Hours after an exotic dancer was allegedly raped by members of the Duke University lacrosse team, a player apparently sent an e-mail saying he wanted to invite more strippers to his dorm room, kill them and skin them. It was not clear whether the message was serious or a joke.(The sender’s lawyer has confirmed the email’s authenticity.)
…In the e-mail, addressed "To whom it may concern," the player says he has "decided to have some strippers over" to his dorm room, "however there will be no nudity."
"I plan on killing the bitches as soon as the walk in and proceding [sic] to cut their skin off," the author of the e-mail says, adding in vulgar terms that he would find the act sexually satisfying.
How, pray tell, could that content possibly be construed as “a joke?” I could understand, perhaps, “The intent of the message was not clear,” as in, perhaps he wasn’t being literal, but surely we aren’t so jaded that we can deem such a missive anything but serious, that we could remotely conceive of such filth as a joke. I mean, I’ve got a pretty wicked sense of humor, but I fail to discern a punchline, even though I’ve heard such “jokes” before.
I’ve never been accused of anything but unabashedly wearing my politics on my sleeve, but because I have a filthy mouth, a dirty sense of humor, an aesthetic lack of girliness (as in no make-up, no skirts, and perpetually untidy hair), and a collection of attributes which men and women alike deem “boyish”—namely, a fondness for Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, video game junkitude, the ability to correctly distinguish between DC and Marvel superheroes, and a pathological aversion to shopping—I have often found myself in the position of having been given a “pass” by a group of straight guys. Some women will immediately know what I’m describing—a group of male coworkers, perhaps, who let down their guard in your presence, after one of them, invariably, anoints you a “cool chick,” as if differentiating you from the rest of womankind is some kind of praise. It doesn’t matter whether these guys are conservatives or liberals; they are, however, always the kind of guy who thinks the highest compliment one could give a girl is treating her like a man with tits.
This is always a weird situation, especially since I have never coveted an entrè into such a group, but let a couple of dirty jokes fly in your presence sans objection, and you’ll find yourself being led behind the curtain in no time.
And among this particular kind of guy, it’s pretty damn ugly back there.
Back there is where “jokes” like the one above get told. And if you ever laughed at a blowjob joke, they expect you to laugh at that kind of “joke,” too.
I, of course, being me, tell them that violence against women isn’t funny, and ask them why they think it is.
“Oh, come on,” they say, and that’s when the eye-rolling begins. “It was a joke.”
“How so?” I ask. “What’s funny about it?”
Of course, there’s nothing funny about “jokes” like that, so they do the only thing they can. Attack.
“Dude, I thought you were different. You’re just a feminazi like every other chick. No sense of humor.”
This is where they expect me to get hysterical, to prove their point. And it’s where I say, “Actually, I do have a sense of humor, but I just don’t get this particular joke. Explain it to me. What’s funny about it?”
Evenly. Calmly. And I wait.
“Whatever, dude. Pfft.” And the curtain closes once again.
It’s not always “jokes” about violence against women. Sometimes it’s jokes about gays. Or people of another color, if they’re all white, as I am. And every time, without fail, they look disappointed that I’m not as “cool” as they thought I was, rather than ashamed of themselves, as they should be.
Among certain men, there’s seemingly a whole world of “joking” that comes at the expense of people who aren’t there to defend themselves. I’ve spoken to closeted servicemembers who have had to listen to all kinds of “fag jokes.” I had a neighbor in Chicago who is as white as I am, and blonde and blue-eyed, even though her father is black; she’s spent her entire life listening to racist jokes made in her presence, by people who have no idea that she is half-black. And I know other feminists who “pass,” through no endeavor of their own, and get a glimpse behind that curtain, until they open their mouths to object, at which point they are summarily dismissed as humorless. It’s only that world in which the Duke student’s email could be possibly considered a joke—a world in which the rest of us, the butts of the jokes, don’t live.