Here’s how it happens with rape culture. The rape jokes get told and everyone laughs because it’s innocent. No one (normal at least) really wants to rape you or watch you get raped. And then the politicians ignorantly dismiss the need for rape prevention and counseling because it’s not a “crisis.” That rape doesn’t affect the whole population.
This is how rape seeps into our society. Because it’s easily dismissed. Rape is something that “happens” and we just have to deal with it. You think that’s acceptable?
Here are two very recent examples.
A) “Grizzly Mama,” AKA, South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley vetoes abuse and rape prevention funding last week, calling it a “distraction.” The amount of money she vetoed was a mere half a million dollars.
The Charleston City Paper reported that Gov. Haley defended her veto, saying that rape and sexual assault prevention programs “distract from” the Department of Health’s mission and sexual assault victims are “only a small portion” of South Carolinians who need help.
Yet according to studies, South Carolina ranks seventh in the country for women who are killed by men and more shocking, South Carolina’s rape and violence percentage has been higher than the national average since 1982.
I’m going to interpret it this way. Nikki Haley might care about women, but because she wants to slash her budget, she believes that it’s okay to slash money that comes from a program that, let’s face it ladies, is not exactly working. If you’re Nikki Haley, wouldn’t you then say, we’re going to focus on more rape prevention since what we’re doing is FAILING the women of South Carolina?
No. This is not what happens. She cuts the budget. She leaves an already failing program that is intended to help rape victims to completely disappear.
B) Comedy Central’s Daniel Tosh had this enlightening piece of wisdom to say to a female audience member on his show.
“Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl [referring to an audience member who “heckled” him about rape jokes not being funny earlier in his set] got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?”
She wrote about it here. And Tosh defended his joke on Twitter:
“the point i was making before i was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them.”
Daniel Tosh. Life has plenty of awful. And there are plenty of good, sick, twisted jokes around those awful things. But a woman’s worst nightmare (at least one of them) is to be stripped of her clothes, of her dignity and her control and forced to have a man shove himself into her. The manner in which you diffused your heckler wasn’t funny. This is what is known as a violent threat.
As Elissa Bassist of the Daily Beast writes:
He used humor to cut her down, to remind her of own vulnerability, to emphasize who was in control. The “joke” ignited a backlash because it was not a joke; it was vastly different from other jokes about rape. The debate over Tosh shouldn’t be “are rape jokes funny?” That’s misdirection: his statement was a wildly inappropriate putdown, reminder, and threat that this woman could be gang-raped, like right now.
I bet you Daniel Tosh is sitting at home thinking — Well, why is it that those “Deliverance” jokes are so funny? There’s a sense of dark humor around that awful “I wanna hear you squeal like a piggy” scene in “Deliverance.” Because when was the last time you heard about a group of men getting gang raped in the woods? Right. It’s just a movie! It’s like the boogie man. “I’m going to do some Deliverance on you!” Oooooh, here comes the boogie man! Or the tooth fairy.
For women? Let’s think about all of the times you actually, realistically worried about rape. Every time you’re in a dark hallway. Every time you’re on a dark street. Every time you park your car in a mall lot. Every time you walk into a stairwell. The subway late at night. Jessica Luther’s outrage prompted her to tweet about Tosh for 24 hours. She then posted her Twitter conversation on Storify. An example from her story “Calculating.”
The one time I was sexually assaulted, it was by a visiting scholar in the copy room in my dept. It wasn’t rape, not even close.
But he took advantage of the situation. It was on the weekend, when everything was quiet, no one around. That time, I didn’t calculate.
And lastly, When I drove across country with my girlfriend at the tender age of 22, here’s what the conversation looked like with my dad.
“I don’t want you to go.”
“Because I’m scared you’re going to get raped, or something else will happen to you.”
So you see Daniel Tosh. This isn’t a funny situation because getting raped is actually a fear that all women have because it’s not uncommon. My father had less fear of me being killed than he did of me getting raped.
This is not to say that ALL rape jokes don’t work. There are ways to tell a rape joke, as Lindy West brilliantly pointed out on Jezebel, but none of that includes belittling an audience member because she doesn’t like your stupid joke. No, that’s just lazy.
In which case, if it did happen, hopefully you’re not in South Carolina.