Whoooooooooooops Your Rape Joke

[Content Note: Rape joke; violence.]

So, I'm just watching this video of one of my favorite comedians, Paul F. Tompkins, interviewing fellow comedian Zach Galifianakis, and I get to minute 6, at which point begins a segment innocuously titled "On Encouraging Friends."
ZG: I convinced my friend Jody to come out to California, 'cause I thought he was really funny, and try stand-up. So he comes—he moves out [laughs] to California, and he's like, "What jokes should I do?" 'cause I was gonna take him to an open mic, and I said, "Well, just do that thing that you said on the phone to me once. That was funny." So he gets onstage at The Gypsy Café, and his opening joke was: "I'm designing a board game for children and adults to play together. It's called Suck My Dick or I'll Break Your Neck." [PFT laughs; ZG laughs.] Now, I'm like, "This is a good joke!" [Makes a face that implies there was dead silence in response to the joke.] I mean, there was nothing—you could—it was also followed by the cappuccino machine, you know, making it worse." [PFT laughs.] But, uh, yeah, that was it. He never—he never did it again.
What a loss for us all, I'm sure.

I'm not even really sure how to describe what my reaction was to getting blindsided with a joke about sexual violence while watching a video that I was hoping would make me laugh. I wasn't triggered; I rarely have physical reactions of anxiety anymore. But I did have a conscious thought about that being a rape joke which inevitably evokes a certain feeling, an unpleasant visceral memory, of being a survivor of sexual assault.

I went from feeling invited to sit in a room with Paul F. Tompkins and Zach Galifianakis, listening to them talk, to feeling like I was trapped in a room with two men who think that joking about sexual violence is funny. It was a discernible shift in my perception, and my sense of safety.

I imagine a lot of survivors of sexual violence know exactly what I'm talking about.

It's hardly the worst feeling I experience as a survivor with PTSD, but it's a terrible feeling all the same, in all its banality.

I'm not writing this because I'm mad. I'm not mad; I'm tired. And I'm not writing it to make another argument about rape jokes potentially triggering survivors, or how rape jokes empower rapists; I've written enough on those subjects in the last few weeks.

And I'm not writing this for Galifianakis, who has enough integrity to refuse to work with Mel Gibson, but is totes cool about working with convicted rapist Mike Tyson. I don't expect that he cares very much about dismantling the rape culture.

I'm writing this because I have always regarded Paul F. Tompkins as a thoughtful guy, and I hope he will see this and consider what it means that I watched that video hoping for some fun escapism, and instead landed squarely in the center of a history I cannot escape.

I am, unfortunately, part of a large demographic. One out of every 6 women. One out of every 33 men. People with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and self-harm. People who could use a laugh.

I am writing this hoping that Paul F. Tompkins will reconsider if he really wants to be the sort of comic who creates with his comedy a space that is unsafe for survivors, for people who are his fans, who seek out his content to be uplifted.

I always liked him because I thought he wasn't that sort of comic.

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