why rape jokes aren’t funny, even if you’re kinky

You’d think that given that kinky people are universally more enlightened about sexuality than the general population, nobody would have to explain this one. But from recent discussions I’ve seen go by online, it appears that we can throw that little “superior enlightenment” theory out the window (no big surprise there), and that a post laying out the basics of this is in order.

I will, for the curious, attempt to shoot down a few of the most common responses I’ve seen to women who’ve posted on similar topics, by means of a footnote at the end of this post. So if you are about to say “You’re just a humourless feminist,” “You’re missing the point,” “You’re just a man-hating lesbian,” or “You’re just bitter/triggered/biased because someone raped you,” or simply curious about how I’d respond to any of those dismissals, scroll down.

All righty. Moving along.

Point 1. Kinky people can be, and are, sexist. Rape jokes are one form that sexism is expressed.

Despite what the research says about how kinky guys are generally pro-feminist (see part 1 of the footnote for that), the research (at least, what little research there is) still indicates that in the public pansexual BDSM scene:

  • women are more likely to identify as submissives and men are more likely to identify as dominants;
  • women are generally presumed submissive and men dominant (and whether this is a cause or an effect of the first element is a question well worth debating, and one which I seldom see discussed);
  • women and submissives are treated with less respect than men and dominants; and
  • this disrespect generally takes forms along classically sexist, essentialist lines.

Thomas Macaulay Millar deftly links “domism,” role essentialism and sexism and sums up the key related points from two major (kink-positive) scholarly studies of the pansexual BDSM scene in this brilliant post. Please go read it, it’s really quite impressive.

In short, despite any claims to enlightenment or feminism, standard-issue sexism is still clearly present in the pansexual BDSM scene.

One of the many ways sexism plays out in the BDSM scene is rape jokes, and other kinds of all-too-common comments intended to humiliate or reduce women or submissives (because of the significant overlap, both work here) within the pansexual community but outside the context of negotiated scenes or relationships. Millar’s post quotes a few specific examples from the two studies he refers to, but you can find many more if you read either one in full. They are remarkably familiar for anyone who’s spent time in pansexual scene space.

Point 2. Rape jokes aren’t funny.

I don’t mean in that in a finger-wagging way. I just mean they aren’t actually funny. They fail to get a laugh most of the time (with some notable exceptions I detail in the next point).

You know what always kills a joke? When you have to explain it, or explain why it’s funny. I often see people trying to explain why rape jokes are funny, so that tells me right away that they pretty much aren’t. There are a few classics, like “Can’t you take a joke?” or “You have no sense of humour,” both surefire lines of defence for people who don’t know how to make good ones. And then we also have a few more righteously principled defences. One I often hear goes something like, “Well, if I can joke about murder, why not rape? Are you saying it’s okay to laugh about murder but not about rape? Do you think murder’s okay, but rape isn’t?”

I don’t know why it comes up so often, but it really does. And it’s particularly relevant because answering those questions tells us a lot about precisely why rape jokes aren’t funny.

If we look at some yummy Stats Can data, it tells us that “Police reported 605 homicides in 2006 … a rate of 1.85 homicides per 100,000 population.”

Meanwhile, also according to Stats Can, “Quantifying sexual assault continues to be a challenge, since the large majority (91%) of these crimes are not reported to police. According to self-reported victim data from the 2004 GSS on Victimization, approximately 512,200 Canadians aged 15 and older were the victims of a sexual assault in the 12 months preceding the survey. Expressed as a rate, there were 1,977 incidents of sexual assault per 100,000 population aged 15 and older reported on the 2004 GSS.”

Do we see a difference here? Fewer than two murders per 100,000; just under 2,000 sexual assaults per 100,000 and that’s only counting the 12-month period right before the survey. Let’s keep in mind that a person can be sexually assaulted numerous times in a lifetime and most of us rarely answer Stats Can surveys, whereas murders by definition happen only once and, with some notable exceptions, are pretty reliably reported, what with, y’know, dead bodies to deal with and such. I’d say the scale difference here is rather evident.

What am I getting at? Well, we—many of us, at least in non-war-torn North America—can joke about murder because we’ve never met someone who got murdered, or murdered someone, or met a murderer, or been murdered. Most of us will never encounter that reality in our entire lives, so it’s distant, and that makes it easy to be callous about, to treat as banal. I’d be willing to bet that if 2,000 out of 100,000 people had witnessed a murder in the last 12 months, we likely wouldn’t be laughing much about that either, not to mention there would be 2,000 fewer people around per year to make the jokes. Rape is a concrete reality for many of us, and it’s much harder to find anything funny about it as a result. So the comparison to murder doesn’t hold up. It’s not about one being more right than the other, or more PC. It’s just about how difficult it is to find humour in serious trauma that directly affects many of us all the time.

When people are challenged about making rape jokes, I also hear a lot of them cry “censorship,” start talking about the PC police, or beat the tired old argument that we should be allowed to discuss anything we want within the realm of kink because it’s supposed to be this safe place where anything goes as long as it’s consensual. And y’know, far be it from me to tell you what you can and can’t talk about, unless of course I’m moderating the group, in which case I’d be well within my rights to shut down inappropriate topics as outlined in the rules.

But will I tell you what I think you should and shouldn’t talk about or say? Hell yeah. For instance I think you shouldn’t use racist terminology, make fun of fat people, joke about people with disabilities, or sling around homophobic slurs. Challenging people—kindly, without personal attack, and with the benefit of the doubt, until such benefit is clearly no longer warranted—when they’re being douchebags is itself dialogue, not censorship; it is a really valuable form of activism. It contributes to creating a group climate where dissent is an option, where people have the opportunity to learn about what hurts and marginalizes people who aren’t like them, where people outside a narrow range are more likely to feel welcome and included (and then everyone gets laid more). Who said it’s okay to make some people feel rotten (by making rape jokes) but not to make others feel rotten (by calling out bullshit)? I’d say it’s pretty even as far as deals go, though if I had to pick whose feelings I’m more concerned about, I’d definitely be more likely to worry about those of a possible rape survivor than those of a guy who wants to make a tasteless joke. I know, that privilege is a hard thing to look at, but really, guy, you need to get over it. I’m not much one for playing the Oppression Olympics, but for what it’s worth, on the scale of oppression, you lose.

Does that mean we shouldn’t talk about rape fantasies in the context of kink? Nope. I think we should talk about them as much as we like. It’s a helluva charged-up topic for all kinds of good reasons and that makes it well worth discussing. But talking about our individual kinks is not the same as joking about what person we’d really like to rape, how much so-and-so really needs to get raped, how rape is probably the only sex so-and-so gets, or any other similarly stupid, boring tripe. These things are not thoughtful discussion, exploration of a taboo kink, genuine engagement with an edgy form of fantasy or play. There is a world of difference between saying “I fantasize about doing a rape scene” or “my partner wants to do a rape scene and I’m not sure how” and “Jill really needs to get raped in a back alley, haha!” If you’re not enough of a grown-up to be able to tell the difference, you probably shouldn’t be playing this game at all.

We could get into a big debate here about how things are different if a woman, and not a man, makes the joke, or laughs at it, or if the joke is about a female rapist, or a male victim, and so on, and so forth. I’m not really interested in debating it much though. Sure, it might be different on some level, as many things are depending on who’s saying them. Okay. Fair enough. It’s still not particularly funny to make a rape joke. It might be less directly reflective of the reality of rape out there in the world, but really, does that make it therefore hilarious and/or justifiable? Seems to me it simply creates an environment that makes it acceptable for people who are not in these “more justifiable” categories to also make rape jokes. And really? Meh. I can think of better things to stand up for than my right to make unfunny jokes about my own possible sexual assault perpetration or victimization. They’re a bit clunky, and they still play into the fact that…

Point 3. Rape jokes directly support and encourage rapists.

For this one, I’ll refer you to yet another brilliant post, this one by Organon.

Here’s a quote that sums up the post:

“6% of college-aged men, slightly over 1 in 20, will admit to raping someone in anonymous surveys, as long as the word “rape” isn’t used in the description of the act—and that’s the conservative estimate. Other sources double that number.

“A lot of people accuse feminists of thinking that all men are rapists. That’s not true. But do you know who think all men are rapists?

“Rapists do.

“They really do. In psychological study, the profiling, the studies, it comes out again and again.

“Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape.”

So basically, if you make a rape joke, casually banter about doing non-consensual things to that hot woman or submissive over there, or treat rape as though it were something banal and normal and nothing to get terribly upset about, well then sure, you might be triggering the one in four women sitting nearby who’s been raped. And sure, you’re making yourself look like a complete douchebag (no, sadly, you don’t come off as a super-sexy “edgy” kind of kinkster, despite how desperately you might like to—if you are that edgy, surely you can come up with a more creative strategy). But mostly, what you’re doing is inviting the one guy of the proverbial twenty, who is also sitting nearby, to rape someone, quite possibly someone in that same room. Because he doesn’t think you’re joking. He thinks you’re completely serious, and that it’s completely okay to do that.

And you know what? Even if you’re not sitting near that one-in-twenty guy? The women sitting nearby? They might think you, yourself, are that one guy in twenty who might actually rape them, given the chance, considering how completely blasé you’re being about the topic.

And even worse? Maybe you actually are that guy. You sure do exhibit all the signs. Really you’re kinda advertising it, wouldn’t you say? This, right here, is about the only reason I can think of why you might want to continue making rape jokes, or laughing at them—at least now your targets can see you. So if you are that one in twenty, please, make all the rape jokes you want. Because if all the non-rapists in the room stop making them, and stop laughing at them, but you keep right on keeping on, then we’ll know exactly who to avoid. In the meantime, there’s a degree of mistrust that sorta has to be extended to everyone, because it’s sometimes hard to tell which one of every twenty is the one-in-twenty who’s truly dangerous.

And with that in mind…

Point 4. The BDSM community does not keep anyone safe from rape.

The research doesn’t talk specifically about the BDSM community on this point, but the statement applies there as much as anywhere else. In fact, no community, network, or set of trusted friends and acquaintances keeps anyone safe from rape. Why? Because 70% of rapes are committed by someone who knows the victim.

That figure, or higher, is repeated all over the place—the Toronto Police Service, the Rape Victims Support Network, Victims of Violence (with research funded by the Department of Justice Canada), and even good ol’ Stats Canada.

Some of those perpetrators are relatives, colleagues or neighbours. And some of them are friends and acquaintances. In other words, even if we drop all the husbands, boyfriends, dads, work colleagues and so forth from the list and focus exclusively on the “other acquaintances” category, the simple fact of knowing people—like, say, from attending the same munch a few times or seeing each other at the occasional play party—is no guarantee of protection. Quite the reverse. The people habitually found in a given social setting are the ones most likely to rape the other people in that same social setting.

So please, let’s stop with the idea that we police the SM world and magically make it safe for everyone because of our focus on consent. If 19 out of 20 guys (and yes, I am focusing on guys here, because the studies above also note that around 97% of sexual assault perpetrators are male) believe in consent-only activity and practice it 100% of the time, that still leaves the one guy out of twenty who doesn’t and who is still happily ensconced within the community. And let’s recall that many of those 19, along with a few gals, may be making that one guy feel perfectly justified about what he does, because while not being rapists, they may still be helping to create an environment in which rapists can flourish, or at least get by relatively unnoticed. So if you’re one of those folks who thinks that if you say “consent” often enough, you’ve paid your dues and can now also make or laugh at a rape joke, think again. These things do not cancel each other out.

Point 5. People vastly under-report incidences of rape and sexual assault, mainly because of fear of repercussion or ostracization.

If you were an oppressed sexual minority—say, a kinkster—all your life, and you finally found a community where you could meet like-minded people, and explore this very deep and compelling part of yourself with people you find attractive, wouldn’t you want to make sure your membership in that community wasn’t jeopardized? And if that community distrusted the cops because the cops had been known to arrest them for their enjoyable consensual activity, and possibly even take away their kids or get them fired from their workplace, wouldn’t you be unlikely to bring the cops’ attention their (your) way? And if you knew that because you were a pervert, the cops might think you were really asking for it anyway (much like if you were a sex worker, or a gal with a short skirt, and so forth), wouldn’t you be less likely, in the midst of your own trauma, to risk adding the further trauma of being disbelieved and your charges dismissed? Yeah, well, layer all that on top of the existing reasons why 91% of your average not-kinky people who get sexually assaulted don’t report it to the police, and you have the perfect storm.

I don’t think we will ever know how many people get raped or sexually assaulted within the pansexual BDSM scene because those people have a whole fuckload of reasons why not to ever tell—way more so than their non-kinky counterparts.

Conclusion: Reality bites.

