Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rape Joke Roundup

h/t to Sonnet

Rape jokes are a hot topic on the blogosphere right now.  A few excerpts:

Harriet Jacobs on why rape is joked about:

There is very little in casual, accessible culture that depicts rapists or rape victims as multi-faceted, complex human beings — and they all are. They are not depicted as people who survive, who go on to read trashy novels and get angry in traffic and learn a new hobby and think about volunteering sometimes but never actually do and get their degree in marketing but actually go into accounting because the job market these days, you know, and if they had never left that one significant other their lives probably would have been different. And rape is not depicted as an event that has complex meanings and consequences for men or women. Rather, it’s depicted as sex to advance the plot, define a (male) character, and/or be a super sweet hidden porno in the middle of your movie. 

The Guardian's Brian Logan on The New Offenders of Standup Comedy:
[Jim] Jeffries tells me: "You can't do a joke these days about black or Asian people – and rightly so – [but] you can do rape jokes on stage and that's not a problem." Why does he think rape is now less of a taboo than racism? "I don't write the rules," he says. Nor, it seems, does he seek to challenge them. Capurro told me, with some distaste: "For a lot of comics, it's OK to talk about raping women now. That's the new black on the comedy circuit."

To which Jessica responds at Feministing with What's So Funny About Rape? 

What I truly don't understand is how anyone could possibly think that joking about rape is being edgy or somehow fighting against the mainstream - which seems to be what the comics in this Guardian article are arguing. They say they're taking taboos head-on. But the thing is, rape jokes and mocking violence against women are mainstream. They're not a taboo at all - they're the norm, sadly. So all of these comedians giving themselves a pat on the back for being sooo controversial - when all they're doing is upholding the status quo - really fucking irk me.

Because if their rape jokes were actually challenging the mainstream, they'd be subversive, not holding up what American culture already perpetuates - that rape is a-okay. I think what is particularly telling is that so many of the people arguing that jokes about sexual assault are fine are dudes - the demographic that tends to be ones who, well...rape. (And who get assaulted at much lower rates than women.)

On a related note, last fall I had a positive experience talking with a rape-jokey comedian after a show.  An excerpt of what happened: 

...So, the headlining comedian was doing fairly well. Not exactly my cup of tea, but whatever. And then he gets to a rape joke. Ugggh. 

For the first time, I was determined to say something. Immediately after the show, I went up to him. It went something like this:

me: "Hey- great job."
dude: "Thanks a bunch!"
me: "I'd really like to give you some feedback about something that really bothered me"
dude: "Sure thing, what is it?"
me: "You know, that rape joke was really off-putting"
dude: "What rape joke?"


me: "The one about a girl drinking too much at the bar..."
dude: "Oh. Yeah."
me: "Well, I just wanted to let you know that it's probable that more women than you think who are here tonight can actually identify with that happening, and it's not a pleasant experience to come out to a comedy show and have that be laughed at"
dude: "Yeah... uh... thanks for saying something."
me: "Thanks for listening."

Nice enough. Maybe he'll take that part out. Maybe he won't. At least I didn't feel powerless as an audience member. 

1 comment:

  1. Is Dave Chappelle's spoof of R. Kelly, "Pee On You," essentially a rape joke? It's offensive. It's stupid. It's poopy humor about R. Kelly's scatological abuses of young women. It's kinda funny.

    The word "FUCK" is synonymous with sex and violent degradation. "Fuck that noise," does not generally mean you want to metaphorically have sex with a sound. Every time someone uses the word "fuck" they tacitly assert the premise that "sex = violent degradation." Yes?

    Will comedians stop saying "FUCK" just because it's offensive? Fuck no!

    What passes for funny and for professionally funny is rarely genuinely humorous or clever. Some of it is downright nauseating.

    Comedians walk the tightrope along what is socially acceptable. "Did he go TOO far this time?" They mistake outrage for being relevant. And they mistake nervous twitters at sophomoric tastelessness for being clever or genuinely funny.

    It used to be that "The Drunk Driver" was a perfectly decent set up for a joke. Now Drunk Drivers aren't seen as that funny anymore. Society changes.

    A little over 20 years ago, John McCain told a rape joke. It got a laugh. It wasn't funny. But twenty years later he got called on the carpet for it. Maybe we are making progress.

    Here's an interesting piece too;

    Amanda Hess has written a lot of interesting analysis on the subject!