Rape Jokes...Not so funny people!

Lately, it seems like just about every day you can skim through your facebook feed and see either a post showing a rape joke, or a post about a rape joke.  One of the more recent ones that has exploded on the facebook scene is the comedian Daniel Tosh and his use of rape jokes during his stand-up routine.  It seems like there has been a total explosion of these jokes, but in reality, I think rape jokes have always been far too common.  It may be that we are just seeing them more often because of the advent of facebook. Several years ago, before the facebook and myspace explosion, I was still hearing rape jokes.  Maybe I didn't see them as often as I do now on sites like facebook, but I heard them.  I don't think they were as vulgar as blatant as they are today, but there were still references to rape that were inappropriate at best.

The most common one I heard then, and by far the most common thing I hear even now today from the actual mouths of people  is the use of the term "rape" to refer to being charged too much for a product or treated unfairly.  An example of this would be the sentence "I got raped at the gas station today."  Ever since I was raped, hearing this type of statement is like nails on the chalkboard.  On top of the fact that for a period of time, the mere mention of "rape" sent chills down my spine, hearing it used in such a casual context, to describe something that didn't come even remotely close to what a rape victim really goes through just stung.  Of course, no one realized this would bother me, because most people didn't know that I had experienced rape.  The first problem with using the term rape in this context is that it takes away from the severity of what this crime really is.  It makes a crime where dignity and choice is ripped away from a victim, leaving them feeling guilt, shame and violated unlike any other crime seem no worse than having to pay extra money to put gas in the car.  Quite honestly, even though I don't like hearing the term rape be used in this way, I don't generally get that upset about it with the people using it in that way.  They are typically people who mean no harm and are using it in that way because they feel society is OK with it.  They don't realize how awful that sounds to a victim.

However, when comedians resort to using rape jokes in their stand-up routines, that is a whole different matter.  Although Daniel Tosh is the comdian currently in the news for doing this, he is by far not the first or only comedian to use rape jokes.  For one, the nature of these jokes is usually much more sinister than just misusing the term rape.  Often the jokes they make are victim-blaming in nature, alluding that victims are asking to be raped, that they deserve it, or that all claims of rape are false accusations.  Quite frankly, my thought about a comedian who uses rape jokes in their routine is that they aren't smart enough to come up with real material that is actually funny.  I wouldn't pay any money to see a comedian who is known for using rape jokes, and frankly, you couldn't even pay me enough money to see one either.

If you are a comedian - don't use rape jokes in your routine - if you are real comedian, you won't need to.

If you are an average joe person - don't make rape jokes.  1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are victims of rape, chances are, there is a victim within hearing distance of your joke.  It won't be funny to them, and it shouldn't be funny to anyone else either.

Slutwalks - The real benefit of them...

I'm sure if you search for "Slutwalk" on any blog site, you'll get your share of blogs both in support of, and against, them.  It seems almost everyone has an opinion on them.  The day after participating in the Des Moines Slutwalk for the second year in a row, I've been reflecting on what occurred yesterday. There were fewer people there this year than last year and the media didn't cover the event this year.  At first, I was really annoyed that the local media didn't feel the need to cover the event this year.  But after thinking about it, I have some mixed feelings on it.

This year's slutwalk rally after the march was a little different from last year's.  Last year, there were two speakers who had agreed to speak.  They came up, gave amazingly wonderful speeches sharing their stories and providing inspiration for the rest of us listening.  Then the organizer said the mic was open for anyone else who wanted to speak to come up and share their story.  No one approached.  Heather (the organizer) gave some more very supportive an inspirational words, and the group started to break apart to head to the after parties, or home.

This year: again, there were two people who had agreed to speak.  Both of us got up there and said what we had prepared.  But then, Heather mentioned that another participant had just told her that she wanted to speak.  She went up to the mic and admitted that she hadn't really planned to speak until she got to the walk that day.  She told an amazingly heartbreaking and inspiring story of how sexual assault had affected her life.  Then she sat down.  Then another young woman tentatively approached the mic and asked if she could share.  When she was done, another approached.  I lost count, but for almost an hour, survivors stepped forward and shared heartbreaking stories of how sexual assault and victim blaming had affected their lives, many sharing for the first time.  They were met with hugs when they got done speaking, and often throughout the rest of the evening other survivors would walk up to them and offer them hugs for sharing their stories.  There were a lot of hugs, and a lot of tears... But most of all, there was a lot of healing.

We've all heard the negative comments about the name Slutwalk.  That the name should be changed because it is derogatory.  The name "Slutwalk" comes from a specific event.  And yes, that incident involved a completely inappropriate and derogatory use of the term Slut.  But if you had been at the Des Moines Slutwalk yesterday, you would have seen that the point of this event has moved far beyond the term slut.  It is about supporting victims, providing hope, providing inspiration, reminding us that it is not their fault.  That they did not deserve what happened to them.  Generally, that they are AWESOME just for being survivors.

I was amazed and inspired each time a woman (or man) came forward and said "I wasn't planning on sharing this.  It isn't like me to be this open, but all you girls before me have inspired me to share what happened to me."  For each of these survivors, I believe that they healed just a little bit more when they spoke out, and especially when they were met with support after doing so.

The other amazing thing was the VARIETY of assaults represented by the survivors who spoke:

Spousal rape, child rape/molestation, male survivors, rape in the military, alcohol/drug facilitated rape, pregnancy as a result of rape, dating violence/date rape - and those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head.

But, this leads me to the mixed feelings part about the media.  I would have liked to see the media be there because 1) this IS a cause worth covering.  Awareness needs to be raised about how prevalent sexual assault is.  2) If they had been there - they would have seen the true benefit of slutwalks - the support it provides to survivors.  BUT... If the media had been there, many of these survivors would not have spoken out.  It's one thing to come up to a mic when you know that a few fellow survivors/supporters may have cameras taping, it's another thing when there is a media camera facing you.  I know the media cameras were one reason I didn't share last year - the thought of ending up on TV terrified me - I just wasn't ready for that step in speaking out yet.  (I believe that both media stations present last year asked the survivors who spoke for permission to use the video on the air - but that camera is still intimidating).  So, as much as I would have liked to see the media cover the event, in a lot of ways, I'm glad they didn't.  Because I believe a lot more healing occurred because they were not there.  And after all, healing is the best benefit of any event like this.

So, the next time you hear about a Slutwalk event in your area, instead of focusing on the word "Slut" in the name, focus on the fact that it is an incredible opportunity to show up and show your support for sexual assault survivors.  Don't judge an event by its name.  The name has a purpose, but it may not be near as important as the event itself.