We can talk about consent, safewords, negotiation and safe calls, and we can trot out the existence of female dominants and male submissives all we want. None of this makes reality go away:

  • The pansexual scene both displays the idea that men are in charge (dominant) and women are not (submissive) and reinforces that as a norm.
  • Discourse about the proper roles of dominants (men) and submissives (women) within the pansexual scene commonly steps way outside the bounds of negotiated relationships or scenes, which is not okay.
  • Rape jokes (which are not okay even outside the scene) are made within the pansexual BDSM scene directly or indirectly as part of that discourse.
  • Rape jokes in any context reassure rapists that what they do is normal, okay and approved-of; in BDSM spaces, they reassure rapists that even here, regardless of a parallel “consent” discourse, rape is still okay.
  • So-called community self-policing does not erase the occurrence of rape and sexual assault.
  • The pansexual scene’s internal community codes as well as the pansexual community’s relationship to the dominant society may directly act as deterrents to the reporting of sexual assault, whether to the police or within the community itself.

Consider this: a rapist walks into a pansexual BDSM event. He looks around and sees that mostly, the men are dominant and the women are submissive, and there’s a whole complex language around consent. But then he also notices that people aren’t really practicing what they preach, or at least they seem to do so inconsistently, because clearly sexist dynamics are playing out outside scenes or ongoing D/s connections. And the people joke about rape in a way that makes it seem like that’s just as cool here as it is anywhere else—and not only that, but they’ve got fancy things like collars and cuffs and rope to make it all even easier! All he needs to do is learn the “in-crowd” language to avoid being easily detected. Cuz really, once he’s got that down, he’s not very likely to encounter much resistance, and even if he did, she’d never take it to the cops. And she wouldn’t risk saying anything in the community either, cuz she’d get snubbed. Sweet deal.

It’s a bit sobering, isn’t it?

And that’s why rape jokes aren’t funny, even if you’re kinky. They are only one part of a larger system in which many other things happen that are not funny, but they are also one of the easiest to simply stop. So let’s stop making them. We’re a creative, intelligent bunch, or at least we sure like to think of ourselves that way. I’m sure we can find plenty else to laugh about.

***

And here is that promised footnote on my response to classic dismissals.

  1. “You’re just a humourless feminist.” Feminist? Yes, and honestly, unless you are a frothing idiot, you are too, or at the very least, you believe a lot of the same things feminists classically believe whether you label it as such or not. In fact, most kinky guys do, according to this article by Patricia A. Cross and Kim Matheson. In their research, they found no appreciable difference between sadomasochists and non-sadomasochists in terms of their attitudes and beliefs regarding feminism. (Though it sure is interesting that their findings also indicate that, while still well within the range of pro-feminist, men in SM communities generally have a higher belief in traditional gender roles than women do, regardless of kink role.) Humourless? Well, I make no claim to stand-up comic prowess, but I think I’m pretty funny, and by all accounts most of the people I know would agree, but I guess that’s up for argument. While we’re at it, shall we debate the equally subjective notions of “attractive” or “smart”? I’ll pencil you in for that discussion sometime in 2080, ‘kay? Call me.
  2. “You’re missing the point. This discussion isn’t about rape, it’s about (insert stated topic here).” If you made a rape joke, guess what? Now the discussion is about rape. Oopsie for you. Next time, stick to the topic at hand and you will not have a much-deserved shitstorm on your hands.
  3. “You’re just a man-hating lesbian.” If by the word “lesbian” you mean “woman who likes to fuck women,” you’re bang-on. Mmmmwomen. But I’m not a lesbian, properly speaking, because I also have a long history of dating, playing with and fucking men, as well as trans folks who identify all along the gender spectrum, the latter of which includes my partner of five years. I suppose it is possible I could have done all that and still hated the men and other non-female-identified people I’ve been with, but that would be an awfully significant waste of time. And also? I have three brothers who are the awesomest guys in the world, so anytime I’ve been even remotely tempted to say “I hate men,” I have always caught myself, because seriously? These guys would give hope to the most man-hating of man-hating dykes. (On a side note, most dykes who don’t sleep with men don’t actually hate them. It’s more that most men are just kinda irrelevant to them, which I suspect gets some guys’ knickers in a knot way more than any actual hating would.) More important than my sexual history, though, is that I don’t really think hating anyone is the most productive of places to put my activist energy. I’d much rather invest in coalition-building and avoid grossly stereotyping groups on the basis of a single shared characteristic given that, y’know, that’s kinda what gets done to me, and I don’t like it. Also, I was born at least a decade too late to get caught up in the Sex Wars. Hello from the third wave.
  4. “You’re just bitter/triggered/biased because someone raped you.” Actually, no. I’ve never been raped or sexually assaulted. I am one of those fortunate women—and how awful that one should have to be fortunate in living to their mid-thirties without being raped. Hey, I’m not saying nobody’s ever tried. If you have a spare day or two, I could list you the many, many times I’ve had guys (always guys) attempt to get me drunk, try to corner me in a room alone, or flash me in a subway station. There’ve been so many I’ve lost count—and I’m hardly exceptional in that regard, and my stories are hardly the most dramatic. Certainly I’ve had plenty of non-consensual touch inflicted upon me, including in kink spaces. But nobody’s ever managed to get it any further than a single unwelcome move. Whether because my big bad scary dominance has given them pause, or my strategic escapes have left them in the dust, or my physical self-defense has been enough to show them there be dragons there (or just really sharp fingernails), or I’ve just been plain lucky, I don’t know, but suffice it to say I have no directly personal triggers in relation to the topic of rape. That all being said, if you’re going to disqualify someone from speaking about rape precisely because she or he has been raped, I’m seriously not impressed. If you follow that logic for a step or two, what topics of significance to you are you no longer qualified to speak about? I bet the list would get long awfully quickly, so let’s quit while we’re ahead, hmm?

91 Responses

  1. Great post — and a strong one; thank you for the all-nighter. But your argument about the the effect that scale differences between murder and rape rates has on social perceptions of murder and rape jokes doesn’t resonate at all with me. Do that many people who object to rape jokes really find murder (or Guantanamo torture) jokes acceptable just because they lack a personal connection to murder? I hope not! That part of your argument startled and diverted me from the rest of your points. However, thank you overall for your strong challenge to groups of people who may be resting on the laurels of consent narrowly given but broadly and wrongly assumed. — medici (why is your blog not recognising me, and does mean that I will have to accept a novel snowflake??!!?)

    • Yeah, it’s not a perfect argument, and not the least because it’s really hard to theorize about humour and, while I am sure it’s been done, I’m not familiar with that theory. I suspect there’s some sort of middle ground – like, jokes about things completely distant from us can be funny, and jokes about things that are completely banal can be funny, but rape is somewhere between those two and thus the jokes aren’t funny. But really, single-line scales are a clunky measurement tool at the best of times, and funniness isn’t easily measurable at all, so it’s not an easy one to wrestle down. I think my point was just that people don’t predictably get outraged about murder-related jokes and there’s a reason for that, whereas people do predictably get outraged about rape jokes, and there’s a reason for that too. And yet for some reason the “yes rape jokes are funny” people keep trotting out the murder comparison, so it seemed apropos to tackle it here. … And yes, sadly, you are stuck with a new snowflake yet again, my friend. ;)

      • The thing isn’t about rape, though. The thing to look at is the humor. Humor is composed of specific elements, and if it’s done right then pretty much anything can come off as absolutely hilarious.

        Seriously, nobody thinks armies of Polocks are actually putting screen doors on submarines, or interviewing chickens to discover their crosswalk motivations. To do so would take the fun out of humor by eliminating the absurd, or the irony, or the surprise, whatever makes a joke funny.

        The point is that humor itself is a painful force of nature – there IS almost nothing funny that doesn’t make us laugh by poking at something else. Humor isn’t supposed to be “reality”. Humor is something that softens reality and lets us laugh at it, and relax for a little while.

        I’ve heard jokes about all kinds of things that just aren’t funny. The GOP tried doing their own version of The Daily Show a couple months back, and the “jokes” were terrible. All they offered was a long string of awkward insults and a halfhearted laugh track. They didn’t even ATTEMPT to hire Jews to write the damn thing.

        See what I did there? It’s called humor. Lighten up.

      • Here’s a theory for you to consider (and yes, I think rape jokes *are* funny, despite being a victim of sexual assault.- I’m over it): Having studied anthropology and psychology and humor, I can safely speculate (for proof is often fleeting in these fields) that joking about something often /takes away the fear/. As with most jokes, it’s all about the intent. I make racist jokes. I make rape jokes. I make jokes about your mother. I am in no way supportive of the views of the jokes.

        Part of humor, sometimes, is saying exactly the /opposite of what is right/ to shock, to offend, to /make people think/. For many people, jokes are a way to deal with fear and pain. After all, if you can laugh at something, it isn’t scary. If you can laugh, it can’t hurt you any more.

        And as for people who get offended… That is fine, but the world does not conform to any one world-view. It’s part of what makes this a great place to be, in fact. An interesting thing to note is that many many many people in the BDSM scene often like exactly the opposite in the bedroom than what they live.

        As a submissive myself, I can assure you that outside the bedroom, I am a confident capable woman, who has a handle on everything. Which is why, to achieve some balance, I like to relinquish control. I like to let someone I trust be in charge. I like to be held down and feel like whatever happens good or bad isn’t all on me. And many of the dominants I know often feel very very /out/ of control outside the bedroom.

        Acknowledging our sexual desires to conform to gender stereotypes is healthy. Just as healthy as the desire to shed the stereotypes. Different strokes for different folks.

        A final pearl of wisdom for you: If you don’t understand something, it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. Including jokes, bedroom habits, and the way people deal with their lives.

      • Eliza,

        I’m sure there’s some argument to be made that as a survivor, you’re entitled to make jokes about things as a tool of that survival. We do what we have to do, right? And it doesn’t always have to make others comfortable. Even then, though, if your survival tools perpetuate a culture in which others continue to go through the same kind of awful experience you did, I make the same challenge to you (and other survivors) as I do to anyone else who makes rape jokes in my original post. I don’t think that “I went through an oppressive experience” automatically leads to one being justified in saying “so I’m going to perpetuate oppression and nobody can criticize me for it.” We can all be both oppressed and oppressor at the same time, they don’t cosmically cancel each other out.

        On the other hand, if you are saying “the opposite of what is right” and your purpose is “to make people think,” I’m going to guess that your rape jokes aren’t the kind I’m talking about here, which shore up the idea that rape itself is banal, funny, not to be taken seriously, and so forth. Rape jokes that actually flip the narrative to make rapists the butt of the joke – *without* (inadvertently? ignorantly? deliberately?) simultaneously supporting rape culture in some other backhanded way (see the examples discussed in other comments to this post) – are so incredibly rare that I didn’t consider them in my original post at all. And I don’t really regret leaving them out, because I’ve encountered so few of them, and haven’t seen them make a dent in rape culture, that they’re really not worth more than a small side note anyway. Also, it’s a risky strategy to try. Even for those who think they’re saying the opposite of what is right in order to make people think, it’s really easy to go wrong and end up doing the opposite. The pitfalls are many. So more power to you if you’ve managed to find a way to do this that doesn’t simply read to the people hearing it as “hey, that chick thinks rape is okay!”

        As to your comments about submission and dominance – not sure how you are relating those to my original post. Of course submissives are often confident and capable people, and of course some dominants aren’t, and of course some of the things we all like in the bedroom are different than how we are outside of it. As a proud pervert with over a decade in the BDSM/leather/kink/fetish community/ies, this is all very familiar to me. But none of it is relevant to the question of rape jokes – unless I’m missing your point somehow?

  2. Thank you for writing this. As someone who has been raped and within the bdsm community. No one helped me but protected the rapist. Sigh. Thanks again for your wonderful writing and bringing this topic to light.

  3. Bravo! That was exceedingly well written :)

  4. [...] post, “why rape jokes aren’t funny, even if you’re kinky,” by Andrea Zanin, aka the Sex Geek, targets the kink community but the message is relevant for a [...]

  5. I love this post. tweeting it and sending out to tumblr peeps as well.

  6. Of all your amazing posts, this one is perhaps the most widely relevant to the kink scene as a whole and something I suspect I will be linking to for years.

    Thank you.

  7. Thank you so much for laying it all out so clearly, in a way that I could never have articulated. I’m asking everyone I know to read this blog.

  8. What a great post. Really well done. You cover all the bases, and do it with grace and humor.

    Thanks so much.

    aisha

  9. Thanks, all of you, for your supportive comments, links, tweets and so forth. You rock. :)

  10. The main problem i have with this, aside from a deep seated belief that in comedy, nothing is sacred, is that i just domt see this epidemic pf rape jokes. Most of the rape jokes I ever hear are over the top gross-out pedophile jokes and what not. I honestly cannot recall hearing any jokes about rape outside of grindcore songs… And i tend to hang out with a lot of tasteless joke loving folks.

