Why rape jokes aren’t harmless fun.

// 22 July 2009

Reader KJB linked to this truly brilliant post in the on-going comments thread under Ellie Levenson’s guest post. In it, Harriet Jacobs thoroughly elucidates just why telling rape jokes is not funny and why so many people, men especially, cannot understand this. The crux of her argument is that rape jokes are triggering to rape survivors and reinforce rape myths, and seeing as so many women have survived rape, it might be, you know, considerate not to be joking about rape when you have no idea if someone listening has been affected by it:

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. And if the joke was about something that wasn’t done to you, not in quite that way, you can really easily imagine how it would feel, because you know how something exactly like that felt. Rape jokes stop being about a thing that happens out there, somewhere, to people who don’t really exist, and if they do they probably deserved it, and they start being about you. Rape jokes are about you. Jokes about women liking it or deserving it are about how much you liked it and deserved it. And they are also jokes about how, in all likelihood, it’s going to happen to you again.

Harriet argues that only rape victims can acceptably joke about rape, as only they live in that world without rules, without safety, unmoored from the reality the rest of us know. Only they get to know what’s funny about it.

She also perfectly describes that moment when someone in your circle of friends says something that you object to – in this case a rape joke – and you can’t decide whether to go into angry feminist mode:

Several options flash through your head.

1. Say Nothing. Hope the conversation does not continue extolling the virtues of rape, making saying nothing harder. Hate yourself for saying nothing. Notice girl sitting on the porch of the house next to you who has heard what was said. Notice her similar reactions. Hate yourself more for saying nothing, because she has probably been raped, too, because you don’t know any woman who hasn’t. Hate your friend, because he doesn’t know that every woman he knows has been raped. […]

2. Be Edgy! Jump in with some even MORE offensive humor! Run with the rape joke! Make it even more rape-y! Now your friend will never guess you have been raped. […]

3. Initiate a Very Serious Conversation, out of nowhere, like. Tell your friend that joke was not funny. Tell him rape is never funny. Keep talking after his face has pinched up in resentment and disgust, because you are RUINING his day and his BEER and his FUNNY. […]

4. Initiate A Very Serious Conversation Version II: Follow version one, except also disclose to your friend (who thinks rape is funny and exciting) that you have been raped. Be surprised, all over again, that this does not immediately change his perspective, the way it changed yours. […]

5. Find Some Other Way: Can’t count on this one; sometimes an alternative pops into your head, sometimes it doesn’t.

Sounds all too familiar to me; I feel frustrated just thinking about it.

Do read the whole post if you have the time; I’m telling everyone else I know to read it so I couldn’t miss The F Worders out!

Comments From You

Laurel Dearing // Posted 22 July 2009 at 4:39 pm

i read an article on some other feminist site (following a twitter link) which was asking the question “can rape ever be funny?” and they seemed to conclude in more of a yes, but only if youre making light of a current situation or something like that, and not laughing at the survivors or victims, preferably not on tv, and if it is it has to come from someone with a good understanding and never just be some casual shock value joke that had nothing to do with anything (as are the vast majority of ones you hear online or with friends) and that still you need to be sensitive to your audience. i personally am generally offended by about 95% of rape jokes by men. i would probably not be so offended when i hear women or even more understanding men tell them, only, because im so fed up of hearing them i feel a little betrayed too. you know? even you? i thought i could at least escape it from you. i do think if its especially clever and relevant then jokes could be told, and i even do it myself sometimes… for instance theres a facebook application buddypoke which has strange “chase” and “force kiss” features, and i cant help but bring up how i see that! but i think theres time and place. with any jokes about world disasters or death theres general and theres personal. something like rape is always personal because its about everyone. well, half the population of everywhere anyhow. maybe im a hypocrite because despite thinking its usually to do with who will hear your joke, i am annoyed when people ive explained i dont like the jokes to and they seem to understand just stop telling them to me and carry on with everyone else. no i didnt want to be ignorant to your jokes, i wanted you to think before it came out, whoever youre with! im not a survivor. im not oversensitive or weak or whatever they think its about. i can handle it. the point is, should i, or them have to? is the joke so amazing its worth triggering someone? is it something that is harmless and thoughtful enough that youre pretty sure they wont feel bad about? or do you just not care?

