An apology to Darren Elmore and all the men like him

// 14 July 2012

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501636129_4cdd5a085f_o.jpg This is a guest post by Lorrie Hearts.

This post contains sexually violent, disablist and misogynist language and speech which some readers may find triggering.

Over the past week, Twitter has been buzzing with talk of whether comedian Daniel Tosh, who suggested that a heckler should be gang-raped, was attempting to silence a woman with threats of sexual violence or simply having a good old knee-slapping joke.

My interaction with one Twitter user on the subject has helped me to see that my objections to rape jokes are not only tedious but are actually actively victimising some men.

This is my apology.

Meandering around Twitter the other day, I noticed self-proclaimed amateur comedian Darren Elmore commenting:

“I think that woman who was so upset at Daniel Tosh is just ovary-acting. #ImSorry”

Rather than allowing Darren space to enjoy his witty quip, I challenged him on the joke and was rewarded with a response branding me a “humorless asshole”.

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, Darren was right. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from the path our interaction took later, it’s that the only thing funnier than rape – and the threat of rape – is women’s reactions to those things. #Bitchesbecrazy, as one of Darren’s supporters put it!

To give Darren his due, he did try and give me a heads up of what might be around the corner for me, pointing out that the woman Tosh ‘joked’ about, “interrupted a comedy show, made a scene and is being an asshole about it”.

Now, you have to admit, he’s got a point. If you call out a comedian for a rape joke and he tells the audience that it’d be hilarious if five of them raped you, there’s no need to be an asshole about it. Basically, you’d kind of be asking for it. Prophetic words, too, as it turned out.

So, maybe I was being a bit of an asshole: I told Darren that I didn’t think the woman in question was wrong for being upset. I figured that, because I wasn’t swearing at Darren or using abusive language, he wouldn’t have that much of a problem with my comments.

Wrong again. Darren got angry and abusive, using an interesting mix of disablist language by referring to me as a “fucking idiot”, telling me I had “serious mental issues” and finishing with “Fuck you all”, before blocking me.

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Not grasping just how much hurt I’d caused Darren by calmly discussing rape jokes with him, I was surprised when someone pointed out that, although I hadn’t responded to Darren’s last comments, he was now claiming that I had not only insulted him but “threaten[ed] [him] directly and non-ironically.”

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Furious that he was lying about me, I lost sight of the fact that I’d brought the situation on myself. In an unwise move, I proceeded to actually tell people what he’d said and complain about his comments. Unbelievably, I even went as far as asking Darren to prove his claims when, in reality, I should have understood that his response was not only rational, but justified.

Like any sensible man, Darren ignored my tweets and blocked anyone who challenged his version of that morning’s events. Later in the evening, he took the only sensible course of action left to him: he posted my Twitter information on his Facebook and laughed off the troubles of the day in a hilarious conversation with a friend about how he’d love to set us up on a ‘rape date’.

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In a comment that got a thumbs up and a “Preach, preacher!” response from Darren, his friend ‘Malfeasance Angst’ quipped, “”Double fuck her. Stupid cunt is taking this much time away from the real issue of it fucking shameful if she really fucking cared she would be at a hotline somewhere putting her twat where her mouth is.”

Again, I made the huge mistake of sharing this information on Twitter. Completely misunderstanding the comments, I actually felt threatened and violated to see two grown men discussing me in the context of rape and using gendered, sexually violent insults about me. And so, I continued to complain.

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What seemed to me to be a man ticking off the “How to silence women 101” checklist was in fact the result of my refusal to accept my lot as a woman. I have learnt that, if you challenge a rape joke, you should expect to be targeted with sexual, disablist and dehumanising language.

As I watch Darren continue to post comments about “crazy” me and my vagina (he’s “uncomfortable even knowing [I have] a vagina”!) on his social media feeds, I realise the detrimental impact my actions have had. Darren Elmore, like Daniel Tosh, simply wanted to joke about rape threats without being challenged by the people these jokes affect most. I not only stood in his way, but continued to protest when he did his best to silence me.

Darren: I’m sorry.

[The main image is a handdrawn woman with her feet up using a laptop while looking very annoyed. It was taken by r8r and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Comments From You

JLO@WVoN // Posted 14 July 2012 at 8:45 pm

Very good Lorrie. I am too sorry for sticking up for you on Twitter and reporting the ‘rape date’ comment on Facebook. Obviously I was not aware of how awful these actions would make Elmore and his sidekick Malfeasance Angst feel. It can only be hoped that by sharing their pain, they come to terms with it. :(

Cat // Posted 14 July 2012 at 9:15 pm

I’m feelng dreadful about my part in this. Had I known that you were going to be so unreasonable about it I would never have told you that he was feeling threatened by you. What a horrible thing for me to do, restricting his free speech by allowing others to challenge it. I can only pray that he andd his friends are able to heal in peace following this ideal. =(

Darren // Posted 14 July 2012 at 9:46 pm

This article is about me. And I accept that I acted out of frustration with the sheer volume of hatred that I received for my original Twitter post (which was a comment on an issue affecting comedians…not an endorsement of rape or defense of Daniel Tosh’s comments).