    • Lucky you. :) Also, I made no mention of an epidemic and as far as I’m aware there isn’t one. Frequency doesn’t have any bearing on rape jokes being unfunny. And also, http://nirmukta.com/2011/08/24/privilege-blindness-and-the-just-world-theory/.

      • My issue with this point (and I love most of the post!) is that humour is subjective. You can’t just say something isn’t funny and win the argument. It’s not funny to *you*.

      • You have no logical/rational basis for your assertions.

      • “Privilege blindness”? Really? That’s all you have in your defense here?

        So, what you’re saying is that, because I’ve never raped anyone or been raped (a condition you yourself claim to share) that I am permitted no opinion on this?

      • I’m not even sure what you’re talking about when you talk about “rape jokes”, because the only examples you give aren’t jokes at all. You related thinly-veiled threats of rape and called them “jokes”, but they’re not jokes. You might as well have called them “shoes” or “quarter-notes” for all the more it relates to what’s actually going on.

        The only example you actually articulated was when you apparently heard someone say “Jill really needs to get raped in a back alley, haha!” but why would anyone even think that was a joke? What was the context? Was there something else said just before it, or was there something else going on at the time that made the comment relevant? Or was it just a standalone comment about Jill?

        See what I’m saying? It’s not a joke because from the way you described it there was no attempt at humour. This whole article, you’re going on and on about something that (to you) is some global tsunami of rape-validating jokes, but (to the rest of us) just doesn’t exist.

  11. Thanks for laying it all out so clearly. I’ll be linking to this post on Tumblr and on my website.

  12. On another note, someone on another social media site responded to this post by saying “Jokes can be cathartic. After I suffered domestic violence I joked about it as a release.” I want to respond to that here not specifically to that poster, but because rape jokes BY rape survivors is an argument I didn’t think to include in my original post.

    Certainly lots of oppressed folks make jokes about their own oppression as a means of coping, or possibly as a means of challenging that oppression through wit. But if someone’s idea of comic relief following their own traumatic experience is to make jokes like “Mary really needs to get raped!” then regardless of their reason or personal experience, I’d say they’re still contributing to the problem. Non-rape-encouraging rape jokes? I can’t think of any, but I’m sure they exist. If coming up with those is your bag, go to it. I might still look at this a bit sideways in terms of strategy – you’d have to be pretty sharp to ensure that nobody just reads your coping strategy as supportive of rape itself. I’m sure that funnier, sharper people than me could probably do this. I haven’t met them or heard those jokes, but I genuinely think it could be done.

    But let me be clear here. This post isn’t about humour as a way to reclaim traumatic experience (without simply perpetuating its acceptability) or defend oneself against oppression. It’s about rape jokes that perpetuate the idea that rape is banal and funny. Again, if you’re not enough of a grown-up to be able to tell the difference, you shouldn’t be playing. We could debate context, grey zones, voice and audience for decades – and that debate is worthwhile – just not what I’m aiming to do here. I’m also not in any way trying to tell a DV or rape survivor what is and isn’t okay to joke about. Here, I’m aiming to call bullshit on the vastly more common practice of (mostly) male (mostly) dominants in the (mostly) M/f hetero pansexual BDSM scene of joking in (mostly) callous, insensitive ways about the rape of (mostly) women who are (mostly) submissive, which contributes to normalizing, trivializing and even directly encouraging the very real rape of those very real (mostly) women by very real (mostly) men even within that very real (mostly) M/f hetero pansexual BDSM scene, and further, the practice of crying “poor me, I am so terribly victimized by your oversensitivity!” when someone says that’s not funny. Any productive discussion of other circumstances is great, but takes nothing away from that basic point.

    • Hi Thanks for your response it was me who made the comment on twitter about using humour as a ‘release’,

      I see where you are coming from but find your approach a bit prescriptive. but thankfully you can’t tell me what to do and I’ll make my own way and if that involves humour that is my choice.

  13. Josh – Not sure why I can’t reply directly under your comment, but apparently I need to do it here instead…

    Yes, humour is subjective. Absolutely agree. That’s still not a reason to simply throw up one’s hands and say, all right, then, let’s just ignore oppression via humour; let’s just be silent instead of call bullshit when people make jokes that perpetuate rape culture and encourage rape; let’s let it all go by, because y’know, it’s all so subjective that I could be wrong in my interpretation or off base in my challenge. If the people making rape jokes and who genuinely only want to make people laugh put half that much thought into whether their jokes might encourage a rapist sitting next to them to commit another rape, we’d probably hear way fewer of them in the first place. Failing that, I don’t think the appropriate response is silence.

    I’d rather be occasionally off base while still voicing a dissenting perspective than not say anything at all. If something smells like shit to me, I’m not going to grin and pretend it smells like roses, even if to some people, shit really does smell like roses (or they wouldn’t call it shit at all). And the premise that rape jokes perpetuate rape culture holds true in reverse too: challenging rape jokes perpetuates a culture in which rape, and jokes about it, can be challenged. I’d rather live in that culture than in the one where nobody ever challenges, and rape encouragement keeps right on thriving. So even if I do get it wrong sometimes, the fact that I challenge makes space for other people to also challenge, and that dialogue creates change. Also, I’m not so fragile that I’m scared of being occasionally wrong. I can apologize with the best of them if I badly misinterpret someone’s joke and it really was just fine. That’s the price you sometimes pay for speaking up. On balance I’d still much rather speak up.

  14. Well reasoned and well written, but…

    1) Men are raped, too. Your article seems to assume that all rape victims are female, inadvertently perpetuating the stigma against male rape victims.

    2) No joke is inherently funny or offensive. These are judgments made by the listener.

    3) Nobody is qualified to speak for all rape victims, especially someone who has never been raped. Your article contains a tacit assumption that you do, even though you don’t even acknowledge the existence of male victims.

    4) Your argument that a joke can encourage a potential rapist is specious. It holds one person responsible for another’s behavior. Furthermore, you have taken this as a given and found it unnecessary to back it up with evidence.

    • 1) Actually, my article uses terms like “mostly female” all over the place to indicate precisely that not all rape victims are female, and mentions the existence of both male rape victims and female perpetrators in point 2.

      2) Absolutely. Humour is subjective. As I mentioned in my comment reply to Josh just above, the subjectivity of humour is not really a valid excuse to stay silent when people use humour as an expression of power that perpetuates the acceptability of rape (or other things for that matter – but my focus here is rape). I fully expected, when I wrote this post, that I’d get comments telling me to lighten up, which is a generic attempt (in keeping with the ones I list at the end) to shut down discussion of this kind. Oh well. Didn’t work. We’re still having the discussion.

      3) I have no intention of speaking for rape victims and never claimed to. In fact you’ll note that I don’t focus much on victims at all (though I must say, while we’re on the topic, that I prefer the term “survivor”). My point is not that rape jokes affect survivors, although they often do. My point is that rape jokes promote rape and a culture of rape, and *that* affects all of us, not “just” survivors at all.

      4) My argument that a joke can encourage a potential rapist is based on the evidence from the two studies cited in the blog post to which I link at the beginning of point 3, which discuss rapists’ beliefs about the acceptability of their behaviour. In no way does this hold any one person responsible for any one other’s behavior, and I don’t at any point claim that it does. I have zero interest in excusing a rapist because the guy next to him made a joke about rape, any more than I wish to excuse a mugger because he just watched a violent movie. Again, my argument is about how rape jokes perpetuate a culture in which rape is understood to be acceptable, which directly supports rapists’ beliefs that rape is acceptable. I do believe that fewer people will rape the more that acceptability is challenged, but it’s not nearly as simple as “you make rape joke, Bob commits a rape, it’s your fault.” Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy! This is more along the lines of changing the way a whole culture thinks about and deals with rape, which happens by all sorts of means – legislation, police procedure, jurisprudence, “victim” services, art, news reporting, fiction – and also in small, everyday choices by everyday people about what kind of jokes to make or not make.

  15. Hello,

    I agree with most of what is here, there are a few things I will point out. Sexual Assault in the Canadian law is fairly broad. You mentioned being flashed on the subway this means you have been sexually assaulted. I know you might not feel like this is the case, but that would make you one of the unreported number. I think this needs to change in order to produce more accurate stats and address the issues that occur in the proper manner.

    Death jokes or even being blunt about death tends to freak all kinds of people as well. That being said I agree with you this is no laughing matter and I think your point on BDSM needs to hammered out to all. Self policing is a joke every time I hear that term it bothers me. If you are not doing anything wrong for the most point you have nothing to be afraid of with the police, but BDSM people seem to think otherwise.

    • Hmmm. You’re right, I didn’t realize that being flashed meant I’d been sexually assaulted as per Canadian law. Thanks for cluing me in! I still don’t feel that my experience is comparable to a rape in terms of the degree of physical contact (none), the way it affected me (minor), and so forth, but it is nice to know.

      As for the point that “if you are not doing anything wrong for the most part you have nothing to be afraid of with the police” – sadly I have to disagree with you there. Of course it depends on country, jurisdiction, etc. and I am not aware of any major cases in Canada (which is not to say there aren’t any), but there have been plenty of legal cases in which totally consensual BDSM practitioners have been jailed or lost custody of their kids. The “Paddleboro” case (USA) and the Spanner case (UK) are two of the most well-known, but check out NCSFreedom.org as they’re dedicated precisely to dealing with this issue.

  16. I have to say I really enjoy your blog, as it is always thought provoking. As a rationalist I am a strong proponent of the notion that any belief worth having should be falsifiable.

    I think there is an issue with your 3rd point: Rape jokes directly support and encourage rapists. This seems like the same argument as “violent video games encourage violence”, or a classic feminist claim like “pornography reduces respect for women”. When investigated by science, the data overwhelming shows these kinds of “monkey-see-monkey-do” arguments to be false. If you’d like me to provide sources for said studies I’d be happy to provide them.

    I am guessing however that you are already familiar with this data and thus have discounted it for one reason or another. If that is the case, I ask is there in theory data that would?

    • I’m familiar with the studies in question, and I agree with them – to buy into the “the TV made me do it!” excuse insults my own dignity, as well as everyone else’s. I’m way too much a believer in individual agency, and in holding people accountable for their actions, to believe the monkey-see monkey-do argument. So in keeping with that, I certainly don’t believe in a cause-and-effect scenario when it comes to rape jokes.

      I do, however, believe in the profound effects of changing the way our culture approaches things. For instance, fifty years ago, nobody wore a seatbelt when they drove. Today, it’s pretty much the norm, thanks to a broad approach – advertising, laws, fines, requirements of car manufacturers, and so forth – but also simply getting the message to permeate the culture that even if they’re a bit irritating, seatbelts save lives. In essence, elements of deliberate pressure helped the message to get taken up by the general population, and now, seatbelt-wearing is normal. I won’t go so far as to say it’s “cool,” but it’s no longer uncool, and it is understood to be just what one does. Do staunch non-seatbelt-wearers still refuse to wear seatbelts? Yeah, sure. Nevertheless, way more of us wear seatbelts now than they did when my parents were kids.

      As for the porn / violent movies / etc. thing. A difference, I think, is that when you’re watching porn you know it’s porn, and when you’re watching a movie you know it’s a movie. For that matter, when seeing a rape in a movie, you still know it’s a movie. These things may still affect our culture, but we nevertheless are thinking beings who can tell the difference between fiction and reality. A rape joke by the guy next to you at a BDSM event – possibly about a woman in the room, and possibly when he’s about to tie up a woman and choke her with his cock – is not nearly as easily identifiable as fiction, and even less so when you say “hey that’s not funny” and the response is something like “lighten up, maybe you just need to get raped,” or the like. So I don’t know that we can draw perfect parallels between the studies you mention and the situation I’m talking about.

      So I definitely believe that rape jokes – or more broadly, the banalization of rape – directly support and encourage rapists. Same way racist jokes support racism, jokes with trans people and fat people and disabled people as punch lines support the acceptability of discrimination against trans people and fat people and disabled people, and so forth. Does these jokes cause acts of physical violence? No, they don’t. What they do, however, is perpetuate a culture in which violence is seen as less “bad” when committed against POCs, trans people, fat people, disabled people and so forth. They make room for the people who would already be doing shitty things to do them with impunity and without fear of reprisal. And the attitude that rape is okay and even funny may also create opportunities for rapists to do their thing that simply wouldn’t otherwise be available, or limit opportunities for people to report or call out rapists that otherwise would be available. That’s just not the kind of world I want to live in, y’know? So I’m doing my best to contribute to the wave of cultural messages that are aiming to change that culture. I want rape jokes to be uncool, to be that thing that when you do it, everyone in the room stares at you like you just farted at the table, and you stop getting invited to their parties. This is already the case in a lot of places, but the M/f pansexual kink scene needs to work on it, in some ways more so than elsewhere especially because of its particular power structures.

      • “I do, however, believe”

        “I…believe”.

        That ends the conversation right there.

        Why should we rational people have any dialogue with you?