Pablo K // Posted 22 July 2009 at 6:26 pm

I agree completely with the basic framework here, namely that rape jokes aren’t funny. I’m not sure I can even think of a rape joke which qualifies as a ‘joke’ in the minimal sense of having a trajectory, story or punch-line. ‘She liked it’ hardly counts as wit.

I’m more concerned with the reason rape jokes aren’t funny. I’m not sure I can accept that people can’t joke about things they haven’t experienced. That rules a lot out. And isn’t genuine humour at its best when it is pushing boundaries of one kind or another?

I think there are two issues here. The first is one about knowledge and sensitivity. It’s always wrong to speak in ways which seriously offend people without cause, which trigger recollections of trauma, which denigrate or peddle hate. But that covers more than jokes. It might mean not speaking about rape at all in front of a survivor, or not mentioning how annoying you find those Macmillan charity campaigners on the street to a friend who’s father has just died of cancer.

So a huge part of the problem is that almost all men (at least in my experience as a man), and some women, are ignorant, out of choice or otherwise, about the extent of sexual violence and its effects, not to mention that scary notion of ‘patriarchy’. It wouldn’t cross their mind that someone around the table in the pub might have experience something that horrific. We might be able to excuse that ‘oversight’, although certainly not the kind of continual blindness to the issues that follows ‘The Very Serious Conversation’. This is a task for campaigning and making public just what a problem rape is.

But the second issue is about these kinds of ‘joke’ in general, which is that it seems to me, without getting too sociological about it, that their function is not to reverse expected narratives or to surprise the audience (as good jokes do) but to reinforce and buttress certain gender roles and certain attitudes to women. This is the same reason why the same joke about race might be acceptable among ‘safe’ groups but not OK at Nick Griffin’s summer barbeque. It is the reason why people wrap themselves in knots over things like Borat or Bruno, trying to figure out whether it reinforces or undermines anti-semitism and homophobia.

And I think that this is a kind of ‘objective’ criteria in the sense that I might not find a joke funny, or even find it distasteful, without it implying anything about the people telling it. Jokes about rape (and other things) are different because, IMHO, they do imply something about the people telling them, at least in the forms discussed here. They are not humour but a ritualisitic reinforcement of a generalised worldview which legitimates, in however subtle a form, the choice not to think about these things, and not to act on them.

I don’t mean that telling a joke about rape is a preamble to committing rape or that all people who tell jokes are unambiguously or irreparably misogynistic. But both intentions and consequences matter. I don’t think there’s a solid correlation between people who tell jokes about terrible things and people who condone/do terrible things (although I would expect that people who condone/do terrible things overwhelmingly are the kind of people who make light of those acts). But I would also say that jokes about rape in general perpetuate attitudes which are less than helpful to solving rape, even if not all rape jokes do do that, and even if some of the jokes are funny.

Ramble over.


Anna // Posted 23 July 2009 at 9:51 am

Article is absolutely spot-on; I was out with my (male) best friend and we’d met up with a friend of his who did nothing but make rape jokes, which grew increasingly more uncomfortable and distressing for me as a rape victim. It just.. there’s nothing you can do, really, is there? You say nothing and you feel bad, you say something and you risk them making light of your own personal hell to your face because they’ll never, ever get it.

MariaS // Posted 23 July 2009 at 1:04 pm

I haven’t really collected my own thoughts yet so I’m going to quote other peoples. I am not a rape survivor, though like most women I’m acutely aware almost constantly of the threat, to the point where it’s second nature, I don’t have to think about it – whether it’s the obvious being hyper-aware & cautious when I’m out on my own at night, or instinctively figuring out retreat tactics from a man whose behaviour signals that he is not going to respect my boundaries in a social situation.

