Disclaimer: Everything in this post is 100% my subjective opinion, and I’m sure a ton of people, especially other survivors, would not necessarily agree with me – and that’s okay! As stated in my comment policy, you don’t have to agree with me, you just have to be respectful.
There’s a distinction I haven’t really addressed in past posts about rape jokes, but that I’m seeing more and more – that is, the difference between “jokes about rape” and “jokes involving rape”. To me, the big contrast is that the former is never okay or funny, whereas the second can potentially be okay by me, and also potentially be pretty funny. My hatred of rape humor as a whole doesn’t mean that any comedy sketch or joke that so much as mentions sexual assault is automatically The Worst Thing Ever, but it does mean that there are a lot of wrong ways to approach the subject and only so many “right” (or less wrong) ones.
To illustrate my point a little better, I’d like to make a possibly controversial statement: I thought the “Grapist” sketch from Whitest Kids U Know was mildly funny and not too offensive. The reason for this is that the punchline, so to speak, was not “rape”. The humor didn’t rely on the shock value of sexual assault or shitty misogynistic ideas. Instead, it was based around a major failure in communication between a member of a committee reviewing a potential advertisement and his coworkers. And while it was certainly sacrilegious and potentially triggering (as anything that even mentions sexual assault can be), the humor therein didn’t rely on “rape is okay”, “certain kinds of rape aren’t real rape”, “you can deserve rape” or any of the other implications that a lot of rape jokes can have. The rape part wasn’t central; the sketch could have been built around any number of other potential situations and still worked pretty much the same way. So while it was kinda abrasive and overdone, as are most WKUK videos, it didn’t leave me hating the world and everyone in it. Humor like this isn’t exactly the pinnacle of comedy, but I don’t have a real problem with it, either.
I guess what it comes down to is whether the joke comes at the expense of victims, or society/rapists/something unrelated. It may seem subtle to people who don’t think much about rape culture, but there’s a huge fucking difference between Wanda Sykes’ “Detachable Pussy” piece versus George Carlin making 80-year-old women being violently sexually assaulted into comedy fodder. One has undertones of criticism for rape culture, the other is just someone relying on shock value and normalizing/validating sexual assault.
Now, a caveat: just because a Joke Involving Rape might not be essentially telling any listeners “oh hey, rape is not a real issue and can be justified” or anything along those lines, that still does not make it okay to criticize people who don’t think it’s funny. I don’t care who thinks that Laughter Is The Best Medicine; you are never required to laugh at anything that triggers you, regardless of the intention behind it. If “Grapist” makes you feel sick to your stomach because it still contains sexual assault as a theme, even if it’s not a rape joke in the traditional sense, that’s valid and you have every right to tell people to shut the hell up about it (myself included). If you have survived a violent crime, or if you just happen to not find things like that funny, then nobody gets to tell you to laugh about it just to make the people around you feel more comfortable.
A recap: when it comes to anything involving mentions of sexual assault, there are three categories. 1) Things that are never funny, no matter what, even if a past victim is telling the joke (yep, that’s right, there’s nobody who’s “allowed” to make those jokes even by virtue of personal experience). 2) Things that can be funny depending on the context and way in which they’re delivered. And, a third category which can overlap any or all of the above: 3) Things that you are not required to laugh at, no matter what other survivors, your family, your friends, the internet, or anyone else tells you.