  17. In response to Some Guy (again, the threaded comments thing seems to stop working after three)…

    As I mentioned in my response to medici’s comment, I’m not familiar with theories of humour (the very existence of which seems like a great way to sap the funny from just about anything!), but I am sure someone out there has tried to explain how things become funny, and I’m sure you’re right when you mention the absurd, the ironic and so forth. Which is lovely, but it seems to me that if people keep having to make the “but it’s funny!” argument to prove why something’s funny, it’s probably not funny. And as I’ve noted in two comments now, of course humour is subjective, but that’s a really weak reason to avoid calling bullshit on jokes that support and perpetuate the acceptability of rape.

    – “The thing isn’t about rape, though. The thing to look at is the humor.”
    Please see the second item in my footnote.

    – “Humor isn’t supposed to be “reality”. Humor is something that softens reality and lets us laugh at it, and relax for a little while.”
    Fair enough. You can go ahead and help the rapists relax about reality, so they can feel more comfortable about raping people. I’ll keep on trying to make them feel uncomfortable about it so they get the message that rape isn’t something to be “softened.” Perhaps you’d like to offer them a back rub while you’re at it, I hear it really helps them relax.

    – “See what I did there? It’s called humor. Lighten up.”
    See the first item in my footnote, as well as my response to the comment by Josh and item 2 in my response to Jonathan.

    • “I’m not familiar with theories of humour”

      Clearly, but I’m sure that at SOME point in your life you must have laughed at something.

      “I am sure someone out there has tried to explain how things become funny, and I’m sure you’re right when you mention the absurd, the ironic and so forth.”

      That, and especially exaggeration. Most jokes play on some form of exaggeration, which by nature doesn’t make it relate directly to reality. Attempting to take a joke as “reality” or make it play by the same rules is missing the point. If that were the case, then the answer to every “lightbulb joke” would be “one”, and what the hell fun is that? Jokes make you laugh by making you think the story’s going one way and then the ending goes a different way completely.

      “Which is lovely, but it seems to me that if people keep having to make the “but it’s funny!” argument to prove why something’s funny, it’s probably not funny. ”

      Well, if you have to EXPLAIN a joke, it was poorly delivered.

      “And as I’ve noted in two comments now, of course humour is subjective, but that’s a really weak reason to avoid calling bullshit on jokes that support and perpetuate the acceptability of rape.”

      I don’t know, haven’t seen, and can’t imagine any joke perpetuating the acceptability of rape. First of all, it goes completely against the basic premise of all humour – that jokes aren’t “reality”.

      – “The thing isn’t about rape, though. The thing to look at is the humor.”
      Please see the second item in my footnote.”

      You don’t get to redefine every conversation to being about rape just because you heard the “R Word” in there somewhere. For example, if we were talking about vigilantism and someone mentions Kitty Genovese, is the conversation suddenly all about rape, or can it still be about vigilantism? Obsessing over a single offensive word in every conversation is what psychotic people do.

      “You can go ahead and help the rapists relax about reality, so they can feel more comfortable about raping people.”

      Funny, you spent several comments saying that rape jokes DON’T make people commit rape. Now you’re taking the exact opposite stance. Which time were you telling the truth, or do you just change your standards of conversation depending on who you’re talking about?

      – “See what I did there? It’s called humor. Lighten up.”
      See the first item in my footnote”

      First of all, in that footnote you start off by claiming that everyone who doesn’t think like yourself is a “frothing idiot”, and then you go on to admit you have no sense of comedic timing.

      Most importantly, you go on to equate “having a sense of humour” with “being funny”, which are two entirely different things. “Being funny” means you can tell a joke and get a couple laughs, while “having a sense of humor” means you don’t have to take everything that happens as a personal attack on yourself.

      Having a sense of humour means not taking everything so seriously. It means, among other things, that you really DO need to lighten up a little. Not everything is about you.

      • “I don’t know, haven’t seen, and can’t imagine any joke perpetuating the acceptability of rape.”

        Hmm. I take it you haven’t yet figured out the privilege blindness thing I linked to. Please do read it, it’s super helpful – learning to know, see, imagine and listen to other people’s realities is useful in so many ways. Your not-knowing, not-seeing and not-imagining means only that you are not knowing, seeing and imagining this stuff – not that it doesn’t exist. Certainly I keep learning all the time myself, as a relatively privileged person (white, English-speaking, middle-class, etc.). I’m not being sarcastic here, I really think this is a worthwhile endeavour.

        Anyway, if you listen the George Carlin clip that another commenter posted here, and read my response to it, that’s an example of how a rape joke can perpetuate the acceptability of rape – even when it’s being made by someone who seems (?) to be deliberately trying to make jokes that do not. Also, if you’d like to see the FetLife discussion thread that inspired this post, please find me there (SexGeek) and I’d be happy to link you to it so you can read it for yourself.

        “Obsessing over a single offensive word in every conversation is what psychotic people do.”

        I’m not sure what single offensive word you’re referring to. I certainly don’t have one in mind. What I do notice here, though, is that you are treading awfully close to that classic strategy that people use try to shut down people – especially feminists and members of marginalized groups – with whom they don’t agree, because these groups challenge their sense of privilege and that’s uncomfortable. “Obsessing,” “psychotic”… would you like to throw in some “hysterical,” “irrational,” “crazy”, “over-emotional” and “shrill” just to round out the picture? I can refer you to some basic feminist theory if you’re not sure what I’m getting at here. In the meantime, I thank you for your concern, but I assure you I am in excellent mental health.

        “Funny, you spent several comments saying that rape jokes DON’T make people commit rape. Now you’re taking the exact opposite stance. Which time were you telling the truth, or do you just change your standards of conversation depending on who you’re talking about?”

        Nice try, but at no point have I said that rape jokes make people commit rape. In my last response to you, I told you that because you seemed intent on humour’s usefulness as a way for people to relax about reality, “You can go ahead and help the rapists relax about reality, so they can feel more comfortable about raping people.” I’m not sure how that turned into you seeing a statement about a cause-and-effect link. I didn’t intend one and still don’t. But, as in my original post, I do maintain that rape jokes helps rapists feel that what they do is acceptable, normal, and what everyone else is doing too. You appear to like the idea of participating in that, or of other people participating in it, if anyone ever made rape jokes, which you think they don’t. Anyway, rest assured that until you put a gun to a guy’s head and physically force him, I won’t be blaming anyone’s commission of rape on you directly. You’ll just be kind of a supportive bystander. Doesn’t seem like an enviable position to me, but you seem rather attached to taking it, or at least defending those that do.

        “First of all, in that footnote you start off by claiming that everyone who doesn’t think like yourself is a “frothing idiot”, and then you go on to admit you have no sense of comedic timing.”

        Well, perhaps I spoke strongly about the frothing idiot thing. I suppose you could construe that as insulting to people with mental health issues, which was not my intent. My point, though, was to show that even a lot of people don’t self-identify as feminists still hold classically feminist beliefs – y’know, such as women should be allowed to vote, go to school, work, marry or not as they choose, and so forth – and that this includes most men in SM communities. And then I wrote that by most accounts I’m pretty funny, so I’m not sure how you got the idea that I’ve admitted I have no sense of comedic timing from that.

        “Having a sense of humour means not taking everything so seriously. It means, among other things, that you really DO need to lighten up a little. Not everything is about you.”

        At what point did you read me saying everything – or for that matter, anything – is about me? My post is about how rape jokes are bad. I used very little personal experience in here at all, except to say that I’ve heard such jokes, and some stuff in the footnotes about where I’m coming from.

        In your earlier comments, you were doing some decent arguing, but now it seems you’re descending into personal attack and deliberate misreading or invention. I’ll likely block you if that continues, but if you want to bring this back up to level, by all means let’s keep going.

  18. Your point 3 probably has a lot of merit, but you’re quoting anecdotal evidence with a suspiciously vague statistic of unknown origin to support your hypothesis. Social psychologists find that highly intuitive hypotheses often fail to have empirical support when put to the test. In the case of your hypothesis… you can’t ethically conduct experiments. That leaves you with the option of doing longitudinal correlation studies. However, these do not make strong cases for causality but merely for covariation, as they fail to rule out a host of confounds. This has been a major problem in attempting to do studies that support the hypothesis that exposure to violent TV in childhood leads to violent behavior in adulthood. We can’t randomly assign children to levels of violent TV watching; therefore, they might self-select into the low or high consumption condition due to a genetic predisposition that only manifests itself in actual violence later. That is, the “bad” ones might select to train themselves. We do find significant correlations in such studies, but what do they tell us of causality? Nothing.

    The article is great, but the notion that rape jokes encourage or even “cause” rape is so important and powerful a hypothesis that it deserves to be tested (even though, again, it can’t be tested with experiments). Loosely-supported opinions might actually undermine the hypothesis…because they then have no more heft than the argument that, while jokes desensitize, desensitization hasn’t been convincingly shown to lead to behavior. Behavior based on attitudes, many scholars believe, actually involves intention to perform the behavior, internal locus of control and a plan to act on the intention. I’m not even sure that rape jokes DO affect the underlying attitudes, but this IS somewhat testable in an experiment (though we’d have to be clever so as not to be accused of priming or creating demand characteristics.)

    You might want to search the academic research lit for studies on the topic. I have to think someone has examined it. If there either is no research or the research is unsatisfying, you have a very interesting research proposal.

    However, without some support, you’re just offering an opinion… albeit an interesting and highly intuitive one.

    • Actually in point 3 I’m quoting (and linking to) a blog post that links to two studies about how rapists think, which is where the statistic comes from. If you’d like a couple more on the topic of how rapists think and what they believe, this post cites good chunks from two recent ones: http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/meet-the-predators/

      I’m not arguing for a causality link at all, and at no point in my post do I say anything to that effect. I do not believe that rape jokes cause rape, and I think it would be absurd to argue that. I am, however, arguing that rape jokes and the banalization of rape create and sustain a culture in which rape is seen as acceptable, rapists like the ones mentioned in the four studies in question – who already think everyone does what they do and that it’s perfectly cool to do so – are, however unintentionally, given space and encouragement to do their thing, and rape survivors are faced with cultural barriers to seeing justice done, particularly in the context of M/f pansexual kink communities.

  19. Just curious on your thoughts regarding George Carlin: http://vimeo.com/21885214

    • Meh. He treads in some grey zones, but I’m still not impressed. Some of what he says I might argue makes rapists the butt of the joke, or points up the ridiculousness of blaming the victim; these elements don’t support a culture in which rape is acceptable, and in fact skewer that very notion, so don’t really fall into the type of rape-culture-supporting jokes I’m talking about in my post.

      On the other hand, some of what he says still supports that culture, such as his idea that rapists rape because they’re not getting laid enough at home – subtext: if wives were putting out the way they should be, the poor guys wouldn’t have to rape! – or because they are lacking sufficient choice in women to have sex with – which is why he jokes that more rape happens in the Arctic than at the equator. Unfunny.

      Also, some of the jokes he makes, even the ones that seem to come out against rape itself, still play on other unfunny ideas, like the one where he tells a rapist he should be more selective than raping an 81-year-old woman. That’s only funny if you assume older people are universally unattractive, which doesn’t tickle my funnybone, but more germane to this topic, it also only works if you assume that rapists rape because of sexual attraction in the first place, rather than as a power trip (not to mention if you think the idea of a rapist dropping his elderly rape target and going for a younger, cuter one is funny, which I don’t).

      So in short, he makes a few gestures in the direction of using humour to oppose rape in what seems like an attempt to prove that you can joke about rape and that it can be really funny despite what “people say”, but he messes up his own project enough on so many counts that it fails as proof of that point in my book. Perhaps someone who’s a lot more aware of the politics involved could take up his project and do a sharper job of it – he at least shows that it *might* be possible. I’d be intrigued to see such a thing if ever it were to be done. I nominate Margaret Cho…

      • “I nominate Margaret Cho…”

        Seriously? Margaret “It’s so sad that white people are all the same” Cho? How about someone funny instead?

  20. [...] post there, but along those same lines, I’ve been folllowing the comments on a post by The Sex Geek.  Entitled “why rape jokes aren’t funny even if you’re kinky,” it’s [...]

  21. The heterosexual BDSM community poses many problems for egalitarian liberals and feminists. When the layers of over-socialization are peeled away it seems that men want to be sexuall assertive and females are deferential. Regression to these heteronormative gender roles invalidate their belief system. Unfortuntately, because the heterosexual BDSM community engages in acts that would be considered abnormal by the population at large. Henceforth they have instant authenticity as an oppressed group. Thus, the doms cannot be labeled as monsterous, emotional and physical anguish currency traders they are or subs as the broken, masochistic catharsis chasers that they are.