But I don’t have to think long to think of several women I know who are survivors of rape. And from seeing how they cope (or don’t) and continue to have to deal with their experiences for many years afterwards, nothing makes me angrier, (besides the thought that their rapists almost certainly give no thought to and have no fall-out from their actions), than the minimisation and trivialisation of rape.

What is at issue in discussing the possibility and ethics of telling jokes about rape is how seriously we as a society regard rape and how we support survivors. The answer right now is, not very seriously and not very well at all.

So I want to post some links to try to convey, to men and women who have not been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted and who haven’t thought much about the issue – to those people who honestly can’t see why telling jokes about rape is a problem – both the sheer commonality of sexual assault and the reality of going through it.

First, a relatively short piece on Non-survivor privilege – meaning the way that people who have not been through rape and abuse unintentionally ignore and try not to hear about the experiences of those who have – particularly relevant to anyone trying to argue for the “right” to tell rape jokes from a purely intellectual standpoint.

A post about how difficult it is to even identify that you have been raped, to name the experience, and that also conveys how very very routine and everyday the fact of rape in women’s lives is: The Not-Rape Epidemic

“Rape is only four letters, one small syllable, and yet it is one of the hardest words to coax from your lips when you need it most.

Entering our teenage years in the sex saturated ’90s, my friends and I knew tons about rape. We knew to always be aware while walking, to hold your keys out as a possible weapon against an attack. … Don’t get into cars with strange men. If someone tries to abduct you, scream loudly and try to attack them because a rapist tries to pick women who are easy targets….

What we were not prepared for was everything else. Rape was something we could identify, an act with a strict definition and two distinct scenarios. Not rape was something else entirely.

Not rape was all those other little things that we experienced everyday and struggled to learn how to deal with those situations. In those days, my ears were filled with secrets that were not my own, the confessions of not rapes experienced by the girls I knew then and the women I know now.”

And finally, three other must-read posts from Harriet Jacobs at Fugitivus:

Another post about rape (answering the “why didn’t she leave?” “why didn’t she fight back?”, and powerfully describing why acquaintance/relationship rape is NOT a lesser kind of rape)

“Initiating sex without consent already indicates how little the rapist cares about your consent in the act. How far does that lack of concern extend?… A victim doesn’t know their rapist is capable of rape until a rape begins; and once a victim knows that, they have no idea what else their rapist is capable of. A rapist does not have to threaten further violence. The rape is threat enough. For myself, I had for many years only been having sex with my husband because I did not know what he would do if I said no…We had had sex many times that was obviously very painful for me …. But there was no remorse from him, no stopping … So, considering all that, I know I made a very rational and logical decision not to fight back when he raped me. For years, I had known that saying no to sex would not result in our not having sex.

Another post about force (on why lack of force does not mean presence of consent):

“This is what I mean when I say a rapist does not have to actually, physically employ violence in order to rape his victim… What a rapist does is place his victim in a position where she knows she is at a physical disadvantage, and violence is not out of the question. Because nobody bothers to put you at a physical disadvantage if violence isn’t one of the possible outcomes in their mind. … Do you think you could have sex with somebody who was afraid of you, and not be able to tell? … The idea that anybody could “mistake” genuine consent is such a base and outright lie. People are remarkably good at reading the body language and cues and outright verbal expressions of people in all other aspects of life …It’s only when a woman obviously doesn’t want sex that everybody is suddenly deaf, blind and dumb — how could I tell she didn’t want sex? She was only staring at the wall with a blank expression the whole time — I mean, that doesn’t tell me anything. Bullshit. … He does not need to physically attack them. All he needs to do is indicate that their consent means nothing to him. That their actions to pull their body away mean nothing to him. All a rapist needs to do is negate all other possible options for stopping sex.”

