Rape is Hilarious, Part 20

Aside from being a fairly alarming twentieth entry into the ironically titled "Rape Is Hilarious" series, the much-discussed incident of a British comedian reportedly sexually assaulting a woman onstage is a perfect example of how the rape culture (built via jokes about rape and the normalization, minimalization, trivialization, packaging as entertainment, and framing as compliment of rape) serves to actively create both victims and accomplices. [Trigger warning.]
The woman [comedian Johnny Vegas] focused on was about 18 or 19 and was very obviously unnerved by his attention. I saw her expression clearly - I was in the front row too, just three seats along. Vegas insisted that she allow herself to be carried on to the stage by six members of the audience - he called them "pall bearers". She must pretend to be dead, he said, and he would bring her back to life with an onstage kiss. He warned her that there probably would be tongues. … As she was carried on stage, Vegas repeatedly goaded one of the pallbearers to "finger" the girl.

Once she was on stage, Vegas told her to lie very still. She couldn't stop her nervous giggling; he threatened to kick her in the ribs. It didn't come across to me as a joke - and near to where I was sitting, no one was laughing. Eventually Vegas crouched down beside the nervous girl and started stroking her breasts while repeatedly saying, "don't fucking move". Then he ran his hand up her leg and began pulling her skirt up. Every time he looked up to address the audience, she would reach down and pull her skirt back down, but he kept pulling it back up. According to [James Williams, writing on the NOTBBC forum after the gig], who had a different view of the stage from me, Vegas ended up "fingering her through her clothes for a second or two". What I heard was an audible sharp intake of breath from the audience as they realised that the woman was getting much more than the kiss Vegas had told her to expect.

There was an air of menace from the outset, made worse by the fact that Vegas clearly had no idea where he was going with his act. The more the young woman was groped, the more anxious one of the "pallbearers" looked. Then Vegas straddled the young woman, pinning her to the floor, and kissing her for quite a while. Most disturbing, perhaps was that around half the audience seemed to find this really funny.
Naturally, the tenor of the debate has largely centered around consent. The aforementioned commenter Williams notes, for example: "Honestly, you couldn't have found a nervier or more passive girl if you'd scoured all of London—she was like a rabbit in the headlights, but she was giggling and clearly somewhat enjoying the attention, so it just sort of went ahead without so much as a yes or no from her."

There's so much fucked-up about that comment alone, it's tough to know where to begin, but I think it gets to the heart of what I mean about the rape culture creating victims and accomplices. The girl is under pressure to go along for reasons of which we should all be well aware; she has (as have we all) internalized the notion that sexual attention, even of the unwanted sort, is a compliment, and is also no doubt aware that kicking up a public fuss about unwanted sexual attention will mean that she will face ridicule and humiliation—"Don't flatter yourself" and/or charges of humorlessness, just for a start. Meanwhile, the audience is under pressure to enjoy the spectacle and provide the very pressure that keeps her there, their mere presence serving as the implicit threat that she will be harshly judged if she stops the horrible mess by leaping to her feet and screaming "No!"

That all of it was under the guise of "comedy," and that half of the audience dutifully played along, made everyone else, even the uncomfortable-looking "pall bearer" and author of the excerpted piece above whose protestations (directed at the victim—ugh) were ignored, complicit in the assault of a girl who was "clearly somewhat enjoying the attention" and never gave "so much as a yes or no."

Somewhat enjoying the attention. That sounds so much nicer than, say, "going along with it all because she was afraid to be laughed at for protecting herself and quite possibly in a state of shock at the realization that she was being sexually assaulted in front of an entire room of people."

None of whom came to her rescue.

(H/T to Shaker GayAsXmas.)

[Rape is Hilarious: Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen.]

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