    The rapist label serves the purpose to infiltrate and neuter male aggression in an specialized spectrum where society’s norms are supposedly suspended. Rape jokes are what pick up artistis would call “escalation”. When a women is attracted to you, a successful strategy is to talk about sex acts in an increasingly graphic fashion as the conversation progresses. Women have wider window of sexual arousal and merely talking about sex, even something as tangential as bestiality, will send blood flow to their vagina. This has been postulated as a defense mechanism against unwanted sex. Any woman who struts into a scene looking for sex is going to need it laid on thick. Being thrown up against some back alley brick wall and ravished isn’t enough for them; they need to be immobilized, beaten, and used as a cum dumpster.

    Two more related observations:

    1. Dominant men so abhor males subbing for females because it does not pass the sniff test. Being controlled by someone who you could easily overpower and outwit shatters the illusion. While you could consider the male-female bdsm dynamic the normalcy taken to illogical extremes, the female top – male sub is an abomination to the natural order. The constant reinforcement of their world view by female subs outnumbering male subs cements this opinion.

    2. Feminists take their interpretations to a higher level of insanity by stating that being on the receiving end of penetration is not submissive, even when bound and gagged. They are so steeped in the indoctrination of their youth that they cannot conceptualize the incompatibility of their beliefs and the biomechanical realities of the human sex drive. Much in the same fashion that liberals will deny that race has anything to do with intelligence, they will go out of their way to highlight exceptions to the rule and will pull the old canard that scientists do not understand female sexuality.

    • At first, upon reading this, I laughed uproariously. Then I realized you weren’t being sarcastic, because you got way too garbled and bizarre. And then I realized that you are representative of people in the world who *actually think* things like “race has anything to do with intelligence.” And I weep for humanity. And that is all the response with which I will dignify this comment.

  22. “I suppose it is possible I could have done all that and still hated the men and other non-female-identified people I’ve been with, but that would be an awfully significant waste of time.”

    I take your point here, but I think this is a bit of a spurious argument — there are certainly plenty of misogynists who date and fuck women, racism displayed by the white partners of people of color, abusive partners of trans folks who use transphobia as a central strategy, etc. I suspect neither of us would be impressed with the argument “But I have a girlfriend/sister, I can’t be a rapist.” Nevertheless, certainly true for you.

    And I love your suggestion that some men are more incensed by dykes finding them irrelevant, and that they’re equating that to hatred. I think that’s dead on. Oh, priveleged people, not understanding the difference between being oppressed and not being the center of attention.

    As for the rest of the point — thank you.

    • Darnit. As soon as this went viral, I *knew* some smart person was gonna call me on this one. ;) Yes, you’re quite right, lots of misogynists fuck women and so forth. Right on all counts. I think what I was trying to do is get around the lesbianism argument, which is so often tied into the man-hating argument, by shooting ‘em both with the same gun, but I could have done a better job on both counts. Thank you for pointing this out so concisely and clearly.

      So, for the record: I don’t think I escape accusations of man-hating because I fuck men. I think I escape accusations of man-hating because I don’t hate men. :) And also, I am not a lesbian, but I am a dyke, and I do fuck women. And, independently of that (?), I am a feminist. And none of this properly accounts for the place of trans and genderqueer people both in my politics and in my life, and they are central to both, and I’m genderqueer myself. *And* hatred of any kind is generally a bad activist strategy in my books. I wish there were a more concise way to say all that but perhaps it bears laying out with attention to the differences between all those statements, even if I experience them viscerally to come as a package deal.

  23. David Cross makes hilarious rape jokes… but they’re funny precisely because they attack the absurdity of institutionally-sanctioned rape within the Catholic church.

    Tell me what you think:

    I really want to hear your feedback on this clip. Looking forward.

    Example:

    “So, [priests] are God’s representatives. So that’s… you know… I mean… so they sh’… that means… you know… that… God fucks little boys. I mean, if you have a thousand or so priests that we know of… just the ones we know about… on record as fucking little boys… and they’re God’s representatives… then that means that God’s a fuckin’ boyfucker. And he has a big ol’ dick, lemme tell ya. God has a big fuckin’ cock.”

    Some humor calls attention to everything that’s wrong with rape, rapists and the justifications used around rape.

    • Nice. :) You have definitely found an example of a rape joke – a whole bunch of them actually – that makes the rapist the butt of the joke in a way that’s super-sharp. I haven’t seen any of those til now so I really appreciate you posting it!

      This clip doesn’t fall into the kind of jokes I am talking about in my post, which make the rape victim the butt of the joke or perform a sort of wink-wink, nudge-nudge operation by which the laugh only works if you believe, or let pass for the purpose of the laugh, that rape is okay (such as the awful “it’s not rape, it’s surprise sex!” t-shirts that caused such a furor a while ago). So I’m tempted to say it doesn’t perpetuate rape culture. I feel a bit hesitant to do so, but let me think my way into it for a sec…

      From that position I’d argue that rape culture as it’s usually discussed is constructed around the assumption of a victim who’s female, so this clip doesn’t count because it’s about male victims. But then I’m not sure that’s even accurate to say – rape culture *isn’t* only about female victims. We hear plenty of jokes about male rape victims in prisons, for instance, or the rape of a man constructed as a way to punish him or see him get his due – and while male victims may be less common than female ones, they do exist, and jokes about them still support a culture in which rape is seen as a permissible thing to do (even if it is something done to a “bad guy”).

      So my next tack would be to say that because this clip makes the rapists the butt of the joke, it doesn’t support rape culture. And unlike the George Carlin clip also posted in this comment thread, Cross doesn’t slip up in his project – he lays it on really thick and really consistently, so there’s no question about his aim, nothing ambiguous about his position. I think you’d have to be reeeally dense to think he meant anything else by what he says. But then, precisely because some people are really dense, and 1 in 20 men admit to being rapists when asked and are already likely to believe that the general culture thinks this is okay, I have to wonder if there might be some guy out there who’d find support for his raping in this kind of comedy despite how obvious it seems to me that it aims to say otherwise. Taken out of context, though, or with tone ignored, it’s not impossible. And certainly plenty of pedophiles *do* blame their victims or justify their actions, saying the kid wanted it, or that it was all consensual, or they really love the kid, or whatever, much as Cross jokes about here. Cross is saying this stuff in a way that your average non-pedophile totally gets that he’s pointing out the appalling-ness of it – but for some it actually sounds reasonable. Is that enough to condemn the clip? I don’t think so, but I feel it needs to be at least noted.

      And while I haven’t been focusing too much on the whole question of triggering or re-traumatizing rape survivors, I can’t help but think: would this still hit way too close to home for a survivor? I’m not one, never mind not being a male Catholic survivor of childhood sexual assault, so I wouldn’t presume to say. But I have to wonder whether this kind of joking, regardless of its politically sharp and IMO very justifiable project, might still be damaging to some. I mean, we are laughing at jokes that show up rape-committing priests as being the despicable people they are, and that show the Catholic Church as enabling and excusing rape, and it’s awfully hard to disagree with those aims. But is this the right tool for accomplishing them? And is rape really funny when we’re skewering bad guys with the jokes, or are we still laughing about, and in so doing, perhaps perpetuating, people’s misery?

      So I guess I’d say the Cross clip passes my personal test, at least in terms of first reactions, but I’m not comfortable saying unilaterally that it’s politically okay.

      This is complex stuff… thanks for bringing it up.

      • I do remember seeing someone argue that Chris Rock’s famous stand-up about the n-word demonstrated that it actually was cool for white people to use the n-word as an insult because black people did too. Rather than, you know, being a really pointed assault on internalised racism and how it played into the dominant group’s divide-and-rule tactics, which is how I’d understand it. So I would *never* under-estimate people’s ability to find support for their own agenda in satire…

        Great post. Amazed by some of your, uh, more parodic comments (is Some Guy for real? And Ed? Wow.)

    • P.S. One of my partners made an interesting point tonight that I should add here. He mentioned that we also can’t forget that this is about male pedophiles molesting male children. These guys are an easy target for many reasons – one, because they’re pedophiles, and everyone hates pedophiles. And two, because these priests are engaging in male-on-male sexual activity, which means some people will read them as gay, and lots of people hate gay people, and/or think all gay people *are* pedophiles. So while the comic himself doesn’t play on the homophobia aspect of this directly, I can’t help but wonder if that’s part of what makes his jokes funny to some people, and that possibility is not a happy-making one. It might be a greater challenge for him to joke about your standard-issue male rapist whose targets are adult women – then he wouldn’t have the easy, universal target of pedophiles to buttress his jokes along with the perhaps more insidious help of an audience’s homophobia.

  24. [Sorry that that clip repeats. It's the only one I could find from that album. I do think it's totally hilarious dark irony. A little abusive toward the Catholic church... but it's a reasonable target, given all the resources it has historically expended shielding rapist priests from being prosecuted like everyone else.]

  25. The commenters who want to argue that rape jokes are funny are pretty interesting. I keep wondering what they think’s going to happen – do they think they’re going to find just the right small flaw in the argument and Sex Geek will suddenly cave and say, “O, gosh, sorry guys, you’re right – rape jokes ARE funny, thanks for straightening me out!”

    Good grief.

    The fact that youall seem to think everyone should concede to your opinion, see things your way, bothers me. It begins to feel almost assaultive. It sounds like you think you know how i should feel or what I should think better than I do. That’s a huge red flag to me, in terms of the kind of person you are.

    @Ed, you clearly don’t belong to the same BDSM community that I do. At least I hope you don’t, because your understanding of dominance and submission bears little resemblance to mine, and frankly, it scares me.

    You are, of course, all completely entitled to your opinions. And maybe it’s good that you’re expressing it here. After all, like Sex Geek said:

    “Maybe you actually are that guy. You sure do exhibit all the signs. Really you’re kinda advertising it, wouldn’t you say? This, right here, is about the only reason I can think of why you might want to continue making rape jokes, or laughing at them—at least now your targets can see you. So if you are that one in twenty, please, make all the rape jokes you want.”

  26. Ed, your writing is so bad that it’s difficult to make heads or tails of what you say, and you appear to make some radical claims about human nature without reference to any support. I’d fisk the whole of your last comment, but it’s so poorly written that I can’t tell what’s an empirical claim, what’s a normative statement, and what if anything is sarcasm.

    Instead of taking on the lot of it, I’ll address just one phrase: “When the layers of over-socialization are peeled away …” To the best of my ability to interpret what you’ve written, you’re assuming that something you call the “heterosexual BDSM community” peels away layers of over-socialization. I do not know where this place is. Certainly, there is no BDSM community, het, pan, queer or otherwise, that effectively peels away decades of socialization. People come to BDSM communities speaking language, no? And eating with utentils common to their cultures of origin? What, if any, socialization is peeled away within any particular BDSM community isn’t something you’ve demonstrated, or even attempted to demonstrate. Every conclusion you rely on this premise for is invalid unless you can show evidence to support your premise.

  27. Great post,I enjoyed the way you laid out your thought process.

    Many of your commenter’s seem to be struggling to imagine what the rape jokes your talking about might be. I keep being remind of a guy I was playing a board game with, who when I was winning, (by a significant margin) against him and my wife he would say ‘your totally raping us.’

    I agree with you. It’s not funny, it didn’t make him look edgy or cool, and it certainly didn’t inspire any feelings to trust or camaraderie in me, or my wife.

  28. “The commenters who want to argue that rape jokes are funny are pretty interesting. I keep wondering what they think’s going to happen – do they think they’re going to find just the right small flaw in the argument and Sex Geek will suddenly cave and say, “O, gosh, sorry guys, you’re right – rape jokes ARE funny, thanks for straightening me out!”

    Believe me, nobody here is under the impression that she’s open-minded enough to change her opinion about anything, despite the fact that her entire premise has been established as flawed from the beginning.

    “The fact that youall seem to think everyone should concede to your opinion, see things your way, bothers me.”

    And yet, we’re all supposed to concede to HER opinion and see things HER way, and somehow that’s “fair” because you share her opinion. So what you’re saying is, facts be damned, you’re right and everyone else is wrong. Do you see the flaw in your thinking?

    “You are, of course, all completely entitled to your opinions. And maybe it’s good that you’re expressing it here. After all, like Sex Geek said: (paraphrased: Either agree with me or you’re a rapist)”

    You don’t get to simply proclaim everyone who disagrees with you to be a rapist. Nobody here is making the argument that rape is funny, and so far all the examples I’ve seen given aren’t “rape jokes”, they’re just thinly veiled threats of rape.

    NOT THE SAME THING.

    Just so we’re clear, *jokes* are funny. Threats are not. This particular blog is 100% flawed from the beginning, because she’s screeching frantically about something she CALLS “rape jokes” which aren’t jokes at all. That’s like saying “I hate dogs because they’re always flying around the parking lot and pooping on my car.” Well, clearly I’m talking about something else, right?

    I’m still hard-pressed to come up with anything I could concretely identify as a “rape joke”, and as a self-described “funny motherfucker” I know an awful lot of off-color jokes. I know a *couple* jokes that hint at not-entirely-consensual sex, but there’s nothing about them that actually legitimizes rape or attempts to make it acceptable.

