On Rape Jokes and Anger

[Trigger warning for discussion of rape jokes; ableist language.]

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a follow-up to his post in which he defended a Louis CK rape joke by asserting: "Very few people would (publicly) claim that there are 'good reasons' for rape." (My post in response to his original post is here.)

I'm not sure I understand the point of the follow-up, in which he reprints a letter from one of his readers (who sounds like zie reads Shakesville, too), who identifies hirself as a survivor, only to reassert in response to the letter that he hasn't changed his mind and still considers the joke defensible. He additionally posts video of the joke, and opens it up for discussion with the admonishment to "walk away, have a drink and come back later" if you "find yourself typing out of anger."

Rape apologists are not singled out. Anger of any sort is deemed unwelcome.

"This is a really sensitive issue that should not be handled with kid gloves, but should be handled with a modicum of respect," he explains. "Don't be an idiot."

I am reasonably certain that Coates did not intend that to be read by survivors as, "Let's not get all emotional about how some of us like to laugh at jokes about someone disregarding your agency, bodily autonomy, dignity, and essential humanity in order to brutally assault you," but only because I imagine he didn't consider how (or that) it would be read by survivors at all.

It's incredibly hostile to survivors, especially survivors who are triggered by rape jokes, to tell them that their emotions, even if those emotions include anger, are unwelcome in a discussion of jokes about the thing that they have survived.

We want to dispassionately discuss jokes about this incredibly personal and intense thing that happens to people, but we don't want it cluttered with all your icky emotions about it.

Again, we witness the apologist's construct that people who have survived sexual assault cannot be objective (or rational, or calm, or some variation thereof) in discussions about "rape humor" (unless, of course, they're the ones saying they laugh at rape jokes).

The implicit suggestion, of course, is that only people who are perceived to have no personal reason to be angry about rape jokes are unbiased—which conveniently ignores that lack of experience can make one's opinions incredibly subjective, too.

No one, on either side of the survivor divide, is more intrinsically disposed to be more objective. We're all biased—either because we are unwilling experts on the act of being raped, or because we are not.

To exclude unqualified anger, in favor of some anodyne discourse whitewashed of all evidence of the ugly consequences of rape, is to exclude survivors.

And, frankly, it seems to me that any discussion of rape jokes needs more anger, not less. After all, rape jokes work to empower rapists, and thus tacitly abet the act of rape.

Which, ostensibly, we are all reflexively against, right...?

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