That's Not Funny

They're everywhere, it seems. Polluting my conversation, tainting my first impressions of people, causing me to seriously question my feminism. I'm talking about rape jokes.

This culture has legitimized rape jokes. On TV, especially on the shows aimed at 18-24 year old males (I'm looking at you, Family Guy), rape is a noun, verb and adjective followed with a round of hearty guffaws. It doesn't look like it's going away soon, either. Once a certain crass attitude invades pop culture, it doesn't fall away. "Dude," the media tells us. "Rape is, like, totally funny. Lighten up." This attitude has inevitably seeped into the minds of my peers.

In class, I am treated to the mind-numbing discourse of the guys who sit behind me, who use "rape" in such contexts as "This test is gonna rape me." I don't whirl around, leap across the room and rip him a new one for the hateful, tasteless thing he just said. I grit my teeth, start the calculus test, and convince myself I'm not a bad feminist for picking my battles.

The useful social functions of people who make rape jokes, however, are not to be discounted. Within five minutes of meeting a friend of my sister, this new acquaintance lets one slip. I'm at the perfect brink of pissed-off and fiery that moment, so I manage to compose myself, look her in the eye, and say "rape isn't funny" before walking out of the room and weeding out yet another person from my social spectrum.

Last night, hanging out with another acquaintance, this time male. I'm with some of my best girls. We're talking about recent local rape in a public park. Suddenly, the topic is on a woman who was raped twice on a Metro train. Guffaws. Cracks about it being a "twofer." He says, with a straight face, "Rape isn't that bad, you know." I stand, speechless. A fellow feminist leaps to my defense. "I think rape is a worse crime than murder," she says. Another one of my friends agrees. I would launch into a lengthy lecture, but I'm tired and picking my battles again. Another acquaintance, gone.

Would that I had the energy, the guts, and the right situation every time, I would lecture every single person who made the mistake of joking about rape. Sometimes, I don't--to salvage a social scenario, because it's not the right time or place, because I need to protect myself. Launching into speeches is tiresome at both ends. A simple "that's not funny/okay" usually requires an explanation if one doesn't want to be laughed at or brushed off. Letting it slide is, I suppose, being a "bad feminist." But sometimes, it's difficult to muster even a snarl of disgust when the dominant culture--and the youth who uphold its values--doesn't care what you think.

More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Feminism, Violence against women
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Rape, News



Nellie B
Sign up for our Newsletter

Learn more about topics like these by signing up for Women’s Media Center’s newsletter.