Why Rape jokes aren’t funny
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Rape jokes
I want to say that I have never been raped. But I have been sexually assaulted; I was molested when I was 5 years old by an extended family member.
The first time I told anyone apart from my mom about this was when I was a freshman in college. I told my best friend who I’d been friends with for 7 years. I started working through the emotional impact this experience had on me only after I had told someone (for me, acknowledging what had happened to me to someone that I trusted was the beginning of the healing process).
My sophomore year of college, I was stage managing my first main stage theatre show and before the audience had arrived, I was sitting in the green room with several members of the cast and crew who were also my friends. I remember a friend making a joke about molestation, I don’t remember why it was directed at me or what the words were but I do remember another friend stopping him and saying, “You shouldn’t say jokes like that, you don’t know if she’s ever-“
My joke-telling friend interrupted him, turned to me and said, “That’s never happened to you, right?”
I was so caught off guard and unprepared for this that there was a long awkward silence where I literally got to watch all of my friends realize that, yes, I had in fact been molested. I wasn’t given the choice to tell my friends what had happened to me in my own time, I was forced to have a very personal and difficult experience exposed without my consent to people who I had never intended to share that with.
People who argue that funniness is subjective and that comedians can joke about whatever topic they want to certainly have valid points, but people who make that argument also don’t seem to know what it’s like to be sexually assaulted. They don’t know what it’s like to not only be reminded of what happened to you but to also be expected to laugh about it. What happened to me is not funny and I am not an uptight bitch for refusing to laugh at it and finding people who do laugh about it to be assholes. When people laugh at jokes about sexual assault it hurts me, it brings up memories that I’d really rather not have. And I’m not alone in this.
Comedians like Daniel Tosh who often perform in front of large crowds need to understand that it is very likely that they are asking multiple victims of some form of sexual assault to laugh about what happened to them. And the reason they can do this is because they don’t know what it’s like to have someone force themselves on you and use your body however they want. They don’t know what it’s like to have your cousin stick their fingers into your vagina while you are swimming.
I don’t want censorship and Freedom of Speech to be upended, all I’m asking for is a little bit of goddamn empathy from people who are lucky enough to have never been sexually assaulted. Maybe a little attempt at understanding what it could possibly feel like to be asked to laugh at something that was deeply traumatic and painful for them. Rape is not funny, sexual assault is not funny and people who tell these jokes need to understand that it’s very likely they’ve probably told one to someone who actually HAS gone through something like that.
It’s not my problem that my ACTUALLY being molested has ruined your joke’s punchline. When people try to defend their rape jokes it makes me feel like they are blaming ME for why they aren’t received well when really, rape just isn’t a hilarious care-free topic for jokes. If you don’t want to have defend WHY you made a certain joke, then maybe you shouldn’t have told it in the first place, trust me, it’s pretty awkward when you realize you’ve been telling rape jokes to someone who has actually been raped.