Feminism / TV

Rape Jokes Are Taking Over TV and I’m Sick of It

Originally published at Bitch Flicks.

[Trigger warning for rape]

Newsflash, rape jokes are not funny. Ever. So why are so many sitcoms succumbing to them? 2 Broke Girls, Work It, Rob, Whitney, Up All Night, Two and a Half Men, Workaholics, Modern Family, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Family Guy, Glee, and The Soup (NO, Joel McHale!) have all attempted laughs at the expense of rape.

Rape jokes aren’t edgy. They’re lazy, misogynistic, insensitive and violent. And yet they are everywhere.

On Whitney, there’s a rape joke Whitney’s boyfriend had nonconsensual sex with her when she was passed out from medication. Workaholics jokes about having sex with a woman when she’s sleeping, aka “sleep assault.” Yeah, cause having sex with a woman while she sleeps is SO funny. In 2 Broke Girls, the most frequent offender, Katt Dennings says,

 “If you go back there, you’ll need a bite guard and a rape guard.”

“That’s not what rape feels like.”

“Rapists don’t knock and wave.”

“Stop fighting it, just give into it. I don’t know why I’m quoting a rapist.”

“Somebody date raped me and I didn’t think I’d live through it. But I did and now I’m stronger and uh, still needy.”

 A UFC fighter was fired last year for tweeting a joke on “surprise sex” (cause that’s uber hilarious) from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia:

 “If a rape van was called a surprise van more women wouldn’t mind going for rides in them. Everyone like surprises.”

 Work It, an updated Bosom Buddies cancelled after 2 episodes (thank god!), aired a rape joke within the first 2 minutes of its premiere. Wow, they didn’t waste any time being assholes:

“As a woman, I’m going to have to ask you to stop comparing prostate exams to the pinball scene in The Accused. It’s not okay.”

The Accused is a film about a woman, played by Jodie Foster, gang raped. “The pinball scene?” Yeah, let’s call it what it is…a rape. Comparing a vital physical exam by a consenting adult to rape, a nonconsensual, violent crime is idiotic and horrific. And not funny. At all. Of course this is the same show spewing sexism, racism and transphobia.

 A rape joke appears in the TV trailer for the movie Horrible Bosses. In the fucking preview. Jason Sudeikis and Jason Bateman walk down a street when Sudeikis says, “I can’t go to jail. Look at me, I’ll get raped like crazy.” Then Bateman replies, “I’d get raped just as much as you would, Kurt.” “No, no—I know you would.”

Since when did rape become fucking flattery?! Rape is not a compliment. Not ever.

In the movie, when Charlie Day accuses “man-eater” boss Jennifer Aniston of rape she replies, “Just hold on there, Jodie Foster,” alluding to The Accused. Oh, cause it’s so much better when a woman makes a rape joke. Yeah, it’s not.

Lady T at The Funny Feminist discusses rape jokes and female comedians like Sarah Silverman’s infamous and controversial joke: “I was raped by a doctor, which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl.Jewish girl.” Lady T goes on to write that she hates jokes that imply rape is funny, trivialize rape or makes fun of victims. Yet she can “appreciate jokes that make fun of rapists or rape culture or acknowledge that rape is underreported and terrible.” But since rape jokes can be triggering to survivors, she wonders if it’s even worth it.

Are you as sick of the bombardment of fucking rape jokes as I am??

A few months ago Facebook removed rape joke pages from their site after an outpouring of protests on Change.org and Twitter. Some of the lovely page titles included, “Riding your girlfriend softly, cause you don’t want to wake her up” and “You know she’s playing hard to get when you’re chasing her down an alleyway.” It’s disturbing it took a public outcry to remove them. Who the hell actually thinks these pages are okay to put up in the first place?!

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd at Alternet questions whether rape jokes are ever OK to tell. Regarding their prevalence, she writes:

“The fact that people find these lines fun, or funny, is systematic of our society, where 60 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police precisely because of the perceived lack of seriousness toward rape (along with stigma and victim-blaming/shaming, among other reasons).”

Rape culture normalizes and accepts sexual violence. Society teaches us men are assertive, having uncontrollable urges (a la “boys will be boys” mentality) and women are passive, their sexuality something to control.

Wanda Sykes is one of the rare comedians broaching the subject of rape with genuine humor. She jokes about the benefits of having a “detachable pussy” so women won’t have to worry about being attacked when they go out jogging late at night. To me this isn’t a rape joke but a humorous commentary on the stupidity of trying to control women’s behavior.

And society is forever trying to control women’s behavior. In her must-read Ebony article, “Stop Telling Women How Not to Get Raped,” Zerlina Maxwell writes:

“For so long all of our energy has been directed at women, teaching them to be more “ladylike” and to not be “promiscuous” to not drink too much or to not wear a skirt. Newsflash: men don’t decide to become rapists because they spot a woman dressed like a video vixen or because a girl has been sexually assertive.

