On Rape Jokes and Sensitivity

Lonewolfm16

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Ok, so first off, yes popular subject oft discussed. Yes its a ongoing debate, and yes there are alot of threads surrounding this subject. If you are sick of it then very well, I don't blame you. But I do remind you that you don't have to be on this particular thread. Plenty of other ones on the website, and the internet in general. Also, would those in this thread please keep things courteous? Lets try to maintain a spirited debate without a flame-war. Thank you, moving on.

So, the recent E3 Microsoft "rape joke" controversy made me think of something. Now I don't personally believe it was a reference to rape, but for the sake of argument lets assume it was a intentional rape reference rather than poorly chosen words. There is already a thread debating which one it was, if memory serves. But it made me question why rape in particular is treated with such sensitivity.

Now before I continue I feel the need to first establish something, lest I be misunderstood. Yes, rape is a abhorrent crime and a awful thing to happen to anyone. It should be severely punished and never viewed as a act of moral acceptability. Everyone got that? Good.

Why is rape such a massive controversy when it comes to jokes? I mean, yes it is a awful crime, but just look at how people treat equally brutal and horrible crimes. Murder, brutal assault, torture, arson all these are horrible crimes, yet they are all less controversial than rape. To give a example of a joke being fairly light-hearted about horrible crimes. Demetri Martin is a comedian I like. He once had a bit, I can't remember where it was from and its been awhile so I might not remember the whole thing precisely, where he joked that he had the super-power of being invisible to bartenders. He ends the joke by pantomiming stabbing the bartender and saying something to the effect of "Oh! Didn't see that coming, did you?" There was hardly controversy about this. But come on, stabbing a person with a knife is just as awful as being raped, and both can lead to physical injury and mental trauma. To switch examples, I imagine being held down and brutalized would have similar mental effects to rape (feelings of disempowerment, mental trauma, shame at being unable to prevent it, etc) but it is far less controversial to make a joke about that then rape. I mean, the Microsoft conference thing was during a fighting game. How is a game where two people attempt to harm, brutalize, and eventually humiliate each other any less awful than rape? Of course its fictional, but so are jokes. You could argue that rape jokes might lead to psychological trauma for victims of sexual assault, but I imagine many video-games could have bad effects on those who have suffered gang violence. Yet one is controversial and the other isn't. To use another example, the Tomb Raider controversy was already pretty dead by the time the game was released, but I seem to remember the fact that Laura is merely strangled to death instead of raped if you fail the QTE having a quelling effect on the whole thing. How is that better?

This whole thing is very confusing for me, and from a objective point of view makes little sense, so Escapists, what is your opinion on the whole thing?
 

Abomination

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Seems to be that if enough women kick up a stink about something and say something is the worst thing ever other people will feel compelled to believe.

Men just tend to sit back and nod because it beats arguing.

What's more funny? Rape jokes, dead baby jokes or slavery jokes?
 

shrekfan246

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The US media has desensitized our population to violence, but puts a massive taboo on anything sexual (a little ironic, considering how much sexuality permeates television, film, and advertising...)

Rape is an unholy combination of both.

Hell, just remember how much controversy Fox tried kicking up over the "sex" scenes in the first Mass Effect, subsequently causing Bioware to make them even more conservative in the second one.

I don't know why rape in particular is such an untouchable bastion of political correctness, maybe for the same reason "gay" or "queer" are often used or meant to be taken as insults, despite having much less derogatory literal meanings?
 

LetalisK

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shrekfan246 said:
I don't know why rape in particular is such an untouchable bastion of political correctness,
Sure you do!

The US media has desensitized our population to violence, but puts a massive taboo on anything sexual (a little ironic, considering how much sexuality permeates television, film, and advertising...)

Rape is an unholy combination of both.
See, you do.

Hell, just remember how much controversy Fox tried kicking up over the "sex" scenes in the first Mass Effect, subsequently causing Bioware to make them even more conservative in the second one.
Funny enough, that big hubabloo is what got Mass Effect on my radar. "Fox losing their minds over a game? I must know more!" Same thing with this last Tomb Raider game. I didn't even know it was in development until the big stink got dusted up over it.


Edit:
Abomination said:
What's more funny? Rape jokes, dead baby jokes or slavery jokes?
The one with the better punchline.
 

