“You know she’s playing hard to get when you’re chasing her down an alleyway.”
If you ask almost anyone, they’ll agree that sexual assault and abuse are not ok. It’s a horrific crime that hurts children, women, men, families and communities. It’s used in war as a weapon to degrade and humiliate. The thought of it happening to a friend, partner or family member is enough to lead someone to threaten to kill another. Yet… there are an endless number of rape jokes on movies, the internet, Facebook, television shows, on stand-up stages and in classrooms. What’s so funny about sexual abuse and assault? Is it ever ok to joke about sexual assault? Are people who object to this genre of humour lacking a funny bone?
It doesn’t really matter that the person who is telling the joke is a ‘really good guy’, that he would never actually sexually assault anyone. Considering the prevalence rate of sexual violence, chances are someone who has been impacted by this crime will be in the vicinity of the jokester
The message that sexual assault is laughable, making light of the fears, anxiety and for many, the reality of being sexually assaulted decreases the likelihood that a person will feel that their own experience will be taken seriously.
Laughing at these jokes also helps a person who has been assaulted to easily identify those individuals who are not safe to talk to about their own experiences, for fear of minimization and perhaps disbelief.
By not taking sexual abuse and assault seriously, it supports the widespread denial of the existence of sexual violence in each one of our communities.
Being the only one to not laugh at a joke can be hard. It can feel like you have no sense of humour, or can’t take a joke. The truth is, it makes you a safe person for someone to talk to about sexual assault. It teaches the people you are with that you don’t think sexual assault is funny and neither should they.