Rape Jokes: “Never Funny!”

About a year ago, my friend and I decided that I was to be deemed the sexual assault police. No, I did not plan to go around DC pretending I had the super-human strength and emotional intelligence of Olivia Benson from “Law and Order: SVU” (though the thought is always tempting).

Rather, I felt it was my duty to call out those people around me who thought it was appropriate to make rape jokes. Granted, it is not completely out of my nature to speak truth when I feel it is necessary, but I decided to go out of my way to tell these people if I, the undercover sexual assault police, felt that he or she crossed a line.

Some recommended reading.

Rape jokes. They just aren’t funny, we agreed.

Today, I have had enough. Two recent news stories involving rape jokes hit me via email and Facebook within 24 hours and, like many women, I take it personally.

The first involves Domino’s Pizza’s new pizza box, which attempts to appeal to its customers with an artisan flare and reads at the top, “No is the New Yes.”

I won’t waste your time with the idea behind the marketing campaign – the point is that Domino’s got it wrong. And if women were involved in the genius idea, that’s even more horrifying.

Then, I heard about Daniel Tosh’s incendiary comments to an audience member last Friday at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles.

Tosh, the host of Comedy Central’s “Tosh.o,” is not new to rape jokes. I begrudgingly watched the show once and rolled my eyes in an effort to thwart my anger and disgust when Tosh, you guessed it, made rape jokes.

But last friday an audience member at the Laugh Factory called him out – and rightfully so. Apparently, he had made more than one comment about rape jokes being funny and she had had enough. She stood up and shouted: “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”

What follows is the worst part. Boston.com reports:

“After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…’ and I, completely stunned and finding it hard to process what was happening but knowing I needed to get out of there, immediately nudged my friend, who was also completely stunned, and we high-tailed it out of there.”

WHAT?!?! I will give Tosh the benefit of the doubt that he did not actually want that woman to be gang raped during his own show.

Also in an effort to be fair, I will post what Tosh Tweeted in response to the backlash:  “the point i was making before i was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them.”

Poor capitalization and hollow words aside, Tosh’s response to this woman leaves me nearly speechless. It’s dangerous and inflammatory and highlights what many feminists call our country’s rape culture. By rape culture, we mean a society where rape is not only accepted as a common occurrence but is also joked about in a manner that takes away the seriousness of its prevalence and effects.

It’s also important to remember that “No means no” became a slogan for a reason; because men don’t understand that there is power behind the word “no” and therefore don’t take women seriously when they say it. So we, as feminists and advocates, defined it, if you ask me, quite simply so there can be no debate: “No Means No.”

You, reader, likely know someone who has been raped. If you don’t yet, you probably will someday. I’m not a doomsayer but it’s a known fact that one in three women worldwide will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

That’s a lot of women.

The more we, as comedians, doctors, landscapers, architects, artists, stay-at-home moms, as a society, accept these jokes the more we allow rape culture to continue. And as we further this frame of mind, the more women’s rights and freedoms are in danger, for ourselves and for our children.

Something as serious and all encompassing as rape is never a joke – there is simply no room for it – and Tosh’s enraging response to a woman who had the courage to tell him so embodies much of what is wrong with this society. There are a whole host of things he could have said, but he chose to make the basest, most vile comment possible.

It’s simply unacceptable. And it needs to change. 

3 thoughts on “Rape Jokes: “Never Funny!”

  1. Well, I don’t agree with you about the Domino’s comment (I mean come on, that’s taking it a little far to automatically link the Domino’s one liner to a rape situation).

    That being said, I completely agree with you about Mr. Tosh. Wow, really appalling and unacceptable.

  2. Unfortunately, men have traditionally made sexist and sexually violent ‘jokes’ and then tried to dismiss them with “just kidding…lighen up” but there are some experiences, comments and attitudes that are so horrendously hurtful that even uttering them is shameful…Guess Tosh has the ‘right’ to do this ‘schtick’ but I hope he gets feedback and backlash so that HE feels some of the pain he is trivializing. Well Done.

  3. I just want to say that I do agree with you about Domino’s (and Tosh, obviously). “No means no” is ubiquitous enough when we talk about rape and sexual violence that even if Domino’s wasn’t trying to make a connection to rape (and I can’t imagine that they were – there’s no marketing value to making that connection), they still should have known and changed it. Intentional or not, it invokes memories, pain, and belittles what 33% of our women are going through.

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