Rape Jokes Really Aren't Funny At All

For some unknown reason, rape jokes seem to be the new, hot thing. We were unkindly slapped with this reality earlier this week when Boston University’s Daily Free Press made light of sexual assault in its April Fools’ edition. Great call by that editor. Frankly, at a time when Belvedere Vodka is in trouble for using what appears to be a date rape portrayal in their ads and Barstool Sports is also quipping away, we need as many protests as we can get. After all, rape jokes make light of a violent crime, and unstable people (who could be potential rapists) might interpret that as permission.

So why are rape jokes so seemingly amusing and why are they so all over the place right now?

It has a lot to do with how society defines rape. Rape is stereotypically viewed as a heterosexual event in which a man takes a woman, who is not romantically involved with him, sexually, by force. Of course, this puts the misogynist in physical control — and I imagine those who make rape jokes get a kick out of that. It’s a way of forcing a heterosexist agenda. A way of saying, “Men own women, not the other way around.” After all, we’re in a society where it’s getting harder to be a macho misogynist. It seems that these sexists are less and less relevant today and their jokes are a way of deflecting the resulting fear of not being “top dog.”

The stats* suggest that about three in every 100 men have been rape victims in their lifetime, yet folks often believe that men can’t be raped. Some think erections are unlikely when you’re not in the mood, but actually, in a fear situation, they are quite common. And do men actually report rape? It’s harder to do because the very “macho rules” that apparently make rape jokes funny for some also make male rape hard to report. Besides, a victim can be raped in numerous ways (those in doubt should look up the new definition of rape by the U.S. department of Justice, this year). Which leads me to another truth that is often silenced:

Rape doesn’t have to be heterosexual.

For more info, just look up Massachusetts’ own Network La Red, who support victims of LGBTQ assault. In fact, while we’re on the subject, gay jokes are common today, too. Again, it’s the queer-phobic misogynists saying, “I’m not queer, I’m a heterosexual. Which puts me in societal control.” It’s a desperate, desperate attempt to cling to a sexist agenda.

Finally, rape can remain unidentified because it involves a partner trying something when their lover hasn’t given consent. How many folks, regardless of gender, would even call this rape? And why in the world wouldn’t they? Because the very stereotypes that rape jokes encourage cloud our ability to pinpoint the truth. In other words, rape jokes can actually dull our ability to identify rape. Dangerous material indeed.

So here’s my own plan: Whenever I hear a rape joke, I’m going to say, “Let’s turn that around. Is it funny if the woman is raping the man?”

And just for a second, before their witty retort, I’ll see how lost they are.

*The data in this post comes from Rainn.org