Do I Amuse You?
I always intended this blog to be about my experiences and the things that make me mad. So, I should be honest, I’ve told jokes about terrible things, I’ve laughed at terrible things. Having said that, let’s move on…
I know a lot of this has been covered, but rape jokes hey, aren’t they funny… You know, edgy, dark… Get a sense of humour about it, Jesus, these chicks are so uptight. Really? No, really?
The “best” rape joke I was ever told was on a date (oh stick with me, it gets better). About once a year I think I ought to give in to the social expectations placed on me and give dating a go. This year I found a barrister online, he claimed to believe that women should be treated like princesses (we’ll cover that another day), seemed funny, smart and interesting so I agreed to meet up with him. In between insulting me and his family, he told me that he mentors more junior members of chambers. As an example of what a great guy he is, he told me that he had been approached by a young female barrister who was struggling because she was working on her first rape case. In order to help her feel better about it, he thought the best thing to do was to tell her a rape joke; a joke that he then told me.
For completeness, here’s the rest of the date:
Me: Did you just tell a rape joke?
Him: *Cross between a snigger and a shrug* Yup
Me: *Downs drink* Well this isn’t really working for me, good luck *legs it to Tube and texts all female friends*
So let’s just run through that one more time… A male barrister supported a female colleague by telling her a rape joke. But it’s alright, they regularly use gallows humour, it’s just what they do, I was taking the whole thing out of context.
We hear a lot of talk about ‘rape culture’ and I think there is a certain amount of scepticism that it either exists or that there is any impact on women if there is one. My previous post showed a casualness to rape via the medium of a t-shirt. However, that’s nothing compared to the idea that someone who might be prosecuting or defending my attacker felt that making a joke of it was ever, in any circumstances, an appropriate thing to do. This thought makes me feel physically sick.
Plus this man, regardless of his career choices, felt comfortable telling women that he couldn’t have known very well a joke about rape. He’s not the only one, I’m not singling him out because he was extraordinary, I’m singling him out because it happened to me and this is my blog. A friend recently overheard two of her male colleagues discuss “which female here would you most like to rape”. Let’s assume (because assuming anything else would be too horrific to live with) that they were joking, so that’s two men, in front of a female colleague, having a lovely jape about which women they would sexually assault. Was my friend supposed to feel flattered or insulted if she was/wasn’t chosen?
I like dark edgy humour, I do and I think it’s okay to be offended by things. But right now, we’re fighting a losing battle in a world in which people can tweet the most vile things about a rape victim (thank you again to @stfumisogynists Little Tweets for showing up the full horror of it). This is not a battle that is going to be helped by finding the humour in it.
So, here’s my advice on rape jokes… if you can be absolutely, 100% positive that no one you are talking to has been raped or sexually assaulted or knows someone who has been raped or sexually assaulted then you go ahead and tell your jokes… But guess what; hiding under the covers of almost every woman out there is an experience of sexual assault, physical abuse or rape. Maybe not personally, but to someone they are close to, someone they have picked up and tried to put back together again. So, that’s your mum, your sister, your aunt, your best female friend, your grandmother, your niece, your best mate’s girlfriend, your colleague, your date, your wife… Now, tell me that joke again.