by Shaker Time-Machine, a feminist, fat acceptance advocate, ginormous Doctor Who fan, film student, and terribly busy intern living in LA and trying feverishly to graduate.
[Trigger warning for rape culture and discussions of rape jokes. This post originally appeared in similar form as a comment at Shakesville.]
Following is a primer for men who are interested in learning more about the practical effects of rape humor. Most of the information in this piece is, as always, generally applicable, but this has been written to be most accessible for men in keeping with the objective of the series. Additionally, this post in particular is addressed to men, not because women don't rape and women don't make/laugh at rape jokes and not because men can't be raped, but because, by nature of the existing gender disparity, men are in a unique position to be taken seriously when they raise objections to casual language and humor regarding rape. Men are also in a unique position to prove to rapists and douchebags that not all men rape or take rape lightly by being able to embody living proof of that fact.
To all those men who don't think the rape jokes are a problem:
I get it—you're a decent guy. I can even believe it. You've never raped anybody. You would NEVER rape anybody. You're upset that all these feminists are trying to accuse you of doing something, or connect you to doing something, that, as far as you're concerned, you've never done and would never condone.
And they've told you about triggers, and PTSD, and how one in six women is a survivor, and you get it. You do. But you can't let every time someone gets all upset get in the way of you having a good time, right? Especially when it doesn't mean anything. Rape jokes have never made YOU go out and rape someone. They never would; they never could. You just don't see how it matters.
I'm going to tell you how it does matter. And I tell you this because I genuinely believe you mean it when you say you don't want to hurt anybody, and that it's important to you to do your best to be a decent and good person, and that you don't see the harm. And I genuinely believe you when you say you would never associate with a rapist and you think rape really is a very bad thing.
Here is why I refuse to take rape jokes sitting down…
Because 6% of college-aged men, slightly over 1 in 20, will admit to raping someone in anonymous surveys, as long as the word "rape" isn't used in the description of the act—and that's the conservative estimate. Other sources double that number (pdf).
A lot of people accuse feminists of thinking that all men are rapists. That's not true. But do you know who think all men are rapists?
They really do. In psychological study, the profiling, the studies, it comes out again and again.
Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape.
If one in twenty guys (or more) is a real and true rapist, and you have any amount of social activity with other guys like yourself, then it is almost a statistical certainty that one time hanging out with friends and their friends, playing Halo with a bunch of guys online, in a WoW guild, in a pick-up game of basketball, at a bar, or elsewhere, you were talking to a rapist. Not your fault. You can't tell a rapist apart any better than anyone else can. It's not like they announce themselves.
But, here's the thing. It's very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys, at some point or another, someone told a rape joke. You, decent guy that you are, understood that they didn't mean it, and it was just a joke. And so you laughed.
Or maybe you didn't laugh. Maybe it just wasn't a very funny joke. So maybe you just didn't say anything at all.
And, decent guy who would never condone rape, who would step in and stop rape if he saw it, who understands that rape is awful and wrong and bad, when you laughed? When you were silent?
That rapist who was in the group with you, that rapist thought that you were on his side. That rapist knew that you were a rapist like him. And he felt validated, and he felt he was among his comrades.
You. The rapist's comrade.
And if that doesn't make you feel sick to your stomach, if that doesn't make you want to throw up, if that doesn't disturb you or bother you or make you feel like maybe you should at least consider not participating in that kind of humor anymore, not abiding it in your presence, not greeting it with silence...
Well, maybe you aren't as opposed to rapists as you claim.
Note: A quick and simple rule for language and behavior if you want to be a decent person: Ask yourself, who is more likely to be made to feel comfortable around me based on whatever I'm about to say/do? Rape survivors? Or rapists? Who is more likely to be made to feel uncomfortable? If you're doing something that is more likely to make rapists feel comfortable and/or rape survivors feel uncomfortable, then don't do it!