Feminism and rape jokes

Here is a key question, ‘Is joking about rape funny?’

No doubt for someone who has been raped it probably isn’t. Or in a more tautological sense someone who doesn’t think rape jokes are funny will not find them funny. This may seem obvious for even the densest reader; however it is something I have needed to clarify again and again to feminists and other activists. That something is this: Humor is subjective.

If there is something which these aforementioned feminists love to rant about, it’s about how awful rape jokes (and rape in general) are. By mentioning rape in anything other than a negative context you are supporting rape culture and sometimes even the patriarchy. Even many moderate feminists claim that rape jokes are never funny, ever, in any context, any place or any time. By joking about rape you have no positive regard to women, you are a misogynist. To the more radical feminists, rape jokes aren’t just a horrific psychological and physical act perpetuated by someone evil. No. Rape is the worst thing in the world.

Now, it may seem initially apparent that rape / rape jokes are not funny. However, many people will disagree. Comedians frequently use rape for shock value, and it is responded to positively by both men and women.[1] This is what not just feminists, but any activist who claims something isn’t funny doesn’t understand. Humor is not objective. Humor is subjective.

It’s important to clarify a point here. I do not necessary apply my criticisms to people who casually say: ‘Their music is shit’ or ‘Their work is crap’. I appreciate that these everyday conversations don’t actually try and invoke objectivity. This standard that intellectual honesty demands is one which applies to activist statements. That is, statements which are in clear defense of an ideology or tenet.

People have subjective humor. I’ve seen people laugh at the holocaust, I’ve seen people laugh at rape, and I’ve seen people laugh at the torture of terrorists. At assault, at death, at hunger and black people. Does this make it morally okay to commit genocide, rape or torture? Does it make it okay to assault black people or commit racist acts? No, of course not, but it is damn funny to some people and those people will laugh. Most people aren’t actually racist, but we will happily joke that when a house gets broken into that “It must have been a black guy.” Most people aren’t actually sexist, but we will happily throw out stereotypes of women drivers when we’re out with the lads. Most people aren’t actually homophobic, but homophobic statements are used in comedy. [2]

I’ve seen the more extreme feminists try and label rape jokes as not just sexist and misogynistic but racist and homophobic. What? How do you arrive at a hatred or fear of homosexuals from a rape joke? It’s nothing more than an attempt to shut down a debate before it’s even started: “You support rape jokes? You homophobic fuck!” Racism falls under the same shaky foundations. How does a rape joke suggest discrimination by race?

I find even when we examine whether rape jokes are sexist or not you have difficulty justifying it. Every one of my friends, male and female, who joke about rape do not hold any kind of view which discriminates based on sex. It is an injustice to intellectual integrity to say rape jokes are sexist. It’s pathetic. It’s a sad attempt to victimize themselves, and others so they can imagine another phantom of oppression.

The most common insult when someone makes a rape joke is ‘misogynist.’ Feminists have warped the meaning of ‘misogynist’ to mean ‘Anyone who disagrees with my particular version of feminism.’ In fact, I have never seen any feminist ever use the word to mean what it actually means: Hatred / dislike / aversion to women.

Even if someone is laughing at rape jokes, or calling their male friend a stud for sleeping with ten women, and their female friend a slut for sleeping with five, this does not mean someone actually dislikes / hates / has an aversion to women. All it shows is the existence of gender roles, but it doesn’t say anything for actual misogyny. For misogyny to manifest there has to be unequivocal, intentional hatred. I do not think that speaking in gender roles is evidence of misogyny by virtue of the gender role itself. It is how the gender role or the rape joke is said that determines whether actual misogyny is taking place. It is the context which is important – not wishful thinking. Feminists try to build bridges to make connections which aren’t there; these bridges aren’t made of empirical, objective brick-and-mortar, but rather subjective, fallacious sludge.

I am not convinced when feminists say gender roles / rape jokes and so on encourage and trivialize misogyny (and rape culture and patriarchy etc.) – while you can make a case for the worst gender roles (women have to stay at home doing all the work) actually having a negative effect, the vast majority of the common, pervasive gender roles simply don’t lead to the hatred of women. Something like that only works when you make the word ‘misogyny’ incredibly semantically loose (which is what feminism has achieved so successfully). In fact, words like ‘sexist’, ‘racist’ and ‘bigot’ have had their semantic meanings abused violently by the feminists which use them so gleefully.

When the twin towers ignited, there came a plethora of ‘sick’ jokes.

Thousands of people enjoyed these jokes and retold them to many people, including me. Do you think the family of one of the victims would have found it funny? No, probably not. They would find it very offensive and upsetting that someone can find humor in an event or situation that caused them so much suffering. For an activist to say ‘that X joke is not funny’ is worthless. It means nothing. It is illogical. Saying ‘I don’t find X funny’ is a perfectly acceptable statement. It is announcing your subjective opinion on the humor value of something. To try and invoke these pseudo-objective activist statements when there are plenty of people who will happily laugh at X is intellectually dishonest and a coward’s way to defend or protest an ideology.

I know plenty of people who have been raped, or have lost a family member in 9/11. Yet they tolerate jokes about rape or the towers. Yet they sometimes tell these jokes themselves. Why? These people are not ‘rape joke apologists’ or ‘9/11 joke apologists’ they only want to defend the human right to offend and in return, be offended.

[1] Louis CK’s rape joke: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4hNaFkbZYU

[2] ‘Louie’ poker scene http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-55wC5dEnc

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