I Write Letters

[Content Note: Rape culture.]

Dear James Corden:

I see that you are "truly sorry" for telling a bunch of Harvey Weinstein rape jokes at the amfAR Gala, and that offending people "was never [your] intention."


As someone who was not offended but contemptuous when I read your rape jokes, I'm ostensibly one of the people to whom you're apologizing.

And I don't accept.

I don't accept because it is not a meaningful apology, but the same regurgitated insufficiency that countless comics have made before you: It wasn't your intent; you were trying to shame rapists not victims; you think sexual violence is terrible of course; you are so, so sorry if anyone was offended.

And I don't accept it because it isn't the apology I want. I neither want nor need you to apologize to me for the feelings I have about your garbage jokes. What I want is for you to apologize for coasting through life not giving a fuck about survivors of sexual violence.

I know you don't want to apologize for that, because it's much uglier than just telling a few inappropriate jokes — and probably because you don't believe it's even true.

But let me assure you that it is.

Even if you care about women you know personally who have survived sexual violence, and even if you care in some abstract way about the absolute plague of sexual harassment and assault against women, you don't care and haven't cared enough to internalize that it's fucking disgusting to make casual rape jokes about a sexual predator, no less in the middle of women coming forward — even before all his victims who want to be known have made themselves known.

And honestly, James, if we're being honest, even you have to admit that's a very, very low bar. The "don't make rape jokes" bar.

And what makes me angry that you can't even manage to pass that bar is that I don't have the luxury of not understanding that the jokes you told aren't funny. I haven't managed to slide through life not understanding that people are hurt and triggered and angered and made deeply sad (all very different things than "offended") by rape jokes.

I have a category for "rape jokes" in which this is the 95th entry. Can you imagine that, James? Can you imagine how very different our lives are that you "didn't know" how troubling your jokes would be to many survivors (and our allies), while this is the 95th time I have published an entry about how rape jokes are not merely upsetting but function to uphold the rape culture?

Can you imagine for a moment what it feels like to be a woman who has survived being sexually assaulted multiple times, including being violently raped by someone I trusted; who publicly disclosed that history only to have it horrifically used against her; who has dedicated 1/3 of her life to advocacating for the dismantling of the rape culture, at a steep personal cost; who carries with her the story of every survivor about whom she's written; who does this work, became an activist, to try to give meaning to a thing that happened to me which I cannot bear to be meaningless; who knows that my experience is hardly unique, which makes it somehow even more painful?

Can you imagine this life of mine and then have to hear men over and over tell flippant jokes and say cruel things and then apologize for offending me while simultaneously lecturing me that it wasn't their intent and assuring me they totally care that sexual violence is a serious problem?

Not serious enough that you didn't know that rape jokes are shit, though. Right?

Fuck your apology, James Corden. I don't accept it. You're not even apologizing for the right thing. If you want to give me a meaningful apology, then it needs to be this: I'm sorry I didn't know. That I never listened. That I never heard. That I traded on the luxury afforded to me by my privilege. That I never stopped to contemplate what life is like for the women about whose sexual assaults I was joking, not even as I composed jokes about them.

I am all outta fucks for anyone who remains blissfully ignorant while virtually every woman on the entire planet — and an enormous number of men and genderqueer folks — have been sexually abused.

Apologize for the absolutely breathtaking indecency of that ignorance, or just shut the fuck up.


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