I’m not against any kind of joke on principle. A good comic can make anything funny. But if you’re going to make jokes about rape, your excuse has to be something more than “it’s okay to hurt people because the bit landed, it was funny.” If you’re going to make jokes about potentially offensive topics, there’s an easy way and a hard way. The easy way is to just shout out offensive things in the name of free speech and “pushing people out of their comfort zones.” The hard way is to provide an unflinching, in-depth analysis of the way that people deal with these painful topics, to really explore them, in order to make some kind of profound point about them (and be funny).
Most people who make rape jokes (or gay jokes, or racist jokes, or whatever) aren’t smart enough to have anything worthwhile to add to the conversation. They’re hacks. It’s like a little kid shouting “poop!” in the grocery store and then grinning. Truly edgy writing pushes people out of their comfort zones, sure. But it pushes them toward something, some deeper truth or observation about humanity.
I don’t like rules about which topics you’re allowed to make jokes or art about and which are off-limits.. and I, personally, believe it is possible to make a funny ‘rape joke’ but it depends on the context and also, most importantly, upon what you are targetting in your joke – like, is it making fun of rapists and rape apology or is it trivialising and normalising rape? Contrary to what anti-feminists think, you will probably find that a lot of other humorless feminists agree with me.
@scATX Does your joke empower rapists? NOT OKAY. Does your joke expose rape culture? OKAY.
But some feminists disagree with me and they will have a good point. They will say that rape jokes are never ok, because thinking you’re going to hear something funny and then having really confronting memories brought up is not fun. And the fact that other people’s right to laugh overrides your right to feel safe is kind of a stark reminder of the very one-sided abuse of power that rape represents in the first place.
Here is comedian, Rob Delaney saying something similar to me when asked if there is any topic too taboo for jokes:
Not really. Let’s take rape for example. It’s not funny. End of discussion. But you can do a funny joke about how people talk about rape, or you can juxtapose it against something else in a way that will evoke laughter and a “new” way of thinking in people who aren’t monsters and/or rapists. So it’s all about the way the joke is done. Is your motivation/volition to help or shed light in a way that will (if taken to its maximum/mega-extreme) result in LESS rape in the world? Then please, talk and joke about it.
And here’s Tig Notaro showing you an excellent example of someone making a funny ‘rape joke’ and note the targets, which are mansplaining and rape culture, not women.
(I have it on good authority we’re about to see a whole post from a prominent feminist writer on ‘rape jokes’ by well-known comedians that successfully made fun of rape apology/rape culture rather than rape victims in the very near future. I’ll link to that when it is up – as promised, here it is from Kate Harding).