Don't Be This Guy

So, Bill Maher is evidently incapable of getting through a single episode of Real Time now without going on a rant about women's bodies and/or making a joke about sexual assault.

Women being raped is, of course, one of his absolute favorite metaphors for Things He Doesn't Like, and he even ended his recent one-hour HBO stand-up special with a protracted rape metaphor to explain the ineptitude of the Bush administration. (And it invoked real people—a real woman really raped by her real husband. Just casual fodder for ol' Billy.)

This week, Maher couldn't resist going there yet again during his "New Rules" segment:

New Rule: Old Spice will never be hip. Old Spice has introduced OS fragrance for men. Yes, that same great scent from 1938, now in a spray bottle. Yeah, because that's what chicks dig—guys who smell like the uncle who molested them. OS: Like the men who wear it…a little too familiar.
Seriously? I've said it before and I'll say it again: I will never understand why anyone wants to be the total douchebag who blindsides someone by evoking her (or his) memories of being raped, in the guise of "humor."

How is it worth it to Bill Maher to possibly trigger memories among his audience members of being sexually abused just to make that joke? Was that Old Spice joke so important to him that he was willing to ignore that potentially about 12% of his audience being triggered by it? What's so fucking important about being able to joke about rape?

I'm a huge fan of stand-up comedy, so I watch a fuckload of it, and it's getting increasingly difficult to find male comedians who don't include rape jokes as part of their act. Comedians who never used to do that kind of material suddenly are—like Jerry Seinfeld, who repeatedly made a casual joke about rape while promoting a children's movie. And in the past couple of months, I've watched Louis CK's "Shameless," Bill Maher's "The Decider," D.L. Hughley's "Unapologetic," and part of Jim Norton's "Monster Rain," all on HBO, and all of them included jokes and/or long bits about sexual assault. (Jim Norton's special was truly stomach-turning. Mr. Shakes got up and walked out of the room after a few minutes, because he couldn't bear to listen to the way Norton talked about women, and I eventually shut it off.)

This weekend, we rented the documentary The Comedians of Comedy, which features one comedian I adore—Maria Bamford—and three I quite like—Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, and Zach Galifianakis. Well, I liked Oswalt and Posehn, until I had to listen to the latter comparing the second Star Wars trilogy to getting raped and the former saying if the concept of "getting undeservedly anally raped daily" was run on a ticket against George Bush, he'd vote for the concept of "getting undeservedly anally raped daily."

As opposed to people who get deservedly anally raped, I guess.

And then there was the scene in which Oswalt is in his hotel room, speaking directly to the camera as if it's a woman in his room trying to escape, and keeps blocking the door, then pushes the cameraman w/ camera onto the bed, where he pretends to rape the woman cameraman and camera are pretending to be. He then stands up and announces he "creeped out" himself with that bit—but, amazingly, it nonetheless made it into the movie. See, even though it creeped him out, it's still "funny," still good enough to go into the movie, because, ya know, dudez love that shit.

Meanwhile, I added Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn to my ever-growing list of comedians I don't watch, because—silly me—I don't like being slapped upside the head with rape jokes when I'm trying to have a good time.

Quite honestly, it's not even because I particularly find the jokes personally triggering anymore; I generally just find them pathetic and inexplicable. I'm more bothered by the fact that the jokes normalize and effectively minimize the severity of rape and thusly perpetuate the rape culture. And I'm bothered by the thought of a woman who's recently been raped, who's just experienced what may be the worst thing that will ever happen to her, and turns on the telly to watch her favorite comedian and have a much-needed laugh—only to hear him using that horrible, life-changing thing as the butt of a joke. About cologne. Or a bad movie. For fuck's sake.

I still don't understand—and I don't believe I ever will—why anyone wants to be the guy who sends that shiver down her spine, who makes her eyes burn hot with tears at an unwanted memory while everyone laughs and laughs.

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