After I moved to New York from Chicago, I returned to the Windy City for Thanksgiving with friends. As I was walking down a blustery street in Edgewater with my best friend and former roommate Christina, both of us carrying casseroles and pies in our hands, I noted while passing an alleyway how there are no alleys in New York. "What!" she exclaimed. "Then where do women get raped?!"
That is a funny rape joke.
They do exist, as Daniel Tosh of Tosh.0 fame has suggested. The host of everyone's favorite clip show that pulls slightly funny shit from YouTube for television broadcasts has gotten himself in a bit of hot water lately after a disgruntled comedy patron objected to his brand of sexual assault humor. From an account on her Tumblr:
So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didnt appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”
Well, she's not really correct there! Rape, like any other topic, can be joked about—if done properly. Once I heard the creator of a much-beloved Comedy Central sketch show say that his retort to a woman's swipe (in which she suggested that she wouldn't sleep with him if he were the last man on Earth) was, "Oh yeah, well if we were the only people on Earth, who would you tell if I raped you?" (Paraphrasing, clearly.) Not a funny rape joke! That's basically just saying, "Ha ha I could totally rape you if I wanted to." But joking about the act of rape—particularly the ill conceived notions about it—is different. Take my friend's joke from above. She's a comedian, she's a lady. She's not making fun of the idea of being raped, she's making fun of the idea that rape exists only in the context of a violent attack by a stranger in the street.
There's no real record of what kind of rape jokes Tosh was making (I'm guessing they were of the "Ha ha I could totally rape you if I wanted to" variety, as he is the host of a clip show in which slightly funny shit from YouTube is pulled for rebroadcast on television), but the author of the post does go on:
After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…” and I, completely stunned and finding it hard to process what was happening but knowing i needed to get out of there, immediately nudged my friend, who was also completely stunned, and we high-tailed it out of there. It was humiliating, of course, especially as the audience guffawed in response to Tosh, their eyes following us as we made our way out of there. I didn’t hear the rest of what he said about me.
Not a funny rape joke! Not a joke, really, and more like a gross misogynistic attack. And sadly, that is something that happens often when one sees straight male comics, particularly the variety of straight male comics whose legacy will be forever limited to hosting a clip show in which slightly funny shit from YouTube is pulled for rebroadcast on television.
Daniel Tosh apologized in his own special way (by which I mean, acknowledging the woman and not apologizing). He has even gotten the support of Louis C.K., who tweeted to Tosh that he really likes his show. Cool. Even Louis C.K. likes to take a break from making a critically adored television show to watch a grown man in front of a green screen laugh as fat people fall down in YouTube videos.
(BTW, is it just me or does Daniel Tosh have a giant sleep-rapist vibe about him? JK! Funny rape joke!)