Joking about Rape is not Okay

Most articles on this topic use some sort of analogy or metaphor to convey their point, but I’m going to skip those and get straight to it, because I’m very passionate on this matter.

There’s been a lot of scandal lately on the topic of rape. Daniel Tosh and his comment to the woman at a comedy club, Representative Todd Akin with the “legitimate rape” comment—it’s definitely a hot-button issue. I’ve been to parties where this is the main discussion, and the thing that gets me is I’m not even sure why it’s a discussion at all.

For a little background information: around a month and a half ago, Daniel Tosh was doing stand-up at the Laugh Factory in New York City. He made a joke about rape, which I won’t repeat here, and a woman in the crowd stood up and said loudly enough for him to hear, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!” Tosh then reportedly said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?” The backlash on Tosh was severe, and he eventually issued a half-assed apology over Twitter, which doesn’t even get him the “Sort of Decent Human Being” award.

Regarding Representative Akin—on August 19, Akin went on a St. Louis TV show and answered a question about whether or not abortion is justified in the case of rape. This is what he said verbatim: It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.

Okay, I’m not a doctor, but I made a 96 in my human anatomy class in tenth grade and I’m not a complete moron, and I think that qualifies me to make the statement that what Akin said is complete and utter bull. I don’t know what doctors he paid off to get to say that, but shame on them, and shame on him for even saying it. Several members of the Republican party, Mitt Romney included, said publicly that they don’t condone Akin, which I think has got to be saying something.

I know the women reading this will understand what I’m talking about, but for the men—simply imagine living in fear at all times. Imagine not being able to take a walk in your neighborhood after dark because you’re not sure if the man two houses down is really as neighborly as he seems. Imagine cringing every time someone of the opposite sex sits beside you on the bus because you can’t help but think his actions are less than noble. Try to think what it must be like to be in constant fear of having something you cherish deeply violently taken from you.

It isn’t fun.

Rape is more than physically scarring—the trauma extends mentally and emotionally, too. In 2009, 1 in 6 women reported being raped or sexually assaulted, and those are just the reported incidents. Chances are, when Daniel Tosh made that comment about men dropping from the ceiling and raping that woman, there were several women in the audience who had experienced sexual assault. His words probably triggered memories of fear, hopelessness, and unimaginable pain—all because of a joke.

And it isn’t like society is doing much to stop it. Once, at the beach, I observed a mother and her 18-year-old son discuss the Daniel Tosh incident. I honestly wasn’t surprised when the boy defended Tosh, saying that it’s just a joke and that people need to not take things so seriously, but it took all I had to keep my jaw from dropping to the floor when his mother said she agreed. I couldn’t believe that not only has our culture made it okay to joke about these things, but it condones it. Being “offensive” and “edgy” is perceived as cool by much of the populace.

I have a friend who was given pepper spray for her thirteenth birthday “just in case”. This is the society we live in. A society that tells women, “Hey, the shorter the skirt, the more you’re asking for it.” A society that convinces men that they’ve earned it. It doesn’t matter that the woman says “no”, she secretly wants you. This is a society where, on average, men make $819 a week to women’s $657. This is a male-dominated society, and no matter how much women may try to change it, we need your help.

Stop making rape jokes when you’re playing Xbox. Stop feeling entitled to sex. Stop belittling our opinions and experiences, and help us. Stand up to your friends when they do these things, see where the nearest Slutwalk is happening and get involved—just do something. Don’t stand idly by, I beg you.

  • Maury Holliman

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. I love this because it doesn’t come off preachy it’s just true.