“How about we teach young men when a woman says stop, they stop? How about we teach young men that when a woman has too much to drink that they should not have sex with her, if for no other reason but to protect themselves from being accused of a crime? How about we teach young men that when they see their friends doing something inappropriate to intervene or to stop being friends?

“The culture that allows men to violate women will continue to flourish so long as there is no great social consequence for men who do so.”

Too often, people toss around the word rape or laugh off rape jokes, not fully comprehending the severity of the word or realizing their insensitivity to rape and sexual assault survivors. Rape jokes “dismiss and normalize the idea of rape.”

Nearly 1 in 5 women in the U.S. has been sexually assaulted.” We live in a rape culture that laughs at rape jokes and too often condones rapists and abusers.  We put the responsibility on rape survivors. We blame their actions and their behavior. Rape is not a sexual act. It’s about power, control and dominating another. People do not asked to be raped and cannot bring rape upon themselves. We need to place the blame where it belongs, with the doucebag creeps who rape and abuse.

In her brilliant “Over It” anti-rape manifesto, activist and playwright Eve Ensler writes:

“I am over people not understanding that rape is not a joke and I am over being told I don’t have a sense of humor, and women don’t have a sense of humor, when most women I know (and I know a lot) are really fucking funny. We just don’t think that uninvited penises up our anus, or our vagina is a laugh riot.”

Rape shouldn’t be a taboo topic to discuss. Survivors shouldn’t be shamed into silence. We need to have open dialogue about sexual assault. While humor can be a great way to confront tough issues, rape jokes trivialize someone’s painful plight.

Like Eve Ensler, I’m so over bullshit rape jokes too.

8 thoughts on “Rape Jokes Are Taking Over TV and I’m Sick of It

  1. I am a huge fan of “2 Broke Girls,” and the great chemistry between Kat Dennings & Beth Behrs.
    In many ways the show does sort of purposely push the boundaries of good taste, but usually to great effect.
    The Christmas episode, where Max (Kat Dennings) is attempting to teach Caroline (Behrs) how to
    make cupcakes, included one of the funniest (and non-PC lines ever).
    Caroline forgets to seal the blender/mixer, and Max ends up covered in cupcake batter & milk.
    The camera pans to poor Max, who’m calmly says:
    Christmas comes but once a year, and i think it just did.

    That show constantly pushes the boundaries of non-cable primetime TV, and sure, some
    folks could dismiss it as offensive.
    The Ukrainian cook, alone, has upset a lot of the more sensitive viewers:
    “Once you go Ukraine, you scream in sex pain!”
    (one of his lines, in an older episode)

  2. I think this is -in part- because the word gets so easy off the thounge.
    It just has one syllable and it itself indicates at nothing bad.
    We in Germany have the word “Vergewaltigung” for rape.
    The word itself includes “gewalt” -violence, so the word itself indicates some sort of ultimate act of violence. It itself reeks of abuse and wrongness. In english it would sound like abviolencement or something.
    But just calling it rape… that itself is very wrong in my opinion.

  3. It is very contradictory that you end the article by saying “rape shouldn’t be a taboo topic to discuss” yet your argument is that comedians shouldn’t discuss it. I am a comedian and a feminist too often people cannot use their critically thinking skills to decipher which jokes are good and bad. They just decide to turn off their brains and not listen to any of these rape jokes and what they are really saying. Especially the Sarah Silverman joke! How is it not clear that she is using a painful and terrible situation like rape to showcase the absurdity of a racial stereotype that jewish women can probably relate to. Also the 2 broke girls scene where Kat Dennings says “that’s not what rape feels like.” That is a very powerful statement that in fact reinforces what you are trying to say. She’s basically telling her friend she can’t trivialize the experience of rape, it is serious. People need to stop thinking they can just turn off their brain when digesting humour. As a feminist and Women’s Studies major when watching that video they were many jokes that where inappropriate and uncalled for yet others in my estimation were valid. I agree we need to stop those who are using it lazily and trivializing such a serious offence don’t get me wrong. However, please do not discredit the power of humour and comedy to interrogate issues and bring voice to a subject that is currently taboo. It has worked in the past when black comedians talked about their experiences as marginalized people & has always worked to interrogate or take issue with politics so don’t turn off your mind and shut the door to the possibility that comedians can make use of rape to bring it to the discussion.

  4. Pingback: Justice, Bad Jokes, and More Justice | Cryptic Philosopher

  5. Pingback: A confederation of douches. « Geek-A-Leek

  6. Rape jokes are funny get over it if you have a problem with that kind of joke don’t watch that show, someone should prolly rape the author of this article to knock some sense into her she should just be in the kitchen where she belongs

  7. Ya know rape jokes and all kinds of black comedy is funny because it isn’t funny if you can’t make a joke about serious subjects then that makes you a douche

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