But then again, this isn’t really about me. If it was, the author of this article would have spent some time researching me before posting this. She would have found that I love and respect all women and firmly support equality, dignity and, most importantly, safety for all.

I value and love the feminine energy in nature, in myself and in others. I support women’s health and safety initiatives and stand up vigorously for the rights of LGBTQ persons everywhere.

I call myself a comedian, a smartass, a gay man….but what I really am now is an effigy. I am a symbol of every man that has ever damaged, disrespected, marginalized, murdered, raped, violated or placed limits on the author of this post and her followers.

I am an effigy and she intends to burn me in public.

She is doing this by focusing intently and selectively on poorly chosen (on my part) phrases and actions…bad choices I made out of fear and hurt.

If that’s what she needs to feel safe in this world, then I submit to your abuse and won’t comment further.

I don’t ask for your silence. I encourage women and men to continue the frank, open dialogue….but I also plead for understanding and forgiveness when tempers flare. Without that, all you have is an interminable war that will destroy us all.

Thank you.

Cat // Posted 14 July 2012 at 10:01 pm

Just to clarify, Darren.

You’re asking for forgiveness and understanding for comments you made out of frustration (though without actually apologising), but you’re castigating others for making comments largely based in frustration. Have I got that right?

Your statement that you are merely an ‘effigy’ taking the place of all the men who have harmed the author is insulting, and neatly absolves you of any responsibility for what you’ve done, and what your friends have said – your silence in the face of their rape jokes speaks volumes.

LorrieHearts // Posted 14 July 2012 at 10:06 pm

@Darren:

I really wish you’d entered into a dialogue – a proper one – sooner. I take issue with some of your statements on here, however. This post *is* about you – it’s about the way you handled an admittedly heated discussion about rape jokes, and the way in which that behaviour has become sadly typical. So yes, in that sense, it’s about a wider issue as well.

Firstly, you’re a comedian. You posted a joke publicly, which I found distasteful. I told you so in no uncertain terms but I wasn’t abusive to you. You immediately became abusive. After a discussion in which you repeatedly used abusive language (I did not) and offensive terms (again, I didn’t), you blocked me before claiming that I ‘insulted and threatened you’.

Given the depth of your distress – which seems very genuine – at how this article will impact on your reputation, I’m wondering why you can’t see why that false accusation deeply upset and offended me. I’d done nothing to you but disagree with you strongly about rape jokes. I didn’t even respond to your insults.

You didn’t respond to my (extremely numerous) requests that you retract the lies you had posted. Instead, you posted my details for your Facebook users to see, entertained a number of extremely abusive and threatening posts about me and actively applauded those. I felt frightened, angry, upset and triggered, which is why I shared the information with my friends on Twitter (and many of them genuinely are my friends).

You later made further false claims about me: that I had hacked your account, that I was ‘setting my minions’ on you and that I was aggressively harassing you. You categorically denied the comments about ‘rape dates’ (see screenshot above) and implied repeatedly that I was lying. To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t lied about you once.

What you are receiving here is not abusive but a truthful account of the way your behaviour panned out and made me feel. You say that you plead for understanding and forgiveness – I only wish you had. These last few days have been traumatic to say the least but instead of apologising, you spread lies about me where you thought I would be unable to see them. I’m genuinely sorry you’re upset – and I hope that what you say about women and feminism is true – but I don’t see how else this could have worked out, unless you expected me to “sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up”.

My hope is that this can be put behind us at this point.

Darren // Posted 14 July 2012 at 10:20 pm

Cat…I have not made nor defended any rape jokes.

I am not responsible for the comments my friends make. My interpretation of my friend’s comment was that he was looking for a verbal confrontation. I was angry and upset and gave my tacit approval by liking the comment. This does not imply that I support rape or wished rape upon anyone.

If your take on this is that I do wish for the violent sexual assault of another human being, then I do apologize. But again, you are focusing selectively on a small errant action among a lifetime of love and support.

Speak to the women in my life, including a number of strong feminists, and ask them about me. You are reading volumes of vile hatred and unchecked masculine oppression into a couple of tweets and a Facebook “like”.

