Saturday, July 14, 2012

Women Make Rape Jokes

Thank you, Elissa Bassist of the Daily Beast, for writing the only article in the great frothing cataract of ink spilled on Daniel Tosh's unspeakably shitty rape joke that didn't make me want to secede from reading things: "Why Daniel Tosh's 'Rape Joke' At The Laugh Factory Wasn't Funny."

(I posit that Tosh, right up until the part where he yelled "Fire" in a crowded theater and had most of his asshole privileges justly revoked, had a point. Rape jokes can indeed be funny. But they're usually funnier when you can tell they're jokes. I find that having to study people's facial expressions to see if they're kidding, while making quick mental maps of the nearest emergency exits just in case, kind of takes the har har out of the whole exercise.)

Bassist begins promisingly:
I edit a humor column called Funny Women on, and during my first and last radio interview about “funny women,” the host asked me if I thought rape jokes were funny. She said, “Rape jokes are never funny.” I said I thought anything could be funny. 
Right on, right on.
I went a step beyond and said jokes about tragedy could take on a fierce power. They could be cathartic and empowering, they could help you reclaim control when you’ve lost something you’ll never get back or have been damaged beyond repair.
Anybody who disagrees with this clearly hasn't watched enough Richard Pryor.

Here's where Bassist takes a little side detour into Awesometown, though.
I have a rape joke myself. When I wrote about my sexual assault for a nonfiction workshop in my MFA program, I called the piece “rape-portage,” as in “reportage” as pronounced by arrogant MFAers as “re-por-taj” or “re-pər-ˈtäzh,” if you want to get fancy.
This isn't an argument, it's a proof. If you laugh, she's right. And I challenge you to imagine a roomful of unbearably earnest MFA types trying to figure out how they're supposed to react to this brash, inappropriate, un-victim-ish victim-person wielding that hefty portmanteau without the corner of your mouth twitching just a little.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely. If folks can laugh about guys getting their dicks literally lopped off (and Lorena Bobbitt proved that was so) then it is certainly possible for a rape joke to be funny. But, as we know, funny is subjective. You can't just tell someone, with a straight face and scientific proofs, that something is funny. The only proof is in the laughter. And just because you aren't one of the folks laughing, that doesn't mean it doesn't have humor.

    Having said that, there's a difference between telling a room full of castrati a joke about balls and telling that same joke in a locker room full of intact males. You have to have the brains to know your audience.