Another post about rape (she has several posts with this title – this one is about the contradiction between women’s socialisation to be non-confrontational and the way they are expected to react to someone attempted to rape them)

“Women who are taught not to speak up too loudly or too forcefully or too adamantly or too demandingly are not going to shout “NO” at the top of their goddamn lungs just because some guy is getting uncomfortably close….

Women who are taught that their needs and desires are not to be trusted, are fickle and wrong and are not to be interpreted by the woman herself, are not going to know how to argue with “but you liked kissing, I just thought…”

Women who are taught that physical confrontations make them look crazy will not start hitting, kicking, and screaming until it’s too late, if they do at all….

Women who are taught that certain established boundaries are frowned upon as too rigid and unnecessary are going to find themselves in situations that move further faster before they realize that their first impression was right, and they are in a dangerous room with a dangerous person.”

MariaS // Posted 23 July 2009 at 9:50 pm

What I’m finding of late is that I notice more and more comedy that relies on describing situations of non-consensual sex. By “more” I mean I am picking up on it more, not that there is necessarily more of it around, and by “non consensual sex” I mean that this isn’t even comedy that most people would even identify as being about rape because the situations employed in the joke aren’t situatations that are widely always identified as rape.

I can’t think of specific examples right now, but very often it’s jokes about “having sex” with someone who is drunk or unconscious, or otherwise vulnerable. Often it’s jokes that threaten men with forced sex, the ubiquitous prison rape jokes being the prime examples of course – and all part of the kind of “humour” that relies on cruel and awful things happening to other people.

The other “spot the rape joke” common culprit is jokes about child sexual abuse. Typically jokes that use Michael Jackson, Gary Glitter or catholic priests as child-abusing bogeymen. Or jokes that refer to “paedos” and “kiddy-fiddlers” in inexplicably light-hearted ways, glossing over the reality of what they are referring to for a quick and cheap laugh.

Sorry I’m not able to provide examples, but take my word for it, now that I’ve started noticing it, I see it everywhere.

The other week I caught the end of an episode of Mock The Week (a quiz show that uses news topics as subjects for the comedian contestants to improvise perfomances about), and even though I only saw about 10 minutes of it, there were at least 2 “jokes” using nonconsensual sex as a topic or situation. I’ve watched a lot of episodes of this programme recently because they are repeated constantly on the Dave channel (even the personification of comedy in the name of a television channel must be male, gah!), and it’s rare that an episode passes without triggering the imaginary buzzer in my head that goes off when I spot a rape joke.

The only example I can remember right now was a round where they made up examples of “things you wouldn’t see on product packaging”, and one of these was: “Best Before Date … Rohypnol”. This of course got huge laughs and applause.

Most of the “jokes” I’m noticing are as trite and short as this – blink and you’ll miss them. Kind of makes it worse – a few seconds of being clever. And they are almost all told by men, on comedy programmes that almost always consist of only male performers. Men, by and large, don’t ever conceive of being really subjected to or threatened by rape, they have a thoughtless, arrogant distance from the subject. Rape is something, in the narrative worlds of these jokes, that happens to women or to unfortunate other men. Or that is perpetrated by men of course.

Just remembered: a programme that uses rape, abuse and pretty much any kind of sexual exploitation or violation of boundaries for “humour” almost constantly and very overtly is Family Guy. Too many examples. The predatory old man Herbert always finding ways of attempting to abuse Chris (the son). There was one episode with a visual “gag” involving a group of Asian women wearing only underwear flooding out of Quagmire’s house, a joke about his sexual insatiability that is really a joke about sex trafficking and kidnapping and imprisonment – one of those things that depresses you all the more because of all the misery and abuse that’s the logical implication behind this 5 throwaway seconds of “humour”. Family Guy deserves a thorough feminist takedown, but I can’t really bear to sit through it any more.

