About Rape Jokes

Image from SPARK

So a Girl Walks into a Comedy Club….

The post above tells the story about a woman who came into a stand-up show with her friend. The comedian was Daniel Tosh. Apparently this guy thinks rape is hillarious:

So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didnt appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”

Firstly, this woman did walk into a stand-up show. If you don’t think the comedian is funny, then don’t go see him or her. Heckling a comedian in the middle of their piece isn’t a good idea. I agree jokes trivialising rape aren’t funny though. Never. While I think making fun of rapists can be funny, helping to promote a culture where rape is no big deal is not funny, and should never be.

I had no idea who this Tosh guy was until now, but after I’ve seen some of his work, I can say I don’t find his childish and obnoxious humour even remotely funny. I would never go and see this guy perform in the first place. You know who’s funny? Dara O’Briain is funny. He doesn’t think rape jokes are all that funny either.

Anyway, this is what then happened, according to the woman telling the story:

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.

Now this really shows what sort of asshole this guy is. That is not a rape joke. That is harassment. How the hell did he know she wasn’t a rape survivor? The chances are actually in the area of 20% that she is according to some of the statistics I’ve seen.

Threats of rape, direct or indirect, even when supposedly meant to be a joke, are just wrong. Rape culture is a real thing and trivialising rape is all too common. Even if she was in no direct danger, using rape in this way is helping to maintain such a culture.

What is even worse is all the people, mostly guys, who defend this sort of rape-trivialisation. Other comedians have done this too, like Doug Stanhope saying:

If you don’t like it, leave. […] Just because rape might be touchy to you […] Diabetes may be something I’ve dealt with […] should we not do diabetes jokes? Where do you draw the line?

Yes, rape is just like diabetes. Diabetes isn’t trivial either, but this is great evidence that too many people don’t respect what a traumatising experience rape is to people who’ve experienced it. He illustrates the problem brilliantly. The problem with his kind of people.

Read the comment sections on some of the other blogs discusiing this incident, and you will quickly notice how common this view is.

Related links:

Update: More on Rape Jokes

Writer Jennifer Pozner has written two excellent articles about comedy and rape jokes and about the response from both the comedy and feminist community.

This essay was posted two days ago:

It is quite long, but as the title describes, it looks at a lot of interesting aspects to this story.

The other article is from today and includes comments by 9 other comedians.

It looks at the relationship between comedy and feminism and asks if it really is true that feminism is humourless like Louis C.K. seemingly claims.

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  1. Rebecca says:

    I was in a comedy club over easter where the comedian ridiculed rape culture in what I thought was a pretty successful way; I’d say that was my only encounter in person so far with a ‘positive’ rape joke (for lack of a better word). Did you ever see that rape advert aimed at men, with the guy banging on a glass wall and shouting at his former self? Anyway she used that as the basis to mock the reason why that advert is needed in the first place, ending with “guys, if you aren’t sure, ITS A NO!” She addressed a serious and uncomfortable topic and still got a lot of laughs from picking it apart, and it’s something that stuck in my mind since. Totally agree that it’s never funny to trivialise rape; I don’t just find it offensive, but incredibly lazy and unintelligent. But the jokes that shift the focus of ridicule, away from loling at victims and belittling the seriousness of their experiences, I think they can be very effective and powerful in how people come to think about rape.

    Not that Tosh agrees x[ what a fuckweasel.

    1. Veronica says:

      Comedy is an excellent tool for pointing out how ridiculous some parts of society is. Even when it is a serious issue. I think it can be very helpful to do what the comedian you mentioned did. And then you have the lazy assholes like Tosh who think they’re being ‘edgy’ or whatever.

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