Can Rape Jokes Ever Be Funny?

After comedian Daniel Tosh got into a confrontation with a woman attending his comedy show over rape jokes she deemed offensive and retaliated by apparently threatening her with gang rape, a few strands of furious debate emerged. Tosh's behavior to the woman as reported was by all accounts totally unacceptable, so the straw-argument raised by his defenders was that censorious PC feminists were fulminating against all jokes that touched on the issue of rape.

The answer to this bogus claim, of course, is that humor is at its best when it subverts the norm. In a rape culture such as ours, the norm is to pile scorn and disbelief upon victims and excuse perpetrators. So rape jokes that further humiliate victims aren't edgy, they're just bullying. But jokes that call attention to rape culture can be funny and even receive the feminist seal of approval.

A number of awesome feminist friends of AlterNet from the Women's Media Center, PopCulturePirateWomen In Media & News, and Fem2pt0 teamed up this week to create a "supercut" of a variety of rape jokes, including several from Daniel Tosh which in my mind show exactly on which side of the line his particularsense of humor lies. The video, however, makes no overt judgments, but asks audience members to decide for themselves where that line is, what makes them laugh, and what makes them uncomfortable.

Jennifer L. Pozner, Executive Director of WIMN explained the conception of the video in the release: “Humor can be used to expose injustice, as Carlin liked to do, or to reinforce it, as Tosh did by hostilely targeting a female audience member. And Tosh’s comedian pals saying she asked for it? That’s not comedy, that’s abuse.”

Watch the video below.

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at July 14, 2012, 6:43am