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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Why Death Jokes are Funny, but Rape Jokes Aren't

People often use humour to cope with the dark, scary things that happen in life, and in most cases, it makes sense. We make jokes about death and dying because we are all going to die and it makes a lot of us uncomfortable. We make jokes about getting old and getting sick and things like that because it happens to all of us, and it helps us to normalize those things. That makes sense. We are all going to get old, get sick, die. That is TRULY a part of life, that we can't choose for or against.

Rape jokes? Not funny. They normalize rape, which ISN'T an inherent part of being alive. We don't need to NORMALIZE rape, we need to ERADICATE it. People choose to rape - people choose to devalue and disrespect another person so violently as to forcible violate their freedom of self and body. It's a violent act that is not just part of life, but something that people choose to do.

This is why, while I enjoy dark humour for the most part - because we're all going to die - I don't think rape jokes are appropriate or funny ever. Overwhelmingly, only certain groups are at high risk of rape, as opposed to the entire human race being at high risk of aging and dying. Those groups at high risk of rape are cis women, Trans* people, children, gay men. Yes, straight men get raped, too, but it's not as high on the risk of violent crimes against their bodies that they have to worry about as it is for those of us not privileged to be born cis with a penis.

I understand that people make jokes about scary things because it makes it easier to cope with things you can't escape. But most of the people I see making rape jokes are the people who don't have to be scared about rape. Straight white men seem to overwhelmingly, as a group, think that rape is hilarious. It's not something they have to worry about when they walk home from work at midnight because the only work available is a backshift and they have to pay their rent. They don't have to worry about it when they use the bathroom that coincides with their gender but not with the view society has about their genitals.

Making jokes about something turns it into a part of everyday life. The best stand up comedians are successful because they point out the lunacy and hilarity inherent in our everyday lives. Being terrified of walking home or working a night shift by yourself or using the bathroom because someone may commit a violent crime against your body just because they can... that's not something that should be part of our everyday life. And it's not something that has to be. But it won't STOP being part of our everyday life until we stop treating it like it is. Until we stop making light of it.

We're all going to die, even straight, white men. So make a joke about dying. But we're not all going to be raped - only some of us, mostly not straight, white men. So don't make a joke about rape.

Here are some statistics about rape in Canada:
  • One of every 17 Canadian women is raped at some point in her life 
  • A woman is sexually assaulted by forced intercourse every 17 minutes in Canada 
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 15-24 are the most likely victims 
  • 80% of assaults happen in the victim's home 
  • 70% of rapes are committed by a perpetrator who knows the victims (relative, friend, neighbour, colleague, or other acquaintance) 
  • Approximately one half of all rapes occur on dates 
  • 62% of victims are physically injured in the attack; 9% are beaten severely or disfigured 
  • Statistics Canada has found that one in four girls and one in eight boys have been sexually abused by the time they are eighteen