Do I not deserve to be defined by my good deeds as much as my mistakes?

Placing the entirety of your faith blindly in one person’s account of a limited interaction with me and making summary judgements about my character is an act of generalization.

Ultimately, I am not asking for your forgiveness, absolution or approval. I just want to evolve the discourse and remind everyone that truth is a multi-faceted thing. It does not favour one person.

Darren // Posted 14 July 2012 at 10:41 pm

Lorrie. you opened with an insult of my skills as a comedian without ever having seen a performance of mine, based on one tweet, without knowing me or what was on my mind. You asked no questions. You made no friendly overtones. You branded me a supporter of rape jokes before you even contacted me….and your rhetoric was impermeable.

Being a believer in equality and respect is a very central aspect to my being and you offended me with your assumptions. You and your followers hurt me deeply with that assumption. I lashed back in anger. For that I apologize.

But at no point have you ever listened to my attempts to explain myself. You had the pieces you needed to support your initial hypothesis and you ran with that.

You have made a very public spectacle of punishing me for my mistakes and you’ve done a smashing job at it. But this is not the truth of me.

Truth doesn’t matter though, does it?

Jane Brewster // Posted 14 July 2012 at 10:41 pm

I often wonder why it’s funny to make rape jokes but there doesn’t seem to be the same appreciation from men for jokes about hanging them up by the balls and flogging their puny little arses..(although, in fairness I don’t actually know any jokes that include that idea and maybe that alone says something about the differences between a man’s sense of ‘humour’ and a woman’s!).

Lauren // Posted 15 July 2012 at 8:50 am

This would be funny if it wasn’t so … not funny at all in the slightest.

In this new online world, who we are/what we accept/represent/condone/oppose/support/maintain extends to our online profiles. I am not a true opponent of racism, for example, if I ‘like’ a racially abusive comment or if I have racist friends.

I am a complete outsider to this debate, but even the language used is indicative of a desperate back-pedalling. “Fuck you all” to “evolve the discource”!!!

Katrina // Posted 15 July 2012 at 12:11 pm

Hey all,

I was not involved in any of this and actually first heard about this here, I’m just a random reader of this site, so sorry if this is me sticking my nose into business that is not my own.

First of all, Darren, thank you for posting here, a lot of people wouldn’t have and it’s only every through dialogue that any disagreement can be resolved.

Second, the point is that no matter what your underlying attitudes and beliefs are, no matter how much you respect and care for the women in your life, the world sees the things that you say on stage and post on twitter. If you appear to be endorsing rape, there are people, victims and perpetrators, who will take that at face value. Even as a joke, it’s not something that I personally would want to be seen as endorsing.

As you rightly say, rape is a horrible and very serious thing that has affected and will continue to affect a great many people. Yes, their feelings may be hurt by so called “rape-jokes” but there is a wider issue as well. Rape can be a very hard and embarrassing thing to talk about or report. When people feel that there is a culture around them saying that rape is just a joke, and if they get upset about it then they’re the one who is an idiot, it can make it even harder for a victim to take any action about what happened to them. This can lead to repeat victimisation. On the other hand, if rapists are confronted by a society that appears to endorse what they have done, minimising the seriousness of it, saying that it’s okay really, here’s all these other guys who are saying that they would rape, do you think it’s likely to make them stop and think, or encourage them to go out and do it again?

I do understand that improvisation involves taking an idea that’s come up in a show and just going with it, and it can be great to go into taboo areas. Obviously, I only speak for myself, but I think that this is a really good thing to do as a rule, yes it can make good comedy, but it can also be good to get people looking at things that they aren’t entirely comfortable with. This debate is not about censorship. This isn’t the problem. The problem is the real world consequences for victims, perpetrators and the future victims and perpetrators who might not have been those things if we hadn’t told the world that it’s funny to rape someone.

(I know that last line is a strong statement with the weasel-word “might,” however without going into the the boring statistics and academic arguments, I think it’s the neatest way of putting it).

Peace all :)

Philippa Willitts // Posted 15 July 2012 at 12:43 pm

Please can we make sure that all further comments are talking about the issues in general which Lorrie raised in the post, rather than personal attacks on Darren. There is still plenty to say on the issues raised, like rape ‘jokes’, reacting in anger, feeling threatened by sexually violent language etc. without keeping it all directed at Darren himself.

Thanks.