sianmarie // Posted 24 July 2009 at 12:53 pm

mariaS – thanks for raising that. i have enjoyed mock the week less and less recently and i couldn’t quite work out why, until last night and i realised that they weren’t making jokes about the news anymore (which i find funny, i like political staire) instead frankie boyle was making almost constant jokes about masturbating and non consensual sex, and even said he was planning on masturbating over lucy porter, the one female guest on the show. it was horrible! it made me feel so uncomfortable to watch, i found it really frustrating. i think it has gone from being a funny show about the news and bad news reporting, to one that makes shock laughs at the expense of women.

i have also noticed watching repeats of friends how many jokes revolve around porn and strippers! it is almost constant and drives me insane.

and family guy – i don’t enjoy it anymore. i feel like all the comedy shows i like are being taken away by an increasing reliance on nasty nasty sexist non consensual sex jokes.

still – mitchell and webb has some good feminist comedy on it so at least i’ve got that!

Helen // Posted 24 July 2009 at 12:53 pm

Rape jokes are crude and upsetting. If someone tells one you should just call them a wanker and change the subject. They’ll soon learn to tell better jokes.

delphyne // Posted 25 July 2009 at 12:05 am

My guess is quite a few of the men telling the jokes or laughing at them are either rapists or would-be rapists.

That aspect seems to be getting missed here. Rape isn’t exactly uncommon in our society, thus neither are rapists.

Rose_Hasty // Posted 25 July 2009 at 11:28 am

It’s the message underneath the joke isn’t it? If the underlying message is “People overreact to rape” or “Women lie about rape” etc, it’s problematic. If the joke is at the expense of those who are ignorant to rape and it’s affects (rapists and the colluders) then it can be very powerful in a positive way. I agree you have to think about who you may hurt as rape is quotidienne and I couldn’t even hear the word spoken after I was attacked without feeling devastated.

Helen // Posted 25 July 2009 at 11:42 am

I agree with delphyne. We’ve got to show them rape’s not acceptable.

polly styrene // Posted 25 July 2009 at 12:36 pm

What Delphyne and Rose said. The very idea of rape jokes told by men is to make women feel uncomfortable. They’re to put women in their place.

Bea // Posted 25 July 2009 at 3:13 pm

I agree with many of the points made here. Comedy is a very powerful medium and the ideas conveyed through it are transmitted very directly into the public phyche. I second what has been said about Mock the Week and will call up 8 Out of 10 Cats as a similar offender. Massively male-dominated environment presenting one angle on most issues. It is so dull and so often needlessly so offensive and plurile. These programmes do not entertain me one bit so I don’t watch them. But it does worry me that so many do!

An example of a horrible rape joke I heard recently was provided by an obnoxious stand-up ‘comedian’ that I had the misfortune of having to hear before Jo Brand came on at a festival. Throughout his set this person was clearly just addressing men, repeatedly saying lines like, ‘you know when women do…’ or ‘you know what it’s like when your wife…’ Infuriating. His oh-so hilarious rape joke was basically that when he gets to have sex with his wife during his kids’ nap time ‘it kind of feels like he’s raping her’ because he has to tell her to be quiet etc. ho ho ho. I can’t really convey the repugnant way in which he performed this ‘joke’ . I haven’t done it justice..

My reaction was that he seemed to imply that he was quite familiar and not entirely uncomfortable with the feeling of what it would be like to rape someone, and he presumed that the audience shared this. I am not implying that this individual ever had raped anyone, only that this kind of casual acceptance of rape as a concept, as an occurrence is all too wide spread, and I would attribute this at least in part to some pornography. This attitude is then perpetuated by exactly this kind of ‘comedy’. I think it’s so powerful in dictating attitudes in society and therefore certainly very worthy of feminist critique.

Bea // Posted 25 July 2009 at 6:10 pm

Oh and I meant to agree with sianmarie in her mention of the feminism that is evident in much of mitchell and webb’s comedy. There was a brilliant sketch about the way advertising targets men and women differently which I thought was fantastic!

