Originally, this was going to be two separate posts – the second installments to two respective series I’ve had going on here. However, it wasn’t long before I realized that neither was really long enough, and they’re more than related enough to fit into the same post. So, here we go. Rape Joke Culture: Another Not So Fun Part Of The Aftermath Of Campus Rape.
Yet another thing I’m really starting to see that is important, if not unique, about campus rape is the sheer prevalence of rape jokes. They are everywhere. Everywhere. More than once, for the purposes of this blog, I’ve tried to keep a running tally of about how many I hear per day; however, the data pretty much always ends up being worthless because, after a certain number, I usually just remove myself from social situations for the rest of the day rather than deal with quietly seething around my peers. So, I’ll keep making attempts, but I can’t promise numbers on those any time soon.
I can think of about a million and one reasons why colleges and universities are a breeding ground for Rape Joke Culture, even in colleges like mine which happen to be free of your stereotypical Frat/Sorority scene (that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms entirely, and one that makes me feel ill for the sheer amount of validation it lends to rape culture). To summarize as generally as possible, colleges have a lot of 1) gamer kids, like the majority of my friends, who are so inured to using “rape” in the context of MMORPG’s and D&D campaigns that they seem to forget that it even has another meaning; 2) sporty kids, generally entrenched in a world of gender roles where the difference between a penis and a vagina is the difference between a baseball bat and a cheerleader uniform, and whose parties are notorious for people taking advantage; 3) sheltered upper-class kids who claim (falsely, I generally assume) to have never so much as met another person who has been raped, and thus view it as something that doesn’t happen to Real People; 4) entitled golden-boys who have never heard “no” enough to even consider it as an answer, and see every rape joke as nothing but validation of their own actions; and 5) more generally, kids raised in yet another generation where rape is viewed through a lens so skewed it may as well be a fucking kaleidoscope.
There are countless other aspects to this, and as much as I want to address them, that wouldn’t actually take this post much of anywhere.
My point is that you can’t get away from rape jokes on a college campus. Hell, you can’t get away from rape on a college campus, let alone the jokes about it. I find it fitting and horrible that one of the places where you are most likely to be sexually assaulted is also, from there on out, one of the most awful, triggering environments you can find.
And, if you’re like me and exceedingly uncomfortable with making other people feel bad, there’s a special kind of rape joke you’ll run into that leaves you a mess of Oh God How The Fuck Do I React To This.
See, I have little problem reacting to your average insensitive, unapologetic rape joke. I expect assholery from people, to a large extent, and I can respond in kind. I almost relish the chance to launch into a blunt rebuttal to blatant encouragement of rape culture, because it gives me a chance to vent the constant anger and spitefulness I have brewing somewhere in the region of my solar plexus.
The kind of rape joke that I don’t handle well, however, is a kind I run into almost more frequently these days. It’s the kind where, in a conversation with a friend who Knows What Happened, ze will jokingly make a Stupid Rape Comparison/Reference/Quip, and I’ll flinch or otherwise react, because it’s a knee jerk reaction. And then I can just watch the color drain from their face and their eyes get huge. And they stammer something along the lines of “I mean, Jesus, I didn’t mean it like That. Shit. Fuck. I’m an idiot.”
And even though I’m triggered and nauseated and angry and don’t want them around or to talk to them or acknowledge what just happened, I also feel fucking terrible, because clearly they think that I’m going to Hate Them Forever or something equally dramatic. So I end up more flustered than they are, trying to reassure them that Hey Don’t Worry About It You Didn’t Mean It Like That. I Know. It’s Okay.
But it’s not Okay. Because they do it again ten minutes later.
It’s never Okay. It’s bullshit. In how many other situations does shit like that happen?
I would not make a “gay” joke in front of a gay friend who had a hard time coming out or accepting hir own sexuality. I would not make a “cancer” joke around someone who has lost a loved one to cancer. I would not make a racist joke around someone who has been the victim of race-related violence. Why? Because I make an effort to remember when this sort of thing has happened to someone. Because I know better than to make jokes in such sensitive areas. Because it’s not right to joke about that shit in such a cavalier manner, around people who are not ready to have that made into someone else’s witticism. You can shove your “laughter is the path to healing” malarky where the sun don’t shine – having a bunch of other people making light of what you’ve been through does nothing but force you to choke out a smile and bury your own emotions on the subject, because obviously they’re Not Worth Taking Into Account.
I don’t get why people don’t understand this, or try to otherwise rationalize it. Rape jokes are not okay. Rape jokes were never, will never be okay.
And maybe if more college kids recognized that, universities wouldn’t be such a fucking haven for rapists in the first place.