Glosswitch // Posted 15 July 2012 at 1:15 pm

I’m struggling to understand why anyone’s commitment to equality should be taken as read if they are saying and doing things which reinforce inequality. I’m relatively new to Twitter and have never entered into an argument like this because basically I am scared. It does not feel like a safe space to me, which is why I have so much admiration for people who are prepared to call out the use of language which belittles violence and hate (and I think the initial “joke” – presumably one that can be used and re-used in any instance when women are getting a bit uppity – is frightening enough, without considering the aftermath).

If defenders of Tosh / rape jokes / just plain old crap sexist jokes etc. are so committed to free speech, there ought to be some commitment to making free speech possible for all – even feminists – without threats of violence as a result. It’s amazing the amount of energy that goes into defending the “right” to speak as long as no one else can answer back.

LorrieHearts // Posted 15 July 2012 at 10:47 pm

While this whole situation began with a joke about rape jokes, I think Pippa is right when she says there’s plenty more to say than just the obvious.

Primarily, what struck me in this situation is the anger with which my refusal to agree on the subject of Daniel Tosh was met, and how quickly that anger led not only to lies, but to the use of sexual images and sexually violent language: references to me being a “fucking cunt”, instructions to go and “fuck myself”, the comment about “rape dates”, a comment from another of Darren’s friends saying that “no one wants to rape [Lorrie] anyway” and references to my “twat”/vagina.

As Darren pointed out in one of his lengthy statements about me, both he and Malfeasance Angst are out gay men and so would rather not know about my vagina, “let alone gain access to it.”

What this fails to deal with, however, is firstly, why sexual/ly violent language was chosen as the default manner of insulting/attacking me, and secondly, the visceral nature of many women’s responses to sexual/ly violent language. Although Darren pointed out in the same statement that “a quick perusal” of his profile would have shown me that both he and Malfeasance Angst are gay, he fails to realise that seeing one’s name in the context of sexual/ly violent language can be immediately triggering, particularly if one is a rape survivor. The onus is not – or shouldn’t be – on women to ascertain via research whether someone using sexual/ly violent language is actually likely to carry out the act they’re talking about. Rather, we should be trying to determine why men – even those who self-avowedly have no sexual interest in women – are using sexual/ly violent language against women in order to silence them.

Cat // Posted 15 July 2012 at 11:56 pm

I think that something else that needs emphasis is that this is our life. We (women) are almost literally bombarded with pro-rape/rape apologist type jokes and xomments, every single day. Some are viler than others, but none of them are acceptable, and they all add up – to use a physical analogy, think of Chinese water torture.

In that context, then, even a /relatively/ mild comment is one more in a long, long list of what we’ve been told, what’s been said to us, what society has beaten into us from childhood. Is it any wonder that even these more minor comments elicit such a visceral, angry and often frightened, response?

sian norris // Posted 16 July 2012 at 10:15 am

Well said lorrie! why is the default way to silence women to use sexually violent language? and how can anyone take someone’s protestations that they take women’s equality seriously and ‘respect feminine energy’ when they so speedily return to threats of sexual violence to criticise women?

Back in Feb i had to call the police because men on Facebook threatened me with sexual violence – saying they were going to put my details online so men could find me and ‘make me pay’. Another man wrote some fairly aggressive rude things about me, and his friend said he hoped ‘someone kicked me in the vagina’. He liked this comment, and made some more comments. And when we called him up on it, he said the same as Darren, that it wasn’t meant, that it was his friend saying it not him, that it might look like he agreed, but he didn’t. Seriously, if your friends are going to make comments ‘joking’ or ‘threatening’ sexual violence against a woman, then you can speak out about it, condemn it. Rather than ‘like’ the comment. If you were serious, if you really respected women’s right to bodily autonomy, you wouldn’t go along with the joke.

The fact is that women are threatened with sexual violence so often, on the street, online etc. So we do tend to take it seriously. We can’t be expected to know whether this time it’s a joke rather than a real threat. So don’t threaten us. If you disagree with us, you can do so without resorting to violence, without resorting to hate speech.

It makes me sick. As Charlotte Church said about News International, they’re sorry they got caught.

You are amazing Lorrie and I’m sorry you had to put up with this.

lil1 // Posted 16 July 2012 at 1:52 pm

All of the above. These so called jokes are based on the mentality that WOMEN = rape. Innately – without that exact culture of prejudice and incitement to cause it. Or men are not equally susceptible to rape (which they are, but crucially don’t have it constantly directed at them).

How would you feel if, on top of all the other inhibitive messages you have to deal with, you were bombarded with all these jokes that assume that specifically sexual violability is an innate part of your “maleness” – can’t get any closer to incitement than that. It’s ok, we’ve only normalized a perception of you as a target and reminded you every day that you are – not actually attempted to rape you yet.

If you laugh along, you say the same thing.

