I’m sure everyone has heard about the problems surrounding universities and sexual assault. Up here in Canada, we’ve recently had a couple of controversies over rape jokes, one from a frosh chant at the University of British Columbia and a more recent one from some comments from students at Dalhousie University. I’ve been hesitating to write about rape jokes for a while, and then it came to my school. Oy.
For those of you who don’t want to read the articles, the host of the trivia at the university pub at the University of Regina made some rape jokes about knocking women out to have sex with them. And according to social media, this isn’t the first time this has happened. I’m going to let Professor Farnsworth sum up my feelings on this:
Unfortunately for me, I don’t have the option to leave like the good Professor.
The question of whether rape jokes should be made at all is a hard one. I find a lot of healing in brutally mocking my rapist, including his actions during the assaults and abuse themselves. I’m not really here to talk about the humour