“Rape Joke” appears to have final word in the rape joke debate

I thought Jezebel blogger Lindy West was going to have the final word in the debate about rape jokes that emerged earlier this month in the wake of the comedian Daniel Tosh’s inane comment that it would be funny if a member of the audience “got raped by… five guys, right now.” West’s brilliant and sassy piece, “How to Make a Rape Joke” made me laugh out loud — and even made an interesting pass at suggesting a few criteria for acceptable jokes about offensive topics. But, despite West’s earlier attempt to point out that responses in the form of threats to rape and kill her only proved her point, the debate continued.

Then poet Patricia (Tricia) Lockwood published “Rape Joke” at The Awl last week.

It went viral within hours — and based on the tone of comments, tweets and blog responses, seems to have silenced — or at least taken the wind out of — those who think that all rape jokes are forms of protected speech.

3 thoughts on ““Rape Joke” appears to have final word in the rape joke debate

  1. That’s a powerful piece of writing.

    It would also be a great and humbling thing to see some analogous piece of writing from a male victim perspective, given that by far the most prevalent and socially tolerated rape jokes are those concerning men raped by other men.

    Debate about rape jokes, as I understand, has not (in the main) been over whether rape jokes fall into the category of protected speech, though. I’ve gathered that most participants in those debates do not generally disagree on that point.

  2. You’re right, Nemo, it would be interesting see an analogous piece of writing from a male victim — male rapes of adult men are so far in the closet that we don’t even have any related tropes.

    With respect to the role of free speech and First Amendment issues in the rape joke debate: I probably shouldn’t have called it a “debate” — the whole conversation has been populated by so many bloggers saying the first thing that comes to mind that it’s hard to say what it’s “about” — whether it’s a question of what does/does not make a (rape) joke funny, or what makes a (rape) joke or other speech act threatening, or whether (rape) jokes are a form of art and should thereby be considered a form of protected speech.

    That said, the conversation has definitely veered towards First Amendment questions over the past couple of months. I had the distinct impression that the late May debate between Lindy West and comedian Jim Norton was the catalyst for that (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtUb_E1qUHA) — though it could also have been the fact that Facebook decided to start removing pages with photos and jokes about violence against women (http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/29/tech/social-media/facebook-hate-speech-women), which happened at about the same time.

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