The Onion Fails Again, Or Why Sexual Abuse Is Not a Joke

by Shaker Mary, who can be found fighting the good fight on Twitter: @OHTheMaryD.

[Content Note: Rape jokes; misogynist slur; discussion of sexual violence statistics.]

On Tuesday, August 20th, The Onion ran a piece titled, "Adolescent Girl Reaching Age Where She Starts Exploring Stepfather's Body." Yes, it is as horrible as you think it is. I refuse to link to the original article, but here's the gist:
"It can be awkward and even a little scary for an adolescent girl when she experiences all these strange new feelings and starts to notice the sexual desires of her mother's husband…"


"But it's all part of growing up, and she should know that she is taking a very important step in life. It won't be long before her childhood is gone forever." Denton added that if the eighth-grader is confused or troubled by such experiences, she should try talking to friends her age who are going through the exact same thing.
In trying to use satire to critique the way the media covers sex abuse cases, The Onion focused on a fictional victim, sexualized young girls, and missed the mark completely. This can be added to the list of failures from a publication that thought it was the height of satire to call a 9-year-old Black girl a "cunt".

A 13-year-old in a sexual relationship with an adult is nothing to joke about. Incest is a very real and hellish experience that far too many people either have or are currently living through and to satirize that is not only offensive, it's disgusting and dangerous.

The rape and sexual abuse of children is not a joke.

It's not a joke when, according to the Administration for Children and Families, 18.5% of 9- to 11-year-olds, 26.3% of 12- to 14-year-olds, and 21.8% of 15- to 17-year-olds are sexually abused (these are conservative estimates, since sexual abuse is one of the most underreported crimes).

It's not a joke when, according to the American Psychological Association, 30% of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members and the presence of a stepfather in the home doubles the risk of sexual victimization for girls.

It's not a joke when children with disabilities are 4 to 10 times more vulnerable to sexual abuse then non-disabled children.

We live in a society where news reporters go on national TV and lament the lost "promising futures" of convicted rapists and say very little about the teenage girl who was brutalized by them. Where, in a small town in Indiana, a pregnant 14-year-old is called a "slut" and a "whore" by her neighbors just because she's a rape victim.

We, as a society, already fail to treat rape and sexual assault/abuse claims with the gravity they deserve, continually shifting the blame off the perpetrators and blaming the victim. We have no business satirizing something that is already not taken seriously.

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