you a thug.

    This is not to say that any one joke (of any type) isn’t offensive, hurtful, mean, etc.., but that we should respect others enough to know they can understand why without us deciding for them an entire topic is off-limits, as we might a child.

  61. Logan says

    Like all humor, it depends on the skill of the comedian, the venue, and the audience. George Carlin and Richard Pryor could make anything funny. Some people will be offended by pretty much anything, and some comedians are just not funny. Like all art, comedy is in the ear of the behearer.

  62. Anonguy says

    I am going to be blunt here and I am going to offend some people.
    Trigger warning for the really dumb people who walked into a post about about rape jokes and still need a warning anyway.

    Sitting here and thinking about my three rapes (two of which don’t count) I have made a list of the people who hurt me the most in my experience

    1: Friends and family.
    I forgave them in time for there cold “I brought this on myself” reaction and refusing to believe me made my life hell. I would honestly rather have been raped all over then have had to go throw this.

    2: People who say rape jokes are never ever funny. Really fuck you guys.
    Being raped is a fate worse then death, It crushes who you are and you will be haunted by the flashbacks for the rest of your life, it defines you…. or not
    See what I wanted more then anything was to just go back to the way things were. It took time but I would have gotten there a lot faster if people did not treat me like I was damaged, A fate worse then death that I was never allowed to come back from.

    Sooner or later you have to stop treating us like victims who must be handled with kid gloves. Your not going to tell someone who just had a miscarriage a dead baby joke, but sometimes dead baby jokes are funny. Use the same judgment about rape jokes.

    3: The rapist

  63. Zorku says

    I tend to be really ignorant of the female perspective until somebody hits me upside the head with it but at current rape jokes are just as workable as holocaust jokes to me. There’s definitely terrible ways to do them, but among the successful ways there’s a roughly even split between the target of the joke being the recognizably evil person/group involved, or the joke instead takes more of a format where there’s some shock that the comedian is pretending to be such a horrible person/have extremely weird misconceptions about the situation for around five-to-thirty seconds before they take it back.

    I can’t recall having very much appreciated a joke about awful subjects like these where the comic is genuinely encouraging the audience to be heartless about the matter or placing the blame on the victim or such.
    Well no, there’s one that sticks out- from a Something Awful article on this subject actually. They were explaining that the basic formula for comedy is irony plus bizarre. To get irony you just rape a rapist while they’re on the prowl- barely funny at this point. For bizarre you have rape via giraffe- better but it still doesn’t work because there’s that innocent victim. Combine the two though- a rapist chased down and raped in the park by a giraffe that escaped from the zoo- and you don’t so much need to feel sorry for the victim anymore.

    My more in depth thoughts about feminism from recently have put some doubts in my mind about whether or not I should think that situation is very funny but even if I swing fully against it I won’t be able to change that fact that I thought it was funny when I first encountered it.
    This seems like a good opportunity to ask people who are much better at this though- should I dislike that joke? I’m extremely analytic so if I should try to change that about myself please try to present a bit of an argument as to why- help me find the faults in my own thinking.

  64. says

    I agree with you that the idea that a certain topic can never be funny is absurd. An earlier comment tries to distinguish among different types of rape jokes, saying that those satirizing rape culture may be funny but those endorsing it or not, and I think that misses the point. You shouldn’t have to agree with something politically to find it funny or not (though some people have a mental block of that sort). A lot of comedians do jokes based on premises I don’t agree with or with politics I find nauseating, but that doesn’t mean their jokes are necessarily unfunny. I think Penn is hilarious even if I find his libertarianism insanely naive, for example. Doug Stanhope is one of the funniest guys alive but some of his political views are messed up as all get-out.

    The issue here should not be whether a particular topic IS funny, but whether comedians SHOULD make jokes on particular topics that may foster horrible attitudes. I think people are conflating these two very different ideas. Personally I think these social battles are focusing too much on language and overstate the power of language and jokes in particular to influence behavior. The typical idea is that ANY joke that makes light of rape contributes to rape culture, a culture in which victims of rape are not taken seriously. However, this idea doesn’t make sense considering jokes about murder are just as common and yet these jokes do not contribute to any sort of “murder culture” where victims of murder are victim-blamed (when’s the last time you heard someone say “he was ASKING to get murdered wearing a shirt like that!”?). Comedians talk about “killing” on stage when they do well, friends will jokingly say things like “I’ll kill you!” when you eat their last piece of pizza, etc., and these nonserious, jocular treatments of murder don’t seem to contribute to a murder culture in any meaningful way. If we tried to organize groups to shame comedians who made murder jokes into not doing so it would be counterproductive and merely be silencing behavior for little to no good coming from it, and I think there’s a similar problem with trying to shame people into thinking we cannot ever joke about rape.

    With that said, I can definitely understand why people would not want to hear rape jokes or even jokes about violence and murder. These things can be triggering. Unfortunately part of living in a free society is recognizing that rather than imposing your own standards of speech on others you have to simply learn to change the channel or avoid those who will be talking about subjects that offend you.

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