(Content Warning: Rape)
People think calling out rape jokes is “censorship of free speech.” Riley J. Dennis proves why they’re wrong – and how they’re really hurting people.
And while we’re at it: Let’s talk about why it sucks to use “rape” as a synonym for “destroy,” too.
The Editors at Everyday Feminism
Click for the Transcript
Rape jokes are not funny. Now, before you start yelling about your first amendment right, just hear me out for a minute. No one is attacking your rights. No one is saying the government should come and ban you from saying what you want to say. All I’m saying is that you should think critically about what you’re saying, and the very real effect that it has on people. This is called not being an asshole.
Rape jokes are actively harmful. You know why?, because they make rapists feel validated. When rapists see rape being joked about, and taken lightly, they think that their behavior is okay. Honestly, I think that a lot of rapists don’t know that they’re rapists, because they don’t feel like they’ve done anything wrong. They think it’s okay to have sex with someone who’s passed out. Or they think it’s okay to have sex with someone who’s clearly drunk past the point of giving consent.
The thing is, that’s not sex, that’s rape. When other people make jokes about that kind of stuff, rapists feel normal. They feel like they’re not doing anything out of the ordinary. But seriously, not matter who you are, you should feel like you’re doing something wrong if rapists love your jokes. On top of that, every time you tell a rape joke, there’s a good chance that you’re triggering someone’s PTSD.
According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, one in six women have been raped, and one in 33 men. Even those numbers are probably low because, unfortunately, rape is a crime that really goes unreported a lot of the time. If you tell a rape joke to a group of any size, you’re more likely than not, to cause someone severe emotional distress. Rape can cause very traumatic flash backs and panic attacks, as a result of PTSD, and making jokes like that only makes survivors feel more alone and isolated.
This is really the most important point. Survivors deserve the right to be able to heal. No joke, no matter how funny or clever you think it is, should override that right. This has nothing to do with being sensitive. PTSD triggers our real physiological responses that cause real suffering. I don’t think it’s possible for people that don’t have PTSD, to even fathom what it’s like. But try to imagine the most awful, horrible thing that’s ever happened to you, and then imagine your friends joking and laughing about it. It’s not cool.
This is the real problem with rape jokes. The survivor is the butt of the joke. Comedy is a great tool for shining light on important topics. I really believe that, but comedy that’s used by people in power to make fun of people with less power, isn’t funny. There’s a difference between a rape survivor being the butt of the joke, and a rapist being the butt of the joke. One is contributing to a culture of shaming survivors, and the other is calling out the problem of rape culture.
Since Bill Cosby has been accused of rape by about … 9,384 women, a lot of comedians have been taking shots at him, and rightfully so. When a joke takes a shot at a rapist, it gives us the tiniest amount of retribution. Maybe we can’t send Bill Cosby to jail, but we can socially ostracize him, and make sure the world knows that he’s a rapist. When a joke takes a shot at a rape survivor, who’s that helping? You’re just attacking this person who’s gone through this horrible thing, and for what? To prove that you’re edgy and cool, and not tied down by political correctness?
That’s bullshit. There’s nothing edgy or cool about making fun of rape survivors, even if that rape occurs in prison. Now these jokes are so common that I’ve even heard them on Sponge Bob as a kid. Because of that, for the longest time, I thought that don’t drop the soap jokes were okay. They’re not. When people say, “Don’t drop the soap.”, they’re saying that if you’re in prison and you drop the soap, you’re going to bend over and someone’s going to rape you.
There are tons of other times where people make light of prison rape, as if prisoners aren’t people too. Rape is a despicable crime, inside or outside of prison. Even violent offenders don’t deserve to be raped. That’s not a punishment we can sentence people to. There are some inalienable rights, like bodily autonomy, that are exactly that. Inalienable. How can you laugh at the idea of someone being raped? That’s not funny.
Another thing, using rape as a synonym for destroy, is ridiculous. When you say that that test raped you, or one sports team raped another sports team, you’re making light of an extremely serious thing, and probably, needlessly, triggering survivors. There’s so many other lovely synonyms that you could use. Like, annihilate, obliterate, decimate, demolish. There’s no reason to use rape in that way.
What in the world can you do about any of this? The first thing you can do, obviously, is don’t tell rape jokes. The second thing you can do is, don’t use rape casually as a verb. But the other thing you can do, which is probably the harder thing, is to stand up to other people who tell rape jokes. Don’t laugh when they tell them, and then explain to them why you didn’t think it was funny. If you’re in a group, use your best judgement to decide when is the appropriate time to talk to them about it.
If you’re comfortable with it, the best thing to do might be to address it immediately, because you might be able to change the minds of some of the other people in the group, if not the person who’s telling the rape joke. Explain that rape is a serious crime that causes PTSD for a lot of people, and they shouldn’t be making light of it. If you’re not comfortable talking out in a group like that, just talk to the person later, one on one, and explain why it made you feel bad, and why they shouldn’t say it.
A lot of people deal better with one on one conversations, than being called out in a group anyway. Too long; didn’t read. Rape jokes are shitty. Don’t tell them. I hope some of that information was helpful for you. This video is a part of a series I’m doing for Everyday Feminism, a website dedicated to helping you stand up to, and break down, everyday oppression. I’ll put some links on the description, so you can check them out, as well as my previous videos in the series. That’s all I’ve got for you today. Subscribe if you want to see more videos from me, and I will see you all next week. Love you all. Bye.
To learn more about this topic, check out:
- The Trouble With Rape Jokes And 3 Tips for Surviving Them
- How Rape Has Become a Staple of American Culture
Riley J. Dennis is a Contributing Vlogger for Everyday Feminism. She’s a polyamorous, atheist, gender non-binary trans woman with a passion for fiction writing, feminism, and technology. She got her BA from Whittier College in 2015 doing a self-designed major called Writing Worlds, a mixture of creative writing and anthropology, focused on realistic fictional world building. Find her on her YouTube channel, Twitter @RileyJayDennis, or her website RileyJayDennis.com.