Rape Jokes are Never Funny: Humor and Gender Politics

“Laddish banter” and the line between comedy and misogyny is a slim one at best. Jokes like: “How did the medical community come up with the term ‘PMS’? ‘Mad Cow Disease’ was already taken” and “Why are women like KFC? Because when you’re done with the thighs and breasts, all you have left is a greasy box to put your bone in” are sadly commonplace, especially in areas that have traditionally been the preserve of men such as pubs and football stadiums. “Dapper Laughs,” the offensive character dreamt up by ‘comedian’ Daniel O’Reilly (above) once told an audience member that “she’s gagging for a rape.” “That type of humor was really popular with a certain demographic,” he commented during a Newsnight interview. Thankfully his TV show has been cancelled this week in the wake of a public outcry.

I like a joke. I can completely appreciate humor that comes close to hitting a nerve, but it is getting to the point where “lads banter” just doesn’t make me laugh. Rape jokes aren’t as funny when you come home to a housemate in tears because a man has spat on her, pulled her back from getting on a bus, and threatened to rape her in the middle of the day. The rest of the bus queue did nothing while this was happening. The video of men catcalling women in New York, although slanted in terms of race, shows the underlying aggression aimed at women in public. It is this piling up of comments that makes women feel unsafe, or valued for their physical attractiveness above all. Each comment might not be that bad but they are relentless and inescapable as they are everywhere in our society.

That might seem like a broad statement, but it is true. Think about it. Imagine what it’s like when you are walking late at night and come across a group of men who start catcalling or telling you what they’ll be doing to your body later. You don’t have a choice about how or when your body is appropriated by others. From billboards of Photoshopped women selling sex as much as they are selling a product to page 3 topless models in family newspapers, women in society are still promoted as sex objects, and lad jokes promote this attitude in a way that makes viewing women in this way ok. Casual jokes they may be, but they do normalize behavior which takes consent away from women.

“Pick Up Artist” Julien Blanc has just been banned from coming to Australia with his lecture tour which advises men on how to pick up women. He stated on his Twitter: “Dear girls, could you please save me the effort and roofie your own drink?” Don’t believe it’s that bad? Check out him in action talking about how great it was to grope women while in Tokyo here. Week in week out, there are news articles about men demeaning women. It’s time to take a stance and sign the petition to prevent Blanc from also gaining access to the UK, and to show him that his ‘game’ is not a game.

Title image source: girlignited.com


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