    If you can come up with some actual examples of this vast tsunami of “rape jokes” that’s supposedly such an overwhelming blight on the kink community, go ahead and post them and we’ll discuss it.

    If you CAN’T come up with any examples, what’s everyone whining about?

    • Gaslighting:

      http://thecurrentconscience.com/blog/2011/09/12/a-message-to-women-from-a-man-you-are-not-“crazy”/

      Here’s an example:

      “If you can come up with some actual examples of this vast tsunami of “rape jokes” that’s supposedly such an overwhelming blight on the kink community, go ahead and post them and we’ll discuss it.

      If you CAN’T come up with any examples, what’s everyone whining about?”

      aisha

    • “Nobody here is making the argument that rape is funny, and so far all the examples I’ve seen given aren’t “rape jokes”, they’re just thinly veiled threats of rape. NOT THE SAME THING.”

      I think you have (somewhat) hit the nail on the head here, though I don’t think it was on purpose.

      It seems you are operating with a really narrow definition of a joke. You haven’t said exactly what that definition is, exactly, but from your comment above I’m guessing you’re going with only the part of this Merriam-Webster definition that’s between stars:

      “1 a: Something said or done to provoke laughter; esp: **a brief oral narrative with a climactic humorous twist** b (1): the humorous or ridiculous element in something (2): an instance of jesting: KIDDING (…).”

      For starters, I’d say that I consider the whole definition in this post, not just the starred part – though in my lifetime, I’ve certainly seen and heard plenty of rape jokes that fit only the narrow definition. But more importantly, the people who make these “jokes” in the first place often take the broader one themselves. Predictably, a thinly veiled threat of rape, or a thinly veiled apology for rape, will often get called out by someone for being not cool. And often, when that happens, the “joking” person’s response is, “I was only kidding / lighten up / it was just a joke / why are you taking this so seriously?” and so on, and so forth. In the pansexual BDSM community we see the extra added bonus strategy of “we’re just talking about fantasy, so we’re allowed!” in combination with the rest, even when the threat or nastiness is very clear.

      “she’s screeching frantically”
      “If you CAN’T come up with any examples, what’s everyone whining about?”

      And now you have once again fallen into classic strategies of dismissal – “screeching frantically,” “whining” – wow. And now it’s not just aimed at me, but “everyone.” Really your argumentation doesn’t benefit from stooping to this approach. You seem intelligent enough to do better.

      “If you can come up with some actual examples of this vast tsunami of “rape jokes” that’s supposedly such an overwhelming blight on the kink community, go ahead and post them and we’ll discuss it.”

      I haven’t said anything about a vast tsunami or an overwhelming blight, so this is once again a deliberate misread or exaggeration. In fact I don’t think the use of rape jokes is either vast or overwhelming. I just think it’s shitty when it happens, and it does happen, whether you are seeing it or not (though again I would be happy to refer you to a specific FL thread which is just one such example). Frequency is not the issue I’m discussing here – though it may well be a problem in some settings or sub-communities. The fact that it happens at all, that this is bad, and that it plays out in specific ways given the particular power dynamics of the pansexual BDSM community in which it sometimes does happen, are what I posted about.

      While I can see you’d much rather change the topic to debate the merits of specific jokes, the point of my post is not to make a list of rape jokes and discuss their relative degrees of offensiveness. While close reading can be fun, and politically useful, my aim here is to talk about a general practice, not about specific instances. If we were to do your project instead, I suspect that with a given set of examples, you’d probably say, for the most part, that they’re either not jokes at all because they’re not funny; or that nobody should be upset about them because they *are* funny and therefore are not meant to be taken seriously and we should all just relax; or maybe that unless they’re coming in tsunami-like quantity, the whole thing is of no consequence anyway. As far as I can tell you are choosing not to see the existence of the problem, by turns due to (what I suspect is) genuine, though not uncorrectable, ignorance; by selectively defining it out of existence; or by deciding it’s no big deal and everyone needs to chill out. I’m not clear on why you are so invested in this whole approach, but I am in a way thankful that you turned up – it certainly has provided interesting opportunities to hone my end of the argument.

  29. Gee, seeing all those obtuse comments from… guys [feigned surprise], I wonder yet again if the best way to stimulate their grossly underdeveloped empathy would be for all «Others» like ourselves to build a coalition, turn around and start ridiculing white cisgender heterosexual able-bodied non fat males.

    Mmm, but that’s pretty long title with no funny inside. How come have we never laughed at them before? How come don’t we have words to name them like they do for every other group?! What should we call them folks? Any suggestion?

    Oh, and there’s so much fun we could poke at them. Like how they’re all persuaded they’re objective as soon as they utter «From an objective viewpoint», «I’m being objective here», «Objectively», «I’m taking it rationaly here». You know, it’s obvious. They’re just rational by virtue of claiming to be so. What a fine mantra! I’m sure it’s part of the universal mannish objectivity religion.

    There’s also how the world is just like the way they describe it to be. Heterosexism doesn’t exist, sexism doesn’t exist, cissexism doesn’t exist, racism doesn’t exist, fatphobia doesn’t exist, ablism doesn’t because, you know, ’cause they’ve never seen it happen. Except maybe by those crazy folks with pointy hats or by these strangers who come from barbaric countries. But we shouldn’t be too harsh on them, though. They are so mesmerized by the powerful attraction of their own belly button or invested in making jokes about queer, women, trans, racialized, fat, disabled people that they can’t help but fail to notice anything happening.

    And that one. How they are whining all the time about being targeted by all us Others. Women, queers, trans, disabled, racialized people make them feel sooooo bad because they can’t laugh at us anymore poor things.

    Really. I’m usually a very peaceful person, but sometimes. Just sometimes. I wonder if it could be the only way they’d finally *get it*.

    And the sad part is, I wouldn’t even have fun doing it. I’d much prefer they’d open their hearts and minds from the outset.

  30. I’ve always wondered why those with so much privilege seem to react as if personally affronted when someone tells them their behavior may be offensive. I don’t think it’s generally because of a lack of empathy. I’ve heard these arguments repeatedly from folks who are otherwise fairly well socially adjusted. My working hypothesis is that growing up with such vast amounts of privilege socializes one to think they’re infallible, and any arguments to the contrary threaten to lower their social status.

    As a tall, white, upper-middle class, cisgendered, heterosexual (‘normal’ looking) male who grew up in an affluent suburb (high school students driving BMWs were not uncommon, while I ‘only’ had a 10-year-old Honda), I’ve become acutely aware, and very wary of, displays and even what I would call battles over social status. I fled that world as soon as I reasonably could, but I still think I have a strong sense for recognizing someone making a ‘play’ for their status.

    These arguments that ‘rape jokes aren’t bad’ have extraordinarily similar feeling of tone, progression, and overall flavor as many petty, inconsequential arguments I’ve seen (and, sadly, participated in) that were solely for the sake of social status. I grew up immersed in ‘oneupsmanship’ and it’s taken me many years and plenty of reading and discussion to (mostly) overcome those tendencies. I can definitely imagine the disdain and offense I would have felt, had I not rejected that culture, upon being told that something I had long internalized as harmless and acceptable was, in actuality, offensive and even perpetuated something as terrible as rape.

    The passion and conviction with which you, SexGeek, are being argued against almost certainly comes from a feeling of being personally affronted or challenged. These aren’t the arguments made of something banal, but about which people still have strong opinions. I really think that a feeling of social status being threatened because they’ve been wrong all these years is the cause. I can think of few other reasons for blatantly rejecting the argument of ‘other people think you’re a huge asshole if you do this.’ (I’m pretty sure most people making rape jokes aren’t doing it to troll.)

    • Thanks for that insight, Ben. Certainly helps give some perspective on what’s going on here, but it’s also applicable for me in the instances where my own defensiveness comes up about the places where I have privilege. Much appreciated.

  31. Hey there,
    I really enjoyed this piece and its thoroughness. Thanks for putting the effort into producing it.

    Also, holy shit to the amount of mansplaining happening in the comments. I don’t think any mansplaining stone was left unturned by those dudes.

    With regard to your point about rape jokes vs. murder jokes, I would add that murder as a concept is (and historically has been) taken very seriously by individuals, institutions, and communities. Whereas getting rape and sexual assault to be taken seriously in society has been a long and bloody struggle and we’re still not there yet, despite the persistent and concerted efforts of conservatives to have us believe the contrary. To name one example: we’re still waiting on the 20th anniversary of a wife being able to charge her husband with rape in Canada (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/article764381.ece). To name another: the prison rape (“don’t drop the soap”) jokes that seem to be in every show/movie these days (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zf7z2YcSXPo)

    It’s okay to question the intention behind and impact of a joke that trivializes or condones a phenomenon that, on the one hand, is incredibly widespread and pernicious and, on the other hand, has a long history of being trivialized, ignored, denied and condoned by men, police, judges, religious bodies, doctors, governments, families, companies, prisons, industries, the military, schools, the media and society at large. Not only is it okay, it happens to not be a fucking example of false causality.

    One small quibble with this paragraph from the footnotes:
    “Certainly I’ve had plenty of non-consensual touch inflicted upon me, including in kink spaces. But nobody’s ever managed to get it any further than a single unwelcome move. Whether because my big bad scary dominance has given them pause, or my strategic escapes have left them in the dust, or my physical self-defense has been enough to show them there be dragons there (or just really sharp fingernails), or I’ve just been plain lucky, I don’t know, but suffice it to say I have no directly personal triggers in relation to the topic of rape.”

    I wonder if it’s necessary to include a list of hypotheticals to explain having avoided rape that center on projecting power, strength and dominance. I felt like that runs the risk of unintentionally reinforcing some of those misconceptions around dominance and submission and sexual assault, i.e., that if one is dominant, strategic and dragon-y enough one can somehow avoid rape. Am I off-base with this?

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment! And the helpful links. I totally didn’t realize the marital rape law was still so recent. That is mind-boggling.

      I take your point on my bit about how I discuss my own rape avoidance. There’s always this little battle in my head that comes up around this, and in many contexts, rape avoidance being just one. I think it’s important to claim and talk about the ways in which we self-empower as a form of resistance against any kind of oppression, and that we acknowledge the ways in which that work does make concrete differences in our experience of life. But the flip side of any empowerment narrative is one of blame – as in, if you *didn’t* self-empower in whatever way, then clearly whatever happens to you is your fault – or of superiority – as in, I’m better than you because I succeeded at self-empowerment and you’re still mired in misery – or of unacknowledged privilege – as in, I am convinced that I’ve done this great job at something but really it was greatly aided by all the privilege I hold (in the case of rape avoidance, that would include things like my relative able-bodiedness, for instance).

      I’m not always sure how to discuss the empowerment strategies that have worked for me without leaving space for it to be read as all those problematic things, but I’m also not willing to be silent about my own lifetime of work on this stuff, and that of countless others, and about the very real results. So I can say, for instance, that my deliberate work to teach myself to walk with confidence and purpose when I was young has affected the way people deal with me on the street; that the exploration of dominance that I’ve done within my journey in kink has absolutely helped me learn how to take up space, stare people down, loudly tell someone to leave me alone, and so forth – all skills that have helped me avoid assault, and that I certainly wasn’t taught by society at large. Even my experience hitting people in the context of SM play, and learning how *not* to hurt someone in a bad way, has taught me how to be comfortable with my own use of force when necessary in other contexts, and how to hurt someone in a way that makes them physically let me go.

      I don’t think you have to be a dominant to learn or do any of these things, or that you have to be any kind of kinky for that matter, but they’ve certainly been skills that I’ve acquired in tandem with or directly because of my kink, and they certainly have had really concrete impacts on my ability to escape when people have attempted assault. So I am happy to have them. I want everyone to have these skills and abilities, or comparable ones, and to put them to use as needed for their own and others’ protection.

      And none of that changes the fact that if it weren’t for the fact that rapists and other sexual predators exist, I – we, anyone – wouldn’t be at risk at all. If my skills are one day unsuccessful at preventing a rape, that won’t make the rape my fault. If someone doesn’t have these skills or abilities in the first place, rape is not their fault. If someone’s drunk, if someone goes home with a date for sex and then changes their mind, if, if, if – still getting raped is not their fault. All blame and responsibility still lies with the rapist, no matter what your self-defense arsenal looks like.

      So I don’t think you’re off base, no. I just need to keep thinking of ways to express this stuff in balanced ways that send the right message.

