Shaker April emails (which I am publishing with her permission):
I'm e-mailing because I thought perhaps you could bring attention to a rape "joke" on ABC's sitcom "Modern Family" last night. I'm kind of iffy about the show in general, since it relies on stereotypes a lot, and I was glad to see a post about this on Shakesville a couple weeks back. But this "joke" was really over the line, and I was shocked to hear it.April described the exchange to me, and I went to check it out at the ABC website. (It's viewable here, starting right around minute 12.)
A 13-year-old girl and her 11-year-old brother, collecting recyclables, have brought home a bunch of empty alcohol bottles discarded after a party in their neighborhood. They show their haul to Dad, and Daughter asks: "What's Jaegermeister?"
To which Dad replies: "Um, well, you know how in a fairy tale there's always a potion that makes the princess fall asleep and then the guys start kissing her? Well, this is like that except you don't wake up in a castle. You wake up in a frat house with a bad reputation."
Daughter then makes amusingly perplexed face at younger brother, lest there be any confusion about whether this scene was being played for laughs.
Drawing an equivalence between sleeping potions and kissing princes in fairy tales, and alcohol/roofies and rapists in real life, is not a bad idea. In fact, it's a pretty good way, with age-appropriateness caveats, to teach kids about consent (or the lack thereof).
But, needless to say, drawing that equivalence to warn your tween daughter about "waking up in a frat house with a bad reputation," and preemptively victim-blame her in case she ever does have the unspeakable misfortune of being in the presence of someone determined to rape her, is a bad idea.
I know, I know—blah blah fiction blah blah irony blah blah edgy blah blah it's supposed to show what a shitty dad he is. Yeah, whatever. And maybe one day, when we don't live in a pernicious rape culture that destroys the lives of millions of "sleeping princesses," I'll be able to find shit like this funny.
Or not. Because I quite genuinely don't understand what's so amusing about rape, or about incapacitated victims, or about a dad victim-blaming his own daughter, or about the stories of nonconsensual sexual activity "saving women" that are told to children, or the double-standard that victims of "date rape" are hung with bad reputations but rapists are commendable studs, or about any piece of the construction of this "joke," or about its inclusion on a primetime network sitcom.
As best I can tell, the only reason anyone (besides rapists) might see to laugh at this "joke" is because it's true: There are indeed dads who communicate these hideous ideas to their daughters (and their sons).
But that isn't funny, either. That's tragic.