Rosalynd // Posted 25 July 2009 at 6:37 pm

Urg Frankie Boyle is one of the most vile human beings on TV. I was once watching a repeat of FAQ You a while ago and they were talking about those charity bracelets and he said ‘I’d rather wear a soverign ring for domestic abuse’. I nearly put my foot through the fucking screen.

Nearly every joke he comes out with makes light of female abuse or rape in some way.

Thats what i hate about those panel shows-they have great people like Jo Brand and David Mitchell on them and then a bunch of pricks too.

Family Guy is just horrendous viewing i remember being forced to watch it at a friends once and one of the characters boasted to a woman he was harassing that her pepper spray wouldn’t work as he’d ‘built up a resistance’ and when that advance didn’t work he went to a strip club and ‘hilariously’ assaulted one of the performers. I was nearly sick.

Cos sex-workers deserve it so it’s funny, yeah?

Same with Friends, which I unfortunately think has shaped a lot of my generation’s humour. They constantly make light of the sex industry, one line sticking out in my head when Joey is playing poker saying ‘I’ll make you fold faster than a cheap hooker that’s been punched in the stomach’.

Scuse me while i piss my pants.

It all plays a part in why rape and violence against women is just treated as a joke in real life.

As someone mentioned though, at least we have the lovely Mitchelle and Webb to keep us sane.

KJB // Posted 26 July 2009 at 10:40 pm

Another excellent post, linking to the one you linked to here!


Redheadinred // Posted 27 July 2009 at 1:58 pm

I don’t know why so many men do this. It would be as if I sat with a bunch of black people and made jokes about getting lynched. Or if I sat with some jews and joked about the holocaust. And rape is going on right now, to many, many people, the overwhelming majority of them women.

One of my male friends just wouldn’t understand this, even when he knew several of our friends had been raped. The old ‘women rape too, some men are victims too’ line was reeled out. To a decent person, wouldn’t this be even MORE of a reason not to joke about it? We’re no longer friends…

Redheadinred // Posted 27 July 2009 at 2:12 pm

One comedian I’ve never heard tell a rape joke, although he’s known for his controversial topics, is Billy Connolly. He is a survivor, so he probably isn’t ignorant of the effect such jokes can have on an audience.

Pablo K // Posted 27 July 2009 at 2:37 pm

One of the most damning proofs of what rape jokes are really for is provided in Redheadinred’s anecdote – namely that when challenged, men who tell such jokes do not defend themselves as if what they *really* meant was to subvert certain stereotypes, to be ironic, or the manifold other defences of offensive humour, but instead talked in *exactly* the kind of terms characteristic of everyday rape denial.

‘Context’ is a massively over-used excuse, and most jokes about rape, or race, or disability, seem to be received without irony or subversion. I’m not sure jokes about paedophilia are quite the same, pretty much for the reasons I gave above, which is that there is not a dominant view in society in favour of abusing children, so joking about it can hardly tend to make paedophilia ‘more acceptable’. Jokes about Islam in the context of Islamaphobia, about sexual violence in the context of pretty widespread ‘mainstream’ acceptance and tolerance of it, and jokes about women in general in the midst of continuing inequalities of all kinds are different because of the ends they serve.

Having said that, I do think that jokes are complex phenomena, and that there is at least something to be said for those comedians who do use such humour to subvert its own conditions. As such, it would be ridiculous to take a joke about Islam by Stewart Lee out of context, since it is likely to be part of a whole routine about how the ‘ironic’ use of such jokes is actually pretty ugly, even if we should be at liberty to mock religion openly and mercilessly. I think that actually goes for Family Guy and Frankie Boyle too, but so much depends on the audience and their reaction, which is surely the test for whether a joke promotes and justifies rape or not.

