Friday, 31 August 2012

Rape Jokes

Of course you're all aware of the explosion of interest in rape, rape culture, rape legislation and rape jokes in the media recently. I have read so much commentary on rape jokes, particularly after the Daniel Tosh incident in which he put down a heckler at his show by suggesting that it would be funny if she was raped by members of the audience. One of the most pertinent responses to the whole sorry tale came from Jessica Valenti, whose piece Anatomy of a Successful Rape Joke explains why some rape jokes can be funny. There are also plenty of lists of funny rape jokes - or rather, lists of jokes that the writer feels are funny, and the reasons that they are funny rather than horrible, as are many rape jokes.

My family just told me a couple of jokes which illustrated the point perfectly, whilst having nothing to do with rape at all. My dad began it, with this gem:
So a young mother was pushing her baby along a street in Manchester when a huge rottweiler leapt towards the pram, snarling. The mother was terrified but a suddenly a man appeared from nowhere, rushed into the fray, wrestled with the enormous dog and broke its neck. Another man, seeing everything that had happened, rushed over and said to the first man, "Wow, that was incredible, you're a hero! I can see the headline now: United fan saves baby from savage beast!"
"That's great" replied the first man, "but I'm not a United fan."
"Oh, ok: City fan saves baby from savage beast!"
"I'm not a City fan either, I'm a Liverpool fan."
"Oh, right! I can see the headline now: Scouser brutally murders family pet!
I laughed. My sister laughed too, and then she said hey, have you heard this one?
Wow, those new 3D TVs are so realistic! I fell asleep watching the Liverpool match last night, and when I woke up my wallet was gone!
I did not laugh. But I did realise, in a blinding flash, how perfectly this illustrates the argument about good rape jokes and bad rape jokes. In the first one, you're laughing at the media's treatment of a certain group of people. In the second one, you're laughing at that group of people. That's the difference, and it's a good measure of how jokes on any subject can work: jokes about racism rather than racist jokes, jokes about sexism rather than sexist jokes - the list is probably endless.


  1. that's why censorship is a losing battle, language is so subtle. I think that some of us have a more sensitive ear for meaning while others seem not to see beyond the literal meaning.

    1. Indeed, making it similarly pointless to argue with some people who have a different understanding from your own. Not all people - obviously some discussion can be really productive. But for some people, a fundamental disconnect between your two world views (or a particular element of it) seems to render conversation pointless!

  2. That was genius - what a great example to show the difference between the two. Bookmarking this for use in every internet argument ever.