I bet you already knew that all men are not rapists. But did you know that men who have raped are likely to rape again? Did you know that men who rape think that all men rape, just like them? What does this mean for the rest of us who do not rape and think rape is disgusting? It means that when we make rape jokes and laugh at rape jokes, we are not only doing damage to the fight against rape culture and to people trying to survive sexual assault, we are also validating rapist mentality.
One Thursday night, we were all doing a terrible problem set. Someone made a rape joke and everyone laughed. I laughed, but in the middle of my laughter, I said, “We shouldn’t laugh at that, even though it was really funny.” Then I resumed my laughter. It was no big deal to anyone at the table as far as I could tell. Wanna hear the joke? I’m sure you have heard it…
You know, the one that makes me laugh, the one that makes my friends laugh. The one that makes me think rape isn’t so serious, the one that makes you think that I think rape isn’t so serious. The one that makes you cringe and shudder, not because you are offended, but by how lightly I treat something insurmountably horrible that happened to you, and because any reminder of what happened to you causes you literal physical distress. You know, the one that makes you ask, “Why can’t I get over it if rape is so funny and not serious?” But you didn’t know that, did you?
You know, the joke that normalizes rape, not in a way that directly causes rape, but in a way that makes us think that violence against women is okay and should be taken lightly when it comes to punishment. You know, that one that validates rapists’ mentalities because if everyone around them is laughing at a rape joke, then they must all think rape is okay. You know, the one that makes rapists say, “If they laugh at rape, they must want to rape, too.” You know, the one that makes rapists realize they can get away with a whole lot. But you didn’t know that, did you?
When I laughed at rape jokes before, I didn’t realize the full implications of what exactly I was participating in. Now that both you and I know what it actually means to tell a rape joke or laugh at a rape joke, what will you do about it?