The lastest excuse that someone is gay/not interested when making these ‘jokes’ makes out that it is as natural as attraction and desire – a natural hazard – not an act of prejudice and hate.

Frothy Dragon // Posted 16 July 2012 at 3:28 pm

It’s quite telling that men will tell us to forget how they speak about rape in the public arena.

See, we have this problem. Rapists don’t come with identifying marks… They’re not marked with an X, so we can’t identify them. So, for a lot of women, we do the best we can. This involves pointing out when you’re making us uncomfortable with the way you talk about rape, or avoiding interacting with you altogether.

For those decent men, the standard response is “I’m sorry,” in some manner. But when men insist we listen to their rape jokes, and accuse us of challenging their freedom of speech or attacking them when we call then out on rape jokes, that shows that they fail to consider women, or how these comments paint them in the same light as rapists.

It’s amazing that some men suggest we ignore their comments which joke about rape. Even more so when they tell us to consider work we’ve seen little to no evidence of. There’s men I have respect for who DO positive work for rape survivors; these include the likes of the young man who’s surrendered his summer to read 30 books to raise money for Rape Crisis, or the men challenging rape myths on the #IBelieveHer hashtag or Facebook page, or those who raise money for such charities in more gruelling manners. However, this respect isn’t constant. The moment any of these men make a rape joke is the moment I wipe their previous experience for rape survivors. If you claim to be on the side of rape survivors, the last thing you would dream of doing is supporting rape jokes or threats. The idea would abhor you.

Milda Rami // Posted 16 July 2012 at 8:23 pm

This makes a chilling read. I admire all feminist writers and activists who put themselves in positions vulnerable to such attacks.

I love good humor but stay away from comedy clubs. Too much sexism, too few females comedians.

EmilyBites // Posted 17 July 2012 at 2:53 pm

I don’t use Twitter so I didn’t watch this unfold, but Lorrie, I’m so sorry for what these clowns have put you through. Your summary of the sequence of events is well-supported by the evidence, and frankly, Darren Elmore’s disingenuous notpologising is pointless.

Darren Elmore wrote above:

“Being a believer in equality and respect is a very central aspect to my being and you offended me with your assumptions. You and your followers hurt me deeply with that assumption. I lashed back in anger. For that I apologize.”

Anyone can get angry and say things they regret, but lashing out at a woman who doesn’t think a sexist joke is funny, over a woman who was upset by a misogynistic and threatening comment, by laughing at and endorsing violent sexual imagery and threats…not exactly the hallmark of a person who believes in equality and respect.

Thank you for your bravery and persistence, Lorrie.

LorrieHearts // Posted 17 July 2012 at 3:48 pm

I just wanted to pop on here and say thank you to everyone who has left supportive comments, both here and on Twitter – it’s been overwhelming, and I can’t stress how helpful it’s been during a frankly horrible time.

Aside from the issue of what sexual/ly violent language does to women, the feeling of powerlessness when someone tries to silence you for speaking up is one that I’d guess we all know and hate. I’m grateful to everyone who called time on the comments and behaviour they found unacceptable – it’s only through solidarity that women will gain safe space on the ‘net.

x

JericaLily // Posted 7 December 2012 at 12:22 pm

“I think that woman who was so upset at Daniel Tosh is just ovary-acting.”

Oh dear. I keep hoping we will evolve past this kind of stuff, but there it is. A man can heckle, a man can comment, a man can argue and his gender will not be used against him. He’s just the basic human template exercising his rights as a human being. But when a woman dares question or challenge, it’s because of her ovaries, her vagina, her ability to bring children into the world or something else to do with her gender. It’s always the same, and it’s sooo very disappointing. I was hoping we’d be a little more enlightened. As Darren himself said, he is a gay man, and as a section of the population who has been marginalized and victimized in many ways, I thought maybe he would have a spectrum of beliefs about respect and equality that extended to females. But no. It’s just our ovaries, and they make us go crazy over nothing. Get “hysterical” (that wandering uterus again.)

It would have been so much better to just say, “You know, I’m really sorry, my stupid joke was in very poor taste and I regret that kind of thing having escaped my brain.” But he didn’t respond that way. It was like, “I’m sorry because I got into trouble for it, trouble I still don’t feel is deserved.” Can’t see the forest for the trees.

Reading the comments I wonder just how safe we are even on the internet. Our gender is attacked constantly and we’re told we’re just overreacting. Because for some reason some men believe that we’re not worthy of basic human respect and you know, expecting to not be dismissed because we don’t have a penis. Is that just too much to ask? Yes, yes it is.

All the men who think women should be raped should remember that they came into the world via a woman.

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