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tigtog (aka Viv) is the founder of this blog. She lives in Sydney, Australia: husband, 2 kids, cat, house, garden, just enough wine-racks and (sigh) far too few bookshelves.

This author has written 3453 posts for Hoyden About Town. Read more about tigtog »

11 responses to “Feminism Friday: More on how Rape Jokes Just Aren’t Funny”

  1. Bernice

    Humour – the final frontier of colonialisation. You really now you’ve co-opted someone into the frame of dominance from which you work, when you can get them to laugh at jokes insensitive at the least, vicious in the usual. Which is why it’s so important to berate those humourless one who fail to laugh or worse still dare to complain – they’re obviously not with the programme.

  2. tigtog

    Infuriating insight there, Bernice. Depressing, too.

  3. Patrick

    Don’t lose all hope!

    I am pretty male and pretty ‘jock’ but I wouldn’t laugh at a rape joke, or even let one pass uncriticised. I suspect Australian society is more with you than against you.

  4. tigtog

    Thanks for the support, Patrick.

  5. Feminism Friday: Humour as a tool for shaming and silencing at Hoyden About Town

    [...] week’s Feminism Friday post was on why Rape Jokes Just Aren’t Funny, based on a series from Melissa McEwan of Shakesville, and Bernice made a telling comment. Humour – [...]

  6. Feminism Friday: Humour as a tool for shaming and silencing « Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog

    [...] based on a series from Melissa McEwan of Shakesville, and at the crosspost on Hoyden About Town Bernice made a telling comment. Humour – the final frontier of colonialisation. You really now you’ve co-opted someone into the [...]

  7. Hollio

    Why People Tell Rape Jokes:

    Like it or not, one of the main elements of comedy is taking something that would normally be very serious or tragic and making it silly. An example of this would be somebody slipping on a banana peel; in reality this person could be severely injured or even become handicapped from this incident, but this is still considered humorous.

    And rape isn’t the only serious thing that’s joked about, there are also plenty of jokes about dead babies, quadriplegics, dead pets, and even some jokes about genocide.

    As for my opinion on the subject, I just think it’s a matter of personal taste. I actually get a certain angry shiver down my spine when somebody tells a joke about dead cats, it reminds me of seeing kittens suffer and die when my mother did animal rescue. But at the same time, I don’t think that the person telling the joke is a bad person (unless they know I don’t like it). Jokes are supposed to be a sign of friendliness, they try to help us forget about the terrible things in life (although this can sometimes backfire).

    I don’t mean to offend anyone here, I just want to give my opinion.

  8. tigtog

    You’re presenting a very limited function of jokes, the idea that it’s all just friendly bonding. As discussed in this post, humour is used to shame and silence out-groups as part of the way it acts as a tool for social bonding for the in-group. Most people understand this instinctively rather than intellectually, but the basis of most humour is laughing at someone’s pain, and that someone is out of the in-group.

    I have worked as a stand-up comic: I guarantee to you that most comedians perform from a core of deep and abiding anger at the world’s wrongs (as they perceive them), and that they cope with that anger by crafting punchlines that make other people laugh in an exclusionary way at the thing the comedian hates. It’s an amazingly cathartic experience to make a room full of people laugh, stamp and whistle in agreement with you about how disgustingly useless and vile the thing you hate is, even if you are performing from an instinctive mindset rather than appreciating cerebrally why it gives you so much release.

    Misogynistic jokes about women work in exactly the same way – they make men the in-group and women the out-group, and when rape jokes are brought into it they act as an implicit threat from the in-group to the out-group. Being threatened in the name of someone else’s joke is not funny.

  9. StemFem

    I once heard, a few years back an argument by a feminist about how the lack of rape jokes indicated a timidness within our culture at approaching or being able to discuss the “taboo” of rape. She claimed that we were able to approach all other risky areas, but rape was a no go.

    It’s difficult, because we should be able to laugh at awful things, sometimes. I know that for all the sexist things I see in the world, joking about them (don’t get me wrong, I DO act as well) keeps me sane.

    Obviously though, the “trigger” argument makes a lot of sense, and it could be distressing for some people. Perhaps comedians should take more care, but audiences often know who the risky and controversial comedians are.

    As Hollio points out, it is a matter of personal taste, clearly. You might not find it funny, some people do (me sometimes). I hate sexist jokes, but I don’t mind rape jokes. If it gets people talking without feeling embarrased and covering the subject up, that seems almost positive to me.

  10. orlando

    StemFem, I recommend having a bit more of a read of Liss McEwan’s writing on the topic. If you follow the links at the top of the post you can find a whole range of her posts tagged and easy to find.

    The key point is one Liss has made about the audience versus the butt of the joke. She actually agrees that jokes that have the effect you describe are fine and great and she makes them herself. What you have to ask is: is this joke designed to make the rape victim laugh and the rapist squirm, or to make the rapist laugh and the victim squirm? I think you’ll find most rape jokes fall into the latter category, and we all need to have a really good think about what that means.

  11. tigtog

    @ orlando:

    is this joke designed to make the rape victim laugh and the rapist squirm, or to make the rapist laugh and the victim squirm? I think you’ll find most rape jokes fall into the latter category, and we all need to have a really good think about what that means.

    Also broader rape culture categories, of “men who believe women lie about rape: will they laugh or squirm at this joke?” and “those who believe women passed out drunk are fair game for sex: will they laugh or squirm at this joke?”

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