It’s a knee-jerk reaction to say that all feminists are against rape jokes. I, personally, am not. But I’m for a particular kind of joke that involves rape that no one seems to be telling. If we switch the way we talk about rape, rape jokes can go from being problematic to actually being a positive force in society. But we need to completely change how these jokes happen.
Here’s the problem with current rape jokes: they shame, humiliate, denigrate and dehumanize the victim while minimizing the crime and turning the rapist into an everyday guy that just did what all guys want to do. When you make jokes about sensitive topics, punch up, not down. A real rape joke should be ridiculing rapists and rape culture. It should show these violent perpetrators as criminals in need of punishment. It should cultivate the idea that consent is mandatory, not optional, and anyone who doesn’t obtain said consent before sex is a douchebag that deserves to be made fun of in addition to being imprisoned for their crimes.
You can tell a lot about a society by what they laugh at. When victims who did nothing wrong are the ones being shamed for a crime committed against them, it says that our society is lacking empathy and logic. So when a rape joke is formed, it should be part of the solution, not part of the problem. People might think that a rape joke that makes a point can’t possibly be funny. But why would contributing to a society that blames victims of sexual abuse be funny to begin with?
It’s one thing to be edgy, but rape culture is so prevalent in today’s society that joking about girls asking for it by wearing short skirts or shouting surprise sex after rape is as mundane as jokes about airline food. We’ve heard it all before from almost everyone in the world. It’s time to change the dialogue and use comedy to show victims as people in need of compassion and healing and rapists as criminals that need to be punished for their crimes.
Now, one might assume that I’m only talking about women being raped by men in this blog, but I’m not. Prison rape jokes where men are raped by men are ubiquitous in our culture. This leads to a softening of the crime into a hilarious punchline and helps to dehumanize the victims of prison rape. Turning a traumatic and violent experience for a man into something to laugh at tells shames victims from coming forward and assures that perpetrators won’t be caught or punished.
When it comes down to it, we can use humor to deal with rape. But we need to use it to show how insane, backwards, and fucked up the system is that allows rape victims to be put on trial in the court of public opinions for a crime perpetrated against them while the person who actually did something wrong just walks away whistling to victimize someone else. Rapists need to be shown for the criminals that they are not the average people that got their way even when their victim thought they didn’t want to. We can have rape jokes. They need need to be the right kind.