I recently watched last week’s new episode of 30 Rock online, and I found it jarring to hear a rape joke thrown in–about Jenna and her boyfriend giving each other date rape drugs to spice up their relationship. This is nothing new: Rape jokes have been all over network TV lately. The Opinioness of the World has collected some recent ones on her blog, and I would also add that I have heard rape jokes on NBC’s Chelsea, CBS’s Two and a Half Men (which has been getting away with it for years), and I was aghast when CBS’s soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful–a drama aimed specifically at young people–featured a story in which a brother-sister team came up with the brilliant idea to get the underage girl he was interested in drunk, so that he could “hook up” with her, and this would clearly make her love him. Never was it mentioned that this, actually, would be sexual assault. It’s tempting to blame this epidemic of insensitive humor on the fact that there are so few women writing and producing TV these days, but it turns out that NBC’s Whitney, Chelsea, 30 Rock, and CBS’s 2 Broke Girls all have female writers and/or producers, and yet all turn to rape, date rape drugs, etc. as a source of humor.
Rainn Wilson made a date rape joke on Twitter yesterday, and I sent him some choice words before unfollowing him. It seems many others did the same, and I guess he deserves recognition for apologizing… But where is the sustained outrage? Where is the dialogue about the fact that this kind of humor is everywhere? I’m tired of feeling a jolt every time someone tells a rape joke on TV, I’m tired of wondering in real life whether I should get in their face or keep my mouth shut when one of my colleagues jokes about it, I’m tired of looking away or changing the channel when a rape scene, a rape storyline, or something someone says about rape in real life makes me uncomfortable. Why is it OK to joke, when this is happening every day to thousands of women, in the U.S. and worldwide, and most of them will never get justice?
Another blogger, Harriet J, wrote this post on the subject, and it’s long but it sums up my feelings pretty well:
[H]ere is my challenge for those who want to tell rape jokes:
Ask every woman in your life if she has been sexually assaulted. Ask her to tell you her story. This means your mother, your sister, your girlfriend, your grandma.
Once you have heard all their stories, go watch a movie with a rape scene in it. One you didn’t mind before. One you thought people were overly offended by.
Now tell me a joke.