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The Rape Joke That Went Too Far

Not so long ago I got into a debate on a wrestling forum – no, don’t go, honestly – and it all centered around a rape joke.

It was live TV on a show watched primarily by young men and children. Two men were in a ring, wrestling. A man playing the part of manager was on commentary, promoting the young man under his charge. So far, so wrestling.

Then the manager said:

“Titus is as unstoppable as Kobe Bryant in a Colorado hotel room”

He sought to promote his man by comparing him favourably with a rapist. He likened physically dominant traits – power, machismo, strength – with a rapist. He made a joke about rape on live TV.

I left a comment on a blog questioning whether he ought to lose his job. I made a cup of tea, bumbled about in my usual way and came back to check on any responses.

There were some responses.

There were 33.

And none of them even remotely agreed with me.

So I asked everyone, politely, this question:

If Kobe Bryant had raped a 7 year old girl, and the manager had made the same comment, would it still be funny?

The overwhelming response was:

No.

That would be sick, too far, you shouldn’t make jokes about kids like that. I’m obviously inclined to agree. But why, exactly, is it fine to laugh about a woman being raped?

So I asked why.

There were some responses. There were 3.

Apparently, I didn’t have a sense of humour.

Also, a 7 year old would be blameless because she wouldn’t know how to ‘dress slutty’. And one more person who got a bit befuddled and attacked me for trying to make a sick joke.

Making jokes about rape to impressionable minds makes it seem like rape isn’t such a big deal. And when the onus is on women to avoid rape rather than on men not to rape, blame and excuses can be heaped upon the victims.

I think the best response to a rape joke is this:

I don’t get it.

Persist until they explain, explanations always being the death of any joke, funny or otherwise. Persist until they reach the point where they have to say “she got/gets raped”.

And nod, slowly, looking a little confused.

“Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men’s eyes when deciding what provokes it.”

Naomi Wolf

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