Rape jokes can be funny — when the target is rape culture.
Something truly unique happened recently on the internet: A comedy website made rape jokes that were actually funny.
In this case, Reductress was responding to a story that’s reverberated through the New York comedy community this month. Basically, anonymous female comedians who reported sexual assaults from another male comedian were met not with support. Instead, they were faced with doubt, insults, and even deeply offensive jokes at their expense.
For Reductress’ all-female editorial board, enough was enough.
On Aug. 17, 2016, Reductress published article after article full of jokes about rape.
By the evening, they had filled the entire homepage.
The stories weren’t full of the typical and incredibly hurtful jokes that we often hear, though. Instead, the jokes pointed out common tropes and misconceptions about rape, hitting on all the issues that are oh-so-familiar to sexual assault survivors and their allies.
If you’re tired of hearing that women are “lying about rape to get attention,” reading “I Anonymously Reported My Rape for the Anonymous Attention” might feel pretty cathartic.
If you’re sick of the reminder that most survivors of sexual assault know their attacker personally, “Man who sexually assaulted you likes your Facebook Post about assault” will ring agonizingly true.
If you’re outraged by a justice system that can sometimes seem eager to find fault in sexual assault survivors, the first paragraph of “Fun Summer Cocktails When They Ask You ‘Well, What Were You Drinking?’” will fill you up:
“Summer time and living’s easy! Unless you’re being questioned about a traumatic sexual assault. Luckily, there are refreshing and light cocktails in season, which you can throw back when police, detectives, doctors, friends, and acquaintances ask you, ‘Well, what were you drinking that night?'”
Not surprisingly, people loved it.
Most rape jokes usually have two things in common: They’re made at the expense of survivors (who are often female), and the jokes are almost exclusively made by men.
Those kind of rape jokes aren’t funny to a lot of people, though. For survivors and allies, they can resurface buried trauma. For women, they can be a reminder that 1 in 3 of us will be sexually assaulted in our lifetimes.
And, let’s be real: For comedy in general, they’re pretty darn lazy. As Garry Trudeau (“Doonesbury”) famously reminded us last year: The best jokes “punch up,” never down. It’s the difference between making fun of a kid who falls over and making fun of the grown man who tripped him. Or in this case, making fun of the culture surrounding rape instead of the victims of it.