    • P.S. It’s also worth mentioning that one of the elements of privilege I hold in this regard is that I identify as a dominant, and that in the world of kink, that means people (sometimes) treat me with more deference or respect than they would if I identified as submissive. Submissives who behave in exactly the same way I do when approached with disrespect have to contend with the dismissal element, i.e. “well, you must not really be submissive then!” So self-defense on a submissive’s part is discouraged because self-defending means possibly being perceived by your community as being less desirable in your preferred kink role, or having your identity questioned or challenged. It’s not that far off from the accusation of “mannishness” or being “not a real woman” if you stand up for yourself in society at large (y’know, domineering and powerful, and therefore unattractive and/or a lesbian). As a dominant I’m expected and encouraged to behave in the ways I’ve described above – at least in some kink contexts. So in self-defending within the kink community, I face a lower risk than a submissive does, both of being perceived as available for the taking in the first place and of being cut down or questioned if I set a strong boundary.

      Nevertheless, the whole “you’re female and therefore you must be submissive” thing still gets thrown at me; and men still think they’re entitled to access to my body or my skills even *as* a dominant for the simple fact of being female – because clearly that means I must want to dominate or play with *them*! I’ve had this happen more times than I can count, so in no way am I trying to say that no female dominants have problems of this kind. Just wanted to acknowledge another relative privilege differential.

  32. Thank you for this very thoughtful article on “joking about rape”. I find that I have never found rape or jokes about rape to be very entertaining or funny.

    I would love to take the time to challenge a few of the detractors who have posted so prolifically, but it appears to me that they have already closed their minds on further discussion that doesn’t support their views.

    suffice it to say, Sexgeek, that I, and many other thinking men, agree and support your stance on rape jokes, or, perhaps more correctly, joking about rape.

  33. [...] article on her blog Sex Geek, Andrea Zanin reminds readers that rape jokes are never funny. Her post is particularly directed to the BDSM community where she has witnessed the use and defense of rape [...]

  34. It seems you’re getting a few knee-jerk responses here from people who haven’t read the post completely or comprehensively, which is disappointing.

    I like the article but think it would benefit from more clarity around what is meant by ‘rape jokes’, or a different term used, because I think a lot of people probably skimmed through looking for examples of ‘rape jokes’ (i.e. Knock knock, who’s there? etc), not understanding what was meant by the term. Perhaps ‘treating rape lightheartedly’ or ‘jesting about rape’ would have conveyed the point more clearly to a wider audience.

    I don’t disagree with anything you say, though. Especially the part where in the scene we oftentimes preach one set of rules and practice another. I know our local small community can cite many examples of etiquette infringements which can arguably be traced back to confusion about correct etiquette based on what the person has seen demonstrated by those supposedly in the know.

    We do need to get more conscious about what we treat with flippancy, and in front of whom, in my opinion.

  35. Not only are kinky people no more enlightened than others, but I’d wager that, as a group, their intelligence is below average, their neuroticism is higher than average, their agreeableness is below average and their honesty is lower than average. They also would probably show more PTSD, more mood disorders (with a particular tendency toward depression), higher levels of drug use and addiction, higher rate of criminal behavior, higher rate of STDs, shorter life expectancy, higher divorce rate and a range of poorer social and work outcomes than the population base rates. I would also bet that the primary source of trauma would be physical and sexual abuse. They should generally show problems with stimulant drugs… cocaine, speed, etc.

    I say this through the intuition. I haven’t reviewed the research. This stuff just stands to reason from a lot of other studies in social, personality and industrial-organizational psych research.

    I would, however, hypothesize that kinksters would be higher on the “openness to experience” personality factor. THAT is almost a given, but it would have to be tested.

    My point is this: Every group… every scene… wants to think that it includes the best people. Alcoholics Anonymous’ “Big Book” claims that AA members are of above average earning potential, for example, yet it appears that (in general) recovered alcoholics do not earn as much money as the population average (though probably more than when they were active, I’d imagine). This is even true of groups with nefarious aims (e.g., Nazis). To me… not only is there no reason to believe that kinksters are exceptional individuals, but there’s reason to suspect that they tend to be mentally ill misfits.

    In fact, I’d say that any scene where “rape play” is semi-acceptable when all parties are in agreement has a problem. Undoubtedly, a lot of the guys who are interested in “rape play” are the same people who would really like to rape, have raped or will rape. No, rape is not a joke. It isn’t “play”, in my opinion, either. Generally, women who want to do rape play HAVE been raped and are doing some kind of unprofessional psychodrama to deal with it…. by taking back control. The problem is… doms are NOT psychologists or sex therapists. So, not only do I agree that rape jokes aren’t funny… but rape play isn’t sexy.

    What most kinksters lack is an ability to connect with another human being in a meaningful, mature sexual relationship. They’re frequently twisted up in their fetishes, which actually are useful in getting off by objectifying the other and keeping up a barrier of coldness. I’m not saying that kink is a bad thing, necessarily, but that one should be in touch with one’s demons… understand where they come from, how they effect one and other people, and when is the right time to bring them down from the shelf and when it is time to put them away.

    • There is some research on mental health and personality among BDSM practitioners, and it doesn’t support any of the hypotheses you have pointed out here. The book “Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures” (Kleinplatz and Moser 2006, aka the Journal of Homosexuality vol. 50 nos. 2/3) collects quite a number of recent scholarly research articles on the topic, with clinical perspectives as well as sociological and other ones. And Trevor Jacques’ extensive research on self-identified BDSM practitioners (p. 22 here http://www.sexresearch.org/SSSS/PDFs/SSSS_AASECT_1999_B_Jacques.pdf) indicates that kinky folks sometimes do have an abuse history, but it’s statistically no different than the rest of the population (I detail this in point 9 here: http://sexgeek.wordpress.com/2008/12/20/taking-a-trip-down-memory-lane-with-anti-sm-feminism/). So while I’m definitely not advocating that kinky people are better than anyone else on pretty much any count, I also don’t think we’re worse.

      Unfortunately though, as Kleinplatz and Moser analyze in detail, there is a great deal of stigma attached to SM practitioners that pretty much looks like the set of “intuitive” hypotheses you listed here. In a sense I want to thank you for laying out so clearly precisely how that kind of bias tends to look. You’ve hit almost every point on the standard list, with points for creativity on the substance abuse front (if you’ve spent much time in SM communities you’ll know that drinking is generally a big no-go, let alone hard drugs, with the possible exception of some parts of the gay male leather scene). But really, according to all the available research, kinky folks are no more likely to be “mentally ill misfits” than anyone else.

      As for rape play – that is a completely different thing from rape jokes or joking about rape. The key idea here is the “when all parties are in agreement” part. The people on the butt end of rape jokes, much like on the receiving end of rape itself, aren’t consenting to what’s going on. In play, though, everything can be negotiated. Anecdotally I’d say there are way more people wanting to be on the “victim” end of rape play than there are people wanting to be on the “perpetrator” end, and most people who do play “perpetrator” have to do a lot of work to wrap their heads around what makes it okay – which is exactly as it should be.

      I certainly think SM play is worthy of analysis and critical thought; I don’t think anything we do should be entirely above question because we do it under the rubric of kink. And the idea of SM as unlicensed therapy is certainly problematic – though I also think that in our culture we often try to draw a hard and fast line between what should be dealt with in therapy and what shouldn’t, in a way that doesn’t reflect the complex realities of human relationships, let alone the fact that therapy itself was only invented in the last 200 years.

      But the problem here is that rather than engaging in meaningful and well-informed analysis, you are making a raft of assumptions about who’s doing rape play, why, how, and with what effect. Essentially you are singling out one particular taboo among the hundreds that are eroticized by consensual SM practitioners and saying that its existence means the entire scene has a problem. For you it’s rape play. For someone else it might be piss, or face-slapping, or blood play, or “slavery,” or uniforms or what have you. In the SM world we call a personal dislike of or discomfort with a certain type of play a “squick.” There’s nothing wrong with having a squick; we all have one or two. The problem arises when you use that as an excuse to make a lot of uninformed judgements about people’s motivations, desires, relational abilities and mental health, which is exactly what you’re doing here. So while I won’t deny you the right to feel as you wish about rape play, I definitely think you need to check your biases and do some research before you try to analyze what’s going on. While you throw in a token sentence about how kink is okay, you’re tacking it on the end of a whole set of biases that reflect exactly the kind of poorly informed thinking that creates widespread social discrimination against kink practitioners. Not cool.

  36. Do you recommend any psychological journals (i.e., NOT sociological journals, which would have no appreciation of the constructs of PTSD, neuroticism, etc.)? I don’t see anything in your writing that cites that research… unless I’m overlooking it. Sociological/anthropological research tends to be driven by social policy. It is inherently *less* scientific and less methodologically rigorous. I’m not trying to be picky here. Just one credible study from any *major* psychological journal (i.e., from any field… from social, to cognitive, to clinical, etc.) that supports your position would be great. I’m looking to find what the literature says on Web of Knowledge right now. I feel that you’re picking evidence which supports your desired position. I think the key is to do an exhaustive search for all studies… mainly focusing on those with a longitudinal design.

    • An exhaustive search for all studies on a given topic is a bit beyond the scope of the effort I’d normally put into a blog post. I’m afraid I do have to make a living and sleep. ;) And I certainly would challenge the broad assertion stating that psychological studies are more scientific or methodologically rigorous than sociological/anthropological ones! That is quite the blanket statement to put forth. More to the point, though, I have a hard time imagining what sort of psychological study might support my position that rape jokes aren’t cool. What, exactly, would such a study look for in terms of evidence? I suspect you are actually asking for studies in support of one of the smaller points I make to build my position, but you don’t say which one. In any case, my purpose here is not to provide an overview of recent research, it’s to make a political point. So unless I win the lottery and suddenly have oodles of free time on my hands, I’ll leave the bibliography-building for my PhD work. :)

  37. [...] so long ago I argued with a feminist blogger about this subject. Her view that rape jokes are always unacceptable [...]

  38. It’s not really that hard to do a good (if not exhaustive) search in a social sciences database. Look by keywords, order results by citations, look at those from top journals (as they’re better refereed). Sometimes, less cited articles (particularly if they’re new) are also worth checking out. So… you don’t have to do a meta-analysis to see what the results say, in general.

    I would say that if you think that sociological or anthropological studies are anywhere near as sophisticated as social, personality or industrial-organizational psychology studies, you haven’t been reading modern psych studies. [Perhaps you're thinking of clinical psych.] First, you generally don’t find the kind of advanced techniques (e.g., hierarchical linear modeling, structural equation modeling, etc.) in sociological journals that you would in… say… an I-O psych journal. Now… it’s not important to remember that just because you have more tools in your toolbox, it doesn’t make you the better scientist. The key is to have the tools that are important to establish construct, internal, external and statistical significance validity, right? But therein lies the problem. Sociologists and anthropologists tend not to do experiments (i.e., most of their work is observational), so they don’t match psych studies in internal validity. So, in other words, soc/anthro folks have a hard time establishing causality; most of what they’re looking at is correlational and often in longitudinal studies, but such studies are fraught with confound after confound. They’re mostly looking at relationships between variables. I-O psychologists struggle with this problem, too, to some degree. Social psychologists, though, for example, do not. Third, sociology and anthropology, as “social sciences” go, are more driven by social policy than other areas. That is: They have more attractive, politically-correct conclusions to support to start out than would… say… cognitive psych. Psychologists will often get highly unattractive findings and publish them. Often, they don’t replicate or are countered by other findings… but they get to see the light of day. That’s less true in soc and anthro… because paradigms are different in their orientation toward the meaning of information. The modern psychologist is taught to reject the notion of absolute “truth”, “fact”, “proven”, “already decided”, “case closed”, etc. S/he speaks of “theory that is well-supported by the evidence”, where the weight of the evidence is determined by a series of rigorously tested hypotheses. The sociologist or anthropologist has more of a tendency to speak forcefully about what is and isn’t so… leaving less room for dissent or dialog.

    More to my ORIGINAL point (and not the one you tried to link it to… i.e.,, the “rape jokes are/aren’t cool” debate)… the variables you’re talking about when you talk about sexual deviance in the kink community are *psychological* variables. I was using terms like “neuroticism”, “intelligence”, “agreeableness”, “honesty”, “PTSD”, “mood disorders”, etc. These are psychological constructs. Since they are abstract in nature, they whole way that they are defined and used depends on theory. Sociologists and anthropologists can’t provide those theories, because they don’t comf from their paradigm. They could and would look at some of my other variables (“higher levels of drug use and addiction, higher rate of criminal behavior, higher rate of STDs, shorter life expectancy, higher divorce rate and a range of poorer social and work outcomes” as correlates and “sexual abuse” as a cause). So, in other words, you lost sight of what I was saying. I was saying that your smaller point… that people in the BDSM community (for example) would naturally be assumed to be more enlightened about sex is probably a poor assumption. You note that, to an extent, in tossing out the “superior enlightenment” hypothesis. What I’m getting at is that neither you nor I have much idea whether people who like to be cuckolded, or electrostimulated, or infantilized, or have sex with non-humans, or to simply to be tied up (all forms of kinks, in varying degrees of exoticism) are any sexually freer-minded than the rest of us. This article does nothing to support or debunk that idea. It’s almost entirely anecdotal. And while I appreciate that this isn’t a scientific column, I think it’s a question that deserves far more investigation than what you’re offering. You’re making a “political point”, as you said. I understand that. But you’re making a political point that should be better informed by a scientific point.

