EDITORIAL: When you joke about rape you protect, enable rapists
Our View: You are living in a rape culture. Don’t perpetuate it with rape jokes.
In its short lifetime, the Facebook page OU Memes already has gathered over 4,500 fans and a constant stream of submissions. If you go to OU and use Facebook, there’s a good chance your news feed has been overrun by these OU-specific Internet jokes.
Some are clever and some seem to miss the point entirely. Predictably, some have crossed the line into offensive and started long, angry comment arguments (greeks vs. GDIs, anyone?). But some in particular have gone beyond the realm of “bad but true” or “picking a fight” and tipped right into completely unacceptable.
One particular meme showed a picture of the “Sheltered College Freshman” with the words “First night partying in college atmosphere. Gets roofied. Gangbanged.”
- Yes 50%
- No 50%
152 total votes.
The comments below the picture are a tangled argument between those decrying the joke as indefensible and those championing the poster’s right to a “sense of humor.” And it wasn’t the only rape-related meme sparking similar arguments.
We want you to know this one important truth: It is never OK to make a rape joke.
No, they’re not funny. No, it isn’t “dark humor.” It isn’t clever or edgy or rebellious against the “politically correct” mainstream.
By joking about rape, you’re trivializing the issue, making it something to laugh about. One of the great powers of humor is minimizing fears, making them seem smaller and conquering the monsters by laughing at them.
But rape is one monster we should never work to make smaller. Our society has done just that for far too long. Only by facing the true, horrible reality of rape will we be able to fight it. One of the most important steps to fighting rape is ending what activists call “rape culture.”
Rape culture is a society that ignores, minimizes, laughs at and, by extension, encourages rape. It is a society that blames victims of rape because they flirted, wore the wrong thing, went to the wrong party, slept with too many men or in some other way indicated they “wanted it.” It is a society that protects rapists.
It is a society that tells women they must be careful not to walk alone, not to walk at night, not to drink too much, not to wear that outfit and not to make eye contact with a stranger. To get a roommate, get a dog, take a self-defense class. To always be alert, always be prepared, on guard, watching your back, watching your surroundings.
It is a society that tells women if they don’t follow these rules, they will be raped — like one in six of their fellow women, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. And it is a society that ignores the one in 33 men who have been raped as well.
Rape culture is a society that accepts rape as an inevitability, that teaches only some types of people get raped, that ignores the prevalence of rape.
Rape culture is our culture. And by making it something worthy of laughing at — by normalizing it, by ridiculing consent and down-playing the objective and innate horror of it — rape jokes allow that culture to continue.
When you, thinking it’s “just a joke,” laugh or simply fail to object, you implicitly indicate you support it.
The fact that you can make a rape joke — and even, in many settings, be relatively certain someone will laugh — is itself the clearest evidence we live in a culture that perpetuates and protects rape.
This is not an issue of us needing to get a sense of humor. We appreciate humor as much as the next person and understand that pushing boundaries and addressing taboos is an important part of that. It’s also not a free-speech issue. You are, and should remain, legally allowed to say anything you want that doesn’t incite violence.
But if this nation is going to fight rape, it has to fight the assumptions, myths and ways of communicating that perpetuate it. The only way to do that is for every person who is against rape to stand up and fight these things where they occur: in our daily, seemingly harmless conversations. Even (especially) on a silly Facebook page.
We’re calling on all our fellow Sooners to stand up against rape, rape culture, rape lies and rape jokes. OU should be a community that gives more than just lip service to the idea that a woman’s body is her own, that consent is necessary and that the responsibility for rape lies solely with the rapist — Sooners should live it with their actions every day.
In the end, rape jokes are a part of a system that protects and enables rapists. And if that doesn’t disgust you, horrify you and make you consider the effect of your actions, maybe you’re not as anti-rape as you thought.