Some Notes on Rape Jokes.

Rape isn’t funny.

That some people would protest and use comedy, or say, “Pikon lang kayo,” is worthy of rage, because that flimsy excuse justifies the trivialization of human pain. It allows for the belittling of harassment, trauma, and the fundamental violation of a human person.

If we can laugh about rape, then we can laugh about all kinds of abuse, too. It also allows us to poke fun at many other kinds of human suffering: child abuse, poverty, genocide. Because after all, if we can laugh about rape, then sky’s the limit, isn’t it!

But, you may say, it’s all in the context. Obviously, in a sexual harassment course, or a self-defense 101 class, laughing about the possibility of rape would be inhumane. Unthinkable. But you know, if you’re at a comedy bar or watching a sitcom, obviously, the context has changed: you’re allowed to laugh because that’s the whole point of the show!

Wrong.

The context may have changed for you, because you have shifted to the neutral side. You are now neither a student or an employee learning about the dangers or possibilities of rape. Upon witnessing a rape joke and laughing at it (and in defending it), you have made the conscious decision to identify yourself as passive: neither the joker nor the one being joked about. In other words, you are neither the actual rapist (in the joke and outside of it), nor the victim (in the joke or outside of it).

In fact, you have consciously and mistakenly made the decision that the people around you (particular but not limited to women), could not possibly, logically, be offended by a joke!

In fact, so certain are you about this assumption, that you have, in one stroke, also assumed that every single person around you (again particular but not limited to women), have never encountered a dark alley, a lewd stare, an unwelcome invitation, a not-so-accidental brush against the skin from a stranger – or even worse,  the act of rape itself.

What should be glaringly clear right now is that rape victims don’t go around with a badge saying they were raped, thus necessitating a culture of sensitivity, not one of denial, passivity, or plain asshole ideology that context changes personal experience, or neutralizes trauma.

And in a third world country where the middle and upper classes are outnumbered by the sheer number of the masses, to justify rape jokes is to justify the fact that a substantial  number of Filipinas who are exposed to the daily possibility of rape – or have already been raped –  do not even have the economic and educational means to either protect themselves or seek justice.

There is no neutral ground when it comes to rape.

The belief that a comedy performance erases pain after rape is a delusion.

But, you may protest, what about satire? Doesn’t that poke fun into serious social problems such as corruption and economic problems? Isn’t joking about rape also hitting hard on rapists?

The answer is no.

Satire is dark humor which often uses caricature or quotes to enhance the crassness of a human condition. It often displays the norm in contrast with what should be in order to expose the irony of difficulties brought about by the problematic situation (i.e., corruption).

Rape jokes, on the other hand, capitalize on the notion that being raped might actually be funny.

They suggest that the possibility of being tied up, pressed against a wall, or pinned on the floor, while your attacker gets what he wants from your body, completely disregarding your concept of self-worth, while threatening to kill you, is well, funny! And it’s not just funny because it’s funny, it’s funny because well, you’re at a comedy performance and a comedian’s speaking so hell yeah, why shouldn’t you laugh?

So if you can laugh at the possibility of your friends and family (whether male or female but particularly the latter) being raped, tell that to their faces.

Put a face to rape victims and laugh.

This is rape culture at its best: when it tells you that the woman is at fault for being raped because she wore that short skirt; when it tells you that rape is justified because she was out late; when it tells you that any woman who flirts wants to get raped; when it tells young girls to be careful but never teaches men the value of sexual consent.

Men should be offended when someone claims that women should prevent rape by not wearing certain things or not going certain places or not acting in a certain way. That line of thinking presumes that you are incapable of control. That you are so base and uncivilized that it takes extraordinary effort for you to walk down the street without raping someone. That you require a certain dress code be maintained, that certain behaviors be employed so that maybe today, just maybe, you won’t rape someone.
It presumes that your natural state is rapist (original source unknown)

Rape culture is at its best when it teaches silence.

And your laughter – that cacophonous complicity, that insistence that people just can’t take a joke – is the worst silence of all.

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Now tell me again that the backlash against Vice Ganda was mere overreaction.

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And girls, remember, you aren’t obliged.

One thought on “Some Notes on Rape Jokes.

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