lizzie_and_ari: (Default)
[personal profile] lizzie_and_ari
So, Andy linked to this article yesterday about rape jokes. The premise of the, very brief, article, is that you shouldn't make rape jokes because statistically, one in five people have been raped, and it acts as a trigger,and you shouldn't upset people.

On the face on it, I totally agreed. But it's been percolating in my mind. The thing is, there are many horrific things that may happen to someone over the course of their lifetime. Some are undoubtedly more horrific than others, but horrific is horrific, traumatic is traumatic and a trigger is a trigger.

I work in comedy so I've seen many of its incarnations, but there is still some material that triggers me. Jokes about eating disorders tend to be the worst. They upset me, they make my stomach flip and  make me want to stick my fingers in my ears in a bizarre childish fashion. Jokes about self-harm can have a similar effect, and even very banal material about family relationships can make me uncomfortable and sets me off on trains of thought I didn't want to be having. 
I am very lucky; I have never been raped. Many people close to me have, though, and it's been various stages of horrific. I'm not for one moment suggesting it's anything less than that and I wouldn't swap my traumatic experiences for theirs. So I suppose that, if I'm in the business of ranking trauma (which I'm not), I'd rank their experiences as Worse Than mine.
I don't need to say it: rape is bad. We all know rape is bad. Some know first-hand, some, like me, second hand, some just in the same way that you know killings is bad. The debate about whether we know this intrinsically as humans or not is for another day, but it certainly feels instrinsic.
Rape is so bad that we shouldn't joke about it. We can joke about other forms of abuse (or self abuse), we can joke about death or trauma or illness or terrible bad fortune. But we shouldn't joke about rape. In fact, you know what, we probably shouldn't talk about it at all... 
This is my problem with the 'don't joke about rape' concept. It in fact reinforces the concept of rape as the Last Taboo. It's something that's still stigmatised and putting into its own separate category of unacceptability underlines this stigma. 
But the original article is right. Son't say 'I totally raped level three' (not a phrase,thankfully, that I've ever heard myself). Similarly, don't describe the wonky wheel on your shopping trolley as 'totally gay'. Don't call the checkout operator at TK Maxx 'a total spastic'. 
Don't make jokes *at the expense* of those who have been raped, and don't apportion language in a way that will upset people and reinforce stereotypes and stigmas. But the moment we stop being able to joke about something is the moment when it holds most fear for us.
Don't not make rape jokes. Just joke like you should drink - responsibly.
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