    The scientific variable you’re talking about when you say “enlightened” is probably some mixture of “openness to experience” and experience, per se.

    My point… which is that kinksters are probably suffering (in general) from higher levels of mental illness… isn’t meant to say that any given *individual* is mentally ill because they like to be flogged or whatever you will. My point is that there *should* be more members of that community that can trace their unusual tastes back to trauma (for example) than among other communities. Now, I can’t back that assertion up with cited journal articles, but I’m going to do that research now and come back to you. If I believe that the weight of the evidence points your direction, I’ll let you know. If I find that it supports my hypothesis, I’ll also let you know. But when I hear someone make a series of political points that are nearly entirely opinion… with a couple of studies that they happened to read to back them up… I feel that they’re not deeply informed on the subject. And, I’m not saying that you’re not…. but I am saying that this piece doesn’t show whether you are. Just citing a few stats to make a point… when you’re not even clear on what a lot of your terms even mean to begin with… doesn’t show us much of anything.

    In response to one of my earlier posts… when I said that I don’t believe that you can establish that rape jokes *cause* rape… you said something like… ‘of course not… and I wasn’t trying to do that.’ But when you say that rape jokes directly support and encourage rapists… that is, in essence… what you’re doing. You’re saying that they have causal influence… by encouraging rapists. I don’t think your quote lends much weight to your point. You don’t even cite it. Where do you get the statistics from? You might have mentioned that roughly 15% of college men reported that they would rape a woman if they knew that they could get away with it… and, thus, their predispositions might lead them to rape if encouraged. [I'll have to look up that study, BTW; I taught it at one time, but I forget the researchers.] There are findings out there that are suggestive… but they don’t necessarily support the conclusions that you offer.

    Anyway, I’ll leave it there but I’m going to do my own study on this and, as I say, I’ll check in with what I find (at least on the mental illness point). You can publish it or not, at that point.

    • Three points here.

      1) You’re right – this is a political blog, not a scientific one. But you’re incorrect in saying I don’t cite my sources – every study I cite is linked to within the text at the appropriate point. Since you’re the second person to make this statement in the comments, I’m going to guess that the WordPress blog template I use, which indicates links in grey with the rest of the type in black, might simply not make it as easy to notice these links in the text as if they were in bright blue or something. But I assure you they’re there. Feel free to go back for a second look and click through if you are curious to read them. For the item you’re discussing here, I link to a blog post (quoted in my post), and I mention that this post in turn links to two studies (one done with college students, another done with members of the US Navy) which show that when researchers don’t actually use the word rape, but describe non-consensual sex in other terms, a distinct percentage of respondents will readily admit to repeatedly raping people. I quote, and agree with, the blogger’s interpretation of this data.

      2) I see a very real distinction between encouraging something and causing it. You, and a few other commenters here, seem bent on conflating the two, which I am not, and then telling me that’s what I’m doing. If this conflation is a position you wish to take, then by all means go for it, but that’s very much not my position, and I’m not going to re-explain the difference umpteen times; I have done this clearly already, and it really isn’t that complicated. I am sure you’re intelligent enough to see the nuance in what I’m saying, and you are choosing to instead oversimplify to suit your own argument. But this is nothing but a straw man technique, so not something I want to spend any more time addressing.

      3) For this question of mental illness among kinksters – which is *quite* the departure from the topic of my original post – you say that your point is “that there *should* be more members of that community that can trace their unusual tastes back to trauma (for example) than among other communities” – but the only justification you have provided for this “should” is a lot of very classic pathologizing in your earlier comment on this point, which is, knowingly or otherwise, based on some really outdated psychoanalytic views and simply echoes a lot of very uninformed social stereotyping, both of which reflect a very clunky cause-and-effect model of how people experience and express their sexuality that is based in a long history of the scientific study of “deviance.” In your more recent comment, you also talk about three very different ideas – degree of enlightenment among kinksters, likelihood of past/childhood trauma, and instance of mental illness – and it’s not clear whether you are trying to conflate these axes (which would be highly problematic) or, if not, why you are mentioning them all in the same breath. I can’t tell if what you’d like to do is prove that kinky people are more likely than average to have been traumatized as children, that they are more likely than average to be mentally ill, that there is a relationship of causality between childhood trauma and kink, that there is a relationship of causality between mental illness and kink, that kinky people are more (or less?) likely to be sexually open-minded and/or broadly sexually experienced, or anything else. There are paradigmatic flaws in almost all of these possibilities, and a host of potential methodological issues as well. Science is only as good as the terms and methods of any given study, and when it comes to studying human beings, especially if the approach taken has anything to do with “deviance,” the initial assumptions behind those terms and methods are necessarily political. I am far from being someone who buys into the “purity” of scientific data. I am still interested in any science that looks at kink/BDSM/etc. so if you do get around to this little pet project, I would certainly like to see what you come up with. I will just be looking critically at just about anything you find. Do feel free to post here if you come up with anything of interest.

  39. Have I mentioned to you how much I adore your tasty brain meats? :)

    Thank you for sharing your process with us.

    • Thanks Arnon. You are too kind.

  40. Nice post! Beautifully thought out and expressed.

    • Thanks Barbara. :)

  41. [...] good post I missed while hiding under a rock is Andrea’s Why Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny Even If You’re Kinky.  I love this post for its pairing of strong voice with analysis and its ability to make an [...]

    • Many thanks. :)

  42. not to be an ass or anything but the term ‘sexual assault’ is fairly big.

    sexual assault as defined by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network – unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling.

    now i’m not sure but doesn’t that mean if someone pinches your ass its counts sexual assault, and would thus be included in these figures

    • I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that this “national” network is US-specific (as most “national” anythings are when they don’t bother to mention which “nation” they’re talking about). According to that definition, sexual assault is everything other than rape. In Canada, though, which is where I’m grabbing my statistics from as I mentioned numerous times in my post, rape is included in the definition of sexual assault. http://www.sexassault.ca/criminalprocess.htm explains this relatively well.

      As to your question – I really don’t think the biggest problem with sexual assault, or the related statistics, is that we’re defining the term too broadly or that people are complaining egregiously about ass-pinching. Though frankly, the idea that you seem to expect non-consensual ass-pinching to seem small and silly to me is yet one more example of how our culture is so fucked up when it comes to the basic idea of consent. Anyway, if your project is to find a way to make the existing data appear to be spurious – when we already know it reflects vast under-reporting of sexual assault, including some of the most heinous kinds of bodily violation you can imagine – well, I think perhaps you need to try harder not to be an ass.

    • Wait – you think you get to touch my arse without my consent and that DOESN’T count as sexual assault? Seriously? Are you on a day trip from Mad Men?

  43. I don’t want to make the data redundant, but I can try

    To be accurate the time frame for the surveys need to be the same, or within a couple of months. at the moment there’s a 2-3 year gap, lots can change in that time.

    I agree with the fact that the sexual assault is under reported but that still doesn’t tell us what percentage is rape(the main argument of your post)

    As for the ass-pinching that was an example of how the nice data can get watered down(not limited to just ass-pinching). I don’t see a reason that an ass-pinching should be recorded as sexual assault, sure if after they do it you tell them not to and then they do it again by all means charge them.

    For the record I’m in Australia, I only used the RAINN definition because
    – I’m being lazy
    – It was the first definition from google
    – It served the purpose of pointing out the redundant data.

    • The main argument of my post is not that sexual assault is under-reported, nor that rape is a huge percentage of that under-reported number. The main argument of my post is that people who make rape jokes support a culture that treats rape as banal, funny, and de facto acceptable, and that these people should stop. I used some StatsCan data to discuss a secondary point, which is that people get raped way more often than people get murdered, and a tertiary point to that was that even with those figures StatsCan says 91% of sexual assault cases go unreported. If you, from there, are really super interested in trying to show that a good part of that 91% could actually be people complaining about people non-consensually pinching their asses, which to me sounds like a code for “complaining about things that aren’t really assault,” then you’ve utterly missed the real point of what I wrote.

  44. The BDSM scene has its problems & I can’t comment on the way that men treat women..I will say however that Dom’s are usually well educated & seek out training. The goal is to produce mutual pleasure & not to degrade the submissive. I know there is the role playing community (Masters/Slaves) and I have been involved in that as a sub. (not with women) but the whole thing is done within boundaries. There are some people out there who like the idea of BDSM that identify as part of the BDSM community that are just sadistic idiot’s with no thought to mutual pleasure! (I’ve met a few of them too) there is also a tendancy within BDSM porn to vocally abuse subs. This is because unless your involved in the act its really boring to watch. As with most sexual acts.. Unfortunately it comes back to real world vs porn & perception.
    I hope I’ve sort of made my point.. Please don’t judge us all.

    • Not sure where you’re reading judgement of any “all” in my post… it’s pretty specifically directed at people who make rape jokes both within and outside a kink setting. And in case it’s not clear from my post, or from the broader context of this blog, I’m writing this from within – as a BDSM practitioner and full-time pervert with over a decade of community organizing time clocked by this point – not as an outsider who thinks all BDSM is bad.

      In any case, I’m glad to hear that your experience in the scene seems to largely have been a good one. More power to you. I’d still caution you not to look at everything through rose-coloured glasses – you may simply not be noticing the less-than-cool stuff that’s going on in this regard because it’s not targeting you directly, especially as you seem to not be in spaces that include a lot of women (I’m guessing from your comment?); or you may be lucky enough to really have only met awesome people who don’t behave badly, ever. Either way, I assure you the scene is far from perfect, because it’s made up of human beings who are embedded in a wider culture that’s far from perfect.

      Onward and upward!

  45. Four things to consider:

    1. Freedom of expression. I’m Jewish. While I don’t agree with the content… while I find it offensive and threatening… I enthusiastically support neo-Nazis RIGHT to rally. Not only do I value freedom of expression from a legal perspective, but I also support it socially. I would prefer to see Nazis rallying than the thought police. I would rather hear what they’re thinking about and have them publicly identify themselves than have them working behind the scenes. Old-fashioned racism is a malignancy in our society, but modern racism (ie, the brand of bluenosed bigotry that holds that, while non-Caucasians are not genetically inferior but hold inferior beliefs and values) and aversive racism (ie, the kind of racism manifests by people who give equal treatment to minority subgroups when it is called for but avoid contact when possible and hold implicit racist attitudes) are truly fatal. They hide behind two different masks, and they fool the racist into believing s/he is not bigoted. Old-fashioned racists have to admit it. There’s no hiding. The more we suppress faulty thinking, even in the form of humor, the more it will hide and pop its scurvy head up elsewhere, like the social embodiment of Whack-a-mole. We need dialog, not diatribe. Read Foucault, if you haven’t, on the worthlessness of polemic. That is what I’m talking about. But, in an ironic twist, I also support the thought police’s freedom of expression. We need to know what they’re up to, too!

    2. You acknowledged that David Cross’ shtick on rape was good. Don’t trivialize it by saying it’s rare and incidental. People will joke. It’s human nature. Isn’t it about time that we encourage the good kind of humor, so that it begins to prevail in people’s minds… as a kind of intervention that makes people think? I like it when people think about sickness of rapist thinking and the devastation it brings into the lives of even the strongest survivors. If humor can provoke that kind of thought… joke away.

    3. Intellectualizing the suppression of crude rape-glorifying jokes will not make them go away. They’re not intelligent and, by and large, I suspect that most of those who crack them aren’t either. Are we out to convert the intellectual who jokes about rape? I’m not. They’re probably more inoculated against attitude change than others, because they think more about the justifications.

    4. I’m a rape survivor. I love a truly great rape joke that reveals rape and rapists for what they are.

    David Cross. Shut Up, You Fucking Baby. Buy it.

    [Note: This post was not written by David Cross or any of his friends.]

    • I hope that the point of first of the “four things to consider” was clear.

      The point wasn’t to address racism, bigotry, etc.

      This was the point:

      “The more we suppress faulty thinking, even in the form of humor, the more it will hide and pop its scurvy head up elsewhere, like the social embodiment of Whack-a-mole.”

      I passionately believe in, and encourage, free speech.

  46. [...] Sex Geek [...]

  47. [...] Also read: “Why Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny, Even If You’re Kinky.” [...]

  48. Just read through this, and the main thing I got was “rape jokes aren’t funny”, but no actual rape jokes.

    “No, wait! HERE’s a bunch of rape jokes!”
    “Oh those? They’re funny. I wasn’t talking about those. Rape jokes aren’t funny, you know.”

    *headdesk*

    Helps to define your terms. I’m still waiting to hear what “rape jokes” are supposed to sound like, when they’re not funny.

    • I raped someone…
      …joking :P

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