Mighty Life List
Jul 12 2012

Is Rape Ever Funny?

Did you read this article on Jezebel, How to Make a Rape Joke, by Lindy West? It touches on the controversy surrounding Daniel Tosh making a rape joke from stage and online reaction to his comment.

“If people don’t want to be offended, they shouldn’t go to comedy clubs? Maybe. But if you don’t want people to react to your jokes, you shouldn’t get on stage and tell your jokes to people.”

“And being an “equal opportunity offender”—as in, “It’s okay, because Daniel Tosh makes fun of ALL people: women, men, AIDS victims, dead babies, gay guys, blah blah blah”—falls apart when you remember (as so many of us are forced to all the time) that all people are not in equal positions of power. “Oh, don’t worry—I punch everyone in the face! People, baby ducks, a lion, this Easter Island statue, the ocean…” Okay, well that baby duck is dead now. And you’re a duck-murderer.”

I should say that Daniel Tosh makes me laugh, and he seems to be a decent person from what I’ve seen of his work, though of course I’ve never had the guy over for dinner. Still, West’s overall points are so well argued. She articulates the case for what it means to respect the horror of rape without avoiding the topic altogether. Really well done.

I especially enjoyed the examples of appropriate ways for comedians to approach the topic of rape. Is rape ever funny? No. Can comedy be an appropriate forum for commentary on “the absurd and horrific sense of entitlement that accompanies taking over someone else’s body like you’re hungry and it’s a delicious hoagie”? Absolutely.

What do you think?

Update: A few of you mentioned “A Woman Walks Into a Rape, uh Bar” by Harriet Jacobs, which is also thoughtful and well written. Some excerpts:

“Let me tell you a thing you might not know: the inability to hear rape “jokes” without flashbacks, Hulk rage, and “air quotes” is one of the enduring parting gifts of a rapist.”

“For those of you who wonder why rape victims get all super sensitive about rape jokes ‘n shit, well, this is why. Before you’re raped, rape jokes might be uncomfortable, or they might be funny, or they might be any given thing. But after you’re raped, they are a trigger. They make you remember what was done to you.”