Spambot 3000

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My hypothesis: feminazis. You know, the people that make feminists look bad with their stupid extremist views like:
'Men can't be raped'
'Men are all/mostly rapists'
And then by extension:
'You are not allowed to make rape jokes' (possibly because they 'undermine the women's rights movement' or something equally moronic)
So when someone cracks a rape joke (maybe at a comedy show or something) and one of these pricks throws a wobbly about it, unless someone has the guts to stand up to them and say 'You have no reason to be offended and in case you do, and if you were, that doesn't automatically mean we are not allowed to make jokes YOU don't like' they will continue screeching. Then media outlets get a hold of the story and most of those wankers always make it in their best interest to blow everything right the fuck out of proportion. Then you suddenly have this notion that rape jokes are a big no-no.
Probably not exactly what happens, but that's what I think goes on anyway.
 

Stasisesque

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Perhaps because it is still ridiculously hard to prosecute rapists. Women in particular are still told rape is their fault, they asked for it, their clothes provoked their assailant, they should have been more careful. Plenty of men won't come forward when they've been a victim of rape for fear of being dismissed, laughed at, or accused of lying. These sorts of things don't carry over to other, equally as abhorrent, crimes. It seems like adding insult to injury, to make jokes about it, when victims are already struggling to get sympathy.

That would be my suggestion.
 

Sutter Cane

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Stasisesque said:
Perhaps because it is still ridiculously hard to prosecute rapists. Women in particular are still told rape is their fault, they asked for it, their clothes provoked their assailant, they should have been more careful. Plenty of men won't come forward when they've been a victim of rape for fear of being dismissed, laughed at, or accused of lying. These sorts of things don't carry over to other, equally as abhorrent, crimes. It seems like adding insult to injury, to make jokes about it, when victims are already struggling to get sympathy.

That would be my suggestion.
This is certainly one of the reasons.

Also as someone who took a bit of offense to the aforementioned joke, I would like to add that I don't think all jokes involving rape are offensive. The problem comes when the punchline of the joke is essentially "hey, isn't rape just hilarious?" I mean a "good" rape joke tends to be about either the way society itself views the act of rape, or as a deliberately offensive joke where the punchline isn't the actual punchline of the joke itself, but rather how messed up the person telling the joke (or occasionally just how messed up the joke itself) is. And just as a point of fairness if Daniel Tosh would have switched rape with murder when he told his infamous rape joke about the heckler, and and said "wouldn't it be funny if she was attacked and brutally murdered by like 5 people right now," I still would have been pretty offended. It's all about context.
 

Eddie the head

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Abomination said:
What's more funny? Rape jokes, dead baby jokes or slavery jokes?
Jokes about people overreacting to said jokes?


On a more serious note I don't know what it is about rape over other crimes. I am no expert and don't claim to be.
 

Lonewolfm16

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Sutter Cane said:
Stasisesque said:
Perhaps because it is still ridiculously hard to prosecute rapists. Women in particular are still told rape is their fault, they asked for it, their clothes provoked their assailant, they should have been more careful. Plenty of men won't come forward when they've been a victim of rape for fear of being dismissed, laughed at, or accused of lying. These sorts of things don't carry over to other, equally as abhorrent, crimes. It seems like adding insult to injury, to make jokes about it, when victims are already struggling to get sympathy.

That would be my suggestion.
This is certainly one of the reasons.

Also as someone who took a bit of offense to the aforementioned joke, I would like to add that I don't think all jokes involving rape are offensive. The problem comes when the punchline of the joke is essentially "hey, isn't rape just hilarious?" I mean a "good" rape joke tends to be about either the way society itself views the act of rape, or as a deliberately offensive joke where the punchline isn't the actual punchline of the joke itself, but rather how messed up the person telling the joke (or occasionally just how messed up the joke itself) is. And just as a point of fairness if Daniel Tosh would have switched rape with murder when he told his infamous rape joke about the heckler, and and said "wouldn't it be funny if she was attacked and brutally murdered by like 5 people right now," I still would have been pretty offended. It's all about context.
That still wouldn't explain why Laura from Tomb Raider being raped is controversial... but her being strangled to death isn't.
 

Stasisesque

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Lonewolfm16 said:
Sutter Cane said:
Stasisesque said:
Perhaps because it is still ridiculously hard to prosecute rapists. Women in particular are still told rape is their fault, they asked for it, their clothes provoked their assailant, they should have been more careful. Plenty of men won't come forward when they've been a victim of rape for fear of being dismissed, laughed at, or accused of lying. These sorts of things don't carry over to other, equally as abhorrent, crimes. It seems like adding insult to injury, to make jokes about it, when victims are already struggling to get sympathy.

That would be my suggestion.
This is certainly one of the reasons.

Also as someone who took a bit of offense to the aforementioned joke, I would like to add that I don't think all jokes involving rape are offensive. The problem comes when the punchline of the joke is essentially "hey, isn't rape just hilarious?" I mean a "good" rape joke tends to be about either the way society itself views the act of rape, or as a deliberately offensive joke where the punchline isn't the actual punchline of the joke itself, but rather how messed up the person telling the joke (or occasionally just how messed up the joke itself) is. And just as a point of fairness if Daniel Tosh would have switched rape with murder when he told his infamous rape joke about the heckler, and and said "wouldn't it be funny if she was attacked and brutally murdered by like 5 people right now," I still would have been pretty offended. It's all about context.
That still wouldn't explain why Laura from Tomb Raider being raped is controversial... but her being strangled to death isn't.
That's a different question. It was bad press, the scene in question had sexual undertones that caused everyone to jump to the mistaken belief that Lara was going to be a rape survivor. It was the idea that the female antagonist had to be violated so atrociously to get people to root for her that caused all the controversy. It was mainly people up in arms that she couldn't just be a badass resourceful chick, but had to have some sort of crippling past.

When it was revealed she would be murdered if you failed the QTE, not raped, people calmed down because it equalled the score. Other game protagonists die if you fail, Lara should be the same.

It's not really the same question as "why are rape jokes controversial", simply down to context.
 

Lieju

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shrekfan246 said:
The US media has desensitized our population to violence, but puts a massive taboo on anything sexual (a little ironic, considering how much sexuality permeates television, film, and advertising...)
On the other hand, in the US portraying rape is more acceptable than showing consensual sex, especially if it's a woman looking for it. Rape is often put in for sexual titullation, or to get the female character to have sex without her being a 'slut' by looking for sex. (This is distressingly common in romance aimed at women, look at 50 Shades of Gray and how popular that piece of shit is, for example.)

The problem with rape-jokes tends to be what the joke is on;
They are often about how rape is funny if it's female on man, a man getting raped, or if the victim is fat.

But even if it's not, in some places the threat of rape is something used to keep women down. Maybe in the UK or something it's totally normal for a woman to say casually 'I'll rape you for that' but growing up in Finland, it was something that just boys could say to girls.

Also, murder and genocide are bigger, more unrealistic things. If you're really threatened by either, then joking about them is in bad taste, but most people in the 1st world don't have to worry about it.
But rape is something many people (especially women) fear, and joking about it can be used to mask a threat or remind you of it, especially if there's a big difference in how men and women respond to it.

I was taught growing up every man is a potential rapist and that I need to protect myself from it and limit my own freedom because I'm female. That there were things I just couldn't do because of the threat of rape. (Like walking on the street alone when it was dark.)
 

Wyvern65

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All goes back to how we tend to view men and women in society. Men are seen as strong, and capable of defending themselves; women are seen as weaker and less able to do so.

As empathic humans, we don't like 'mean' jokes - jokes that are seen to be deliberately spiteful. The two crimes most viewed as distasteful to make jokes about are rape and domestic violence, because those are the two crimes which disproportionately target women.

We're generally made much more uncomfortable by humor which specifically targets those who are of lesser social status or perceived as weaker or victims. It comes off not as funny, but as bullying.

[Necessary Internet Disclaimer: nowhere have I endorsed the views that women are weaker or lesser than men or that men can't be victims - I'm trying to talk about how I think things are currently viewed by society as a whole, not judge it.]

A feminist would describe the situation as a result of patriarchy and highlight how these views disempower and stereotype women (oh, and rape culture of course.) A MRA would focus on the male disposability aspects. And they'd both have important points to make (if they could ever get over their endless squabbling with each other, and their need to win the Oppression Olympics.)

tldr; rightly or wrongly, we see men and women differently
 

chozo_hybrid

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Caramel Frappe said:
I'm highly against rape.. it upsets me, makes my blood boil and utterly disgusts me. I have never accepted anyone's reasons for raping someone... regardless of gender towards the opposite sex or same sex.

However I won't explode about rape jokes. I find them pretty immature and not worth being upset over.
This is my stance as well, I find it to be the worst kind of humor. I don't condemn anyone for using it or laughing, but I just don't see the funny side, ever.
 

The_Echo

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Rape is so controversial because it definitely only happens to women and women need to be taken seriously at all times or else they're being oppressed by the patriarchy.

Or at least, that's what it sometimes feels like I'm led to believe...

Really, there's no good reason for rape to be as taboo as it is. If anything, being so prudish about it prevents any cultural progress concerning it.

And besides, you know what they say: all's fair in love and comedy.
[sub][sub][sub][sub]Wait that's not right.[/sub][/sub][/sub][/sub]
 

Dark Knifer

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Oh, THAT was why that joke at e3 was a big thing.

I honestly did not make that connection at all and I was wondering what the deal about it was.

So yeah rape is bad, like murder etc but a good joke could still be made of it but probably much more difficult considering how appalling rape is considered next to violence (for good reason) but that attitude could change with the media just like it did with violence, who knows.
 

Adeptus Aspartem

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Rape jokes are as funny as any other form of dark humor.
That and i neither live is the US or on the Internet, which leads to me makin' all sorts of horrible & funny jokes irl and not getting any problems for them.

I'd say a main problem on the internet is that we've a lot of fellow guys from the USA around, who've a terrible fear of nipple and tits, that combined with the usualy hyerbole & vitriol et voila your average shitstorm is born.

Outside the internet i never heard anyone say: "Rape is controversial". It's not by my real life expirience. The people i know have pretty much the same feelings and/or thoughts about the subject.
 

arkady

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A lot of the time it's about power.

From the OP:
" Demetri Martin is a comedian I like. He once had a bit, I can't remember where it was from and its been awhile so I might not remember the whole thing precisely, where he joked that he had the super-power of being invisible to bartenders. He ends the joke by pantomiming stabbing the bartender and saying something to the effect of "Oh! Didn't see that coming, did you?" "

What's the difference between this and a rape joke?

1. In Martin's joke the disempowered attacks the one in power. Rape jokes make fun of those already disempowered, and make the disempowerment worse.

In Martin's situation his 'super-power' is actually disempowering him. He can no longer get the drink he wants. In doing so he taps into a situation most people have had in a bar of trying (and failing) to attract the bar staff's attention. The barman has power over him and his act of violence at the end is a) subverting that power, which is a common ground for humour, and b) outlandish and over the top. Most barmen don't face violence on a day-to-day basis (and those that do get appropriate treatment and response).

Contrast this to rape jokes: a) men still have more power than women in society so rape jokes are reinforcing an ugly abuse of this power and b) rape is alarmingly common still, for many women threats of rape are so commonplace they have to tune them out and she is unlikely to get taken seriously by police and likely to get blamed by society. Rape jokes make this worse! They condone the rape, they have the message that this is an acceptable way to treat people and worst of all: PEOPLE BELIEVE IT!

When a joke basically says "rapez lolz0r" it tells us that rape is funny. The reality of the situation was summed up by a close friend: "I'd rather he'd have just killed me instead." I challenge you to find a mainstream comic doing a joke about other forms of violence that condones violence against the disempowered.

2. Rape jokes can be done properly. Condoning rape isn't funny. It's horrifying. But comedians do it anyway, because our culture tells them it's okay to do so (also horrifying, when you think about it). For example, Sarah Millican in her live shows used to use a sex-starved spinster as her character and had the memorable joke: "I like to annoy rapists. At the last minute I'll shout 'I consent!'" In doing so she subverts the power of the situation, making it clear she's still in control. The "How to Make a Rape Joke" article below contains a few more examples.

(Some good articles:
http://jezebel.com/an-open-letter-to-white-male-comedians-497503334
http://jezebel.com/5925186/how-to-make-a-rape-joke
http://www.newstatesman.com/helen-lewis/2013/06/we-must-threaten-women-rape-save-comedy-says-internet
)
 

Thaluikhain

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Rape has a special place in society.

On the one hand, it is flat out wrong, there is no justification for it. Other crimes can be given a good spin, you have stealing from corrupt businesses or individuals sorta seen as noble, the line between murder and justifiable homicide is oftne argued over etc.

But there's never a justification for rape.

Secondly...more or less everyone says they are against rape, and probably mean it, until it actually comes up, in which case many people will, "in this particular case" turn a blind eye or blame the victim. There is a massive amount of rape in our society, and a tiny conviction rate, and few people seem to want to really do anything about it.