The Guardian actually just had a piece on this today, which I think was pitched basically right – http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2009/jul/27/comedy-standup-new-offenders – especially the closing observation:

“There are hardly any young comics coming out with any sharp opinions,” said one promoter, “be it political or ironic racism, or sexist, or whatever. They’re all being very safe.”

cyberwasteland // Posted 24 August 2009 at 4:18 pm

I have only one things to say.

If you say that rape jokes aren’t funny, because they’re a trigger, then why is there no one complaining about a Drama movie about rape?

Why this double standard? They would have the same triggering effect, but yet when it’s drama no one complains. But there’s a different standard for comedy. Why?

sianmarie // Posted 24 August 2009 at 5:01 pm

cyberwasteland –

i kind of agree with you. inga musico in her amazing book cunt writes about this, as she says that a lot of drama films or tv shows that feature a rape glamourise it or encourage stereotpyes about “real rape” (ie.stranger rape) and “well she was asking for it” – sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not.

she suggests the next time you see a rape scene in a movie, stand up adn start yelling about what is really happening, not the soft hollywood lights version, and then demand your money back.

sounds like a plan!

Anna // Posted 24 August 2009 at 5:51 pm

I object to most rape scenes in dramas, because they’re acted like porn.

I object to rape jokes – especially ones where the joke IS rape, such as in a recent episode of Family Guy I saw (a program I usually like) or Observe and Report – because, you know, rape is singularly unfunny.

This doesn’t mean *I* can’t tell rape jokes to people who I know closely as a way of coping with what happened – but it does mean I will think some asinine man going ‘hurr durr why buy flowers when duct tape is cheaper’ is a total dickshit and not wish to talk to them at all ever (I have one in mind, actually).

sal // Posted 26 August 2009 at 6:48 pm

it depends on the context tbh

Jeffel // Posted 3 September 2009 at 12:02 pm

Surely when a performer like Frankie Boyle makes jokes about needing to use Rohypnol to get a woman to have sex with him, he’s making himself the butt of the joke? He’s not ‘making light of rape’, he’s acknowledging its seriousness while inviting the audience to laugh at his own (pretend) patheticness?

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a joke that explicitly about rape (and I can’t formulate one) and I work in the comedy industry.

I would have thought anyone that jokes about this kind of thing is hoping to raise awareness of the seriousness of the issue whilst getting a laugh at their OWN expense (not real life victims’ expense) rather than make light of it.

And to say it’s ‘like me making racist jokes in front of black people’ is just wrong. It’s not like that, because you can see if someone’s Black, White, Oriental or whatever, but you can’t see that someone’s been raped in the past.

Ultimately, it’s a grey area – there’s no one solution to it.

Qubit // Posted 3 September 2009 at 3:31 pm

I know this might sound picky but I feel racist jokes are for the most part just wrong whether someone of the race you are making jokes about is there or not. If you’d feel wrong telling the joke in front of the race the joke is picking on then you probably shouldn’t be telling the joke in the first place.

Anna // Posted 3 September 2009 at 6:06 pm

Family guy – the joke is that peter got fingered by his doctor when he wasn’t expecting it (hello – yeah, thats still rape) – Observe and Report – the main character rapes a semiconscious woman and the joke is she likes it – will write more later but only had a minute, just two that sprung to mind.

sianmarie // Posted 4 September 2009 at 9:28 am

jeffel – the problem is, frankie boyle knows that he doesn’t need to drug a woman to sleep with him, the joke isn’t really on him. but the chances are someone in the audience has been raped. frankie boyle isn’t being harmed by the joke, he knows he’s got a lovely wife/girlfriend and toddler at home, he knows he’s “ok”. the joke is on rape survivors. and it devalues the seriousness of rape and also asserts the idea that rape is about sex rather than power.

observe and report – ugh! where i used to work did some work on that film and the ideas for the “games” that my non too charming boss came up with for that film were not to be believed! it was my first real taste of sexism in the workplace. and i was damn glad when they made me redundant.

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