Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about Daniel Tosh making a rape joke, or more like a rape comment, at a comedy club a week ago. A post on tumblr detailed the incident. According to an audience member, she made a comment that rape jokes were never funny, and Tosh responded by saying “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…” (To make matters worse, she wasn’t even given a refund, but a comped pair of tickets which she didn’t really want.)
For some reason, there is still a debate going on about whether or not it is appropriate for Tosh to enthuse about how hysterical it would be if this audience member was gang-raped at that very moment, which she described as “pretty viscerally terrifying and threatening all the same, even if the actual scenario was unlikely to take place.” She added, “The suggestion of it is violent enough and was meant to put me in my place.”
For some reason, not everyone sees this abhorrent attempt at a joke the same way I do. And instead of engaging in ongoing debate about it, I thought I’d just write a blog post about it and direct people to it. Because, frankly, rehashing my feelings on the topic is exhausting, and it’s not something I want to constantly discuss. And, at the same time, I feel like it’s important to make my viewpoints on it clear. So I’ll address each of the points that have been made to me, one at a time.
Telling comedians their offensive jokes aren’t funny means you don’t support freedom of speech.
Actually, telling comedians their offensive jokes aren’t funny is an expression of freedom of speech. And, as my friend Jury Nelson put it, “If the person telling you to shut up is not representing the U.S. Government, the First Amendment is utterly irrelevant.” Or, as Bitch magazine puts it, “Comics are allowed to make rape jokes, and audience members are allowed to say they don’t like them. That’s where things get extra douche-y here. Tosh’s response to his audience member, threatening and silencing her, was not okay. And the comedians and members of the media who are defending him, saying that a comedy club is a sacred space where anything goes and no one is allowed to talk back? And if they do they deserve to be threatened and humiliated? Yeah, those people can fuck off.”
Not laughing at offensive jokes makes you a part of a “witch hunting lynch mob.”
Um, actually, I believe it makes me human.
When you go to a comedy club, you know what to expect.
Which still doesn’t mean you can’t express your distaste at offensive jokes or conduct. Just like people who won’t enjoy every joke at a comedy club might take the extreme measure of avoiding comedy clubs, comedians who don’t like audience members commenting on how much their jokes suck could decide not to perform at comedy clubs.
Tosh wasn’t being serious when he said he’d find it funny if this audience member was gang-raped.
And that makes a difference because why? It doesn’t look like the audience member thought everybody laughing at the joke about it wasn’t serious. But seriously, a lot of people will make offensive jokes and think they don’t “count” because they’re simply trying to ACT like people who would think those jokes are funny, while not actually being any different from them. Jay Smooth mentioned this phenomenon in a recent video about sexist gamer dudes. He pointed out that this reasoning doesn’t make it any better.
This was just a poorly worded joke.
And that doesn’t explain the intellectual perspective that supports it in the first place.
The club owner said Tosh’s joke was slightly different than did the person it was directed at.
And the club owner also said, “I really didn’t hear properly.” Listening both sides doesn’t mean giving equal weight to someone who heard something and to the rendition of someone who says they didn’t.
Heckling a comedian is wrong, and those people should be asked to leave.
Fair enough. Being asked to leave is different than being told that it’d be funny if you got gang-raped. And, as comedian Curtis Luciana put it, if a comedian makes a genocide joke and someone who’s, say, a Holocaust survivor’s kid and heckles, walks out and writes something nasty on the internet… There’s different ways comedians can handle it. As Luciana asks, “Would you be more likely to be a human being and say ‘Wow. I can understand why that person’s authentic response to what I was doing was so emotional and negative. Maybe my genocide material just isn’t good enough to justify the pain that it inflicts. Maybe I need more skill in order to pull this off.’ Or are you gonna be a lousy piece of shit and say, ‘Yeah, I apologize, I guess, IF YOU WERE OFFENDED.’ Offended hasn’t got anything to do with it, moron. People have wounds, and those wounds are painful. That doesn’t have shit to do with the weak concept of ‘taking offense.’ If someone talks about Texas being a shitty state, I might ‘take offense’ at that. Fine, whatever. All of us who like comedy are generally in agreement with the idea that ‘taking offense’ is lame, and a comedian should be willing to ‘offend’ whenever he or she wants to. But causing pain is quite a different fucking matter. Your job as a comedian is to take us through pain, transcend pain, transform pain. And if you don’t get that, you are a fucking bully, and I’ve got zero time for bullies.”
Making rape jokes is so edgy.
Actually, it’s pretty mainstream. Women deal with this on a regular basis. Many women have been raped or live in fear of rape. But if you really want to make edgy rape jokes and don’t, as Jezebel writer Lindy West puts it, “want to be called a garbage-flavored dick on the internet by me and other humans with souls and brains,” you can read her great piece about how to construct rape jokes responsibly, Hint: don’t make victims of rape the butt of the joke. (I actually found this Onion piece about Daniel Tosh chuckling through his own violent rape hilarious, but only in light of his non-apology and slew of comedians rushing to his defense.
You should totally discuss this with me ad nauseum.
Ugh. I already linked to 50 posts that explain my stance. I think that’s enough. And I won’t change my mind on this issue.
But I think it’d be fun to debate this with you endlessly.
I’ve actually been working on saving my energy regarding this topic, and that’s why I wrote this post. And honestly, people who want to argue about why rape jokes are funny aren’t welcome to do so in my space. This doesn’t mean I think you’re a rapist or a bad person, just that I don’t want to waste energy responding to you. And because I like to create a safe space for myself and my friends who are rape survivors or friends of rape survivors or dislike living in a culture where rape is so mainstream, I actually actively de-friend people on facebook, for example, who want to spend time debating this, or complaining about it, or not respecting people’s desire for a safe, peaceful space. I am not trying to change or shame people who disagree with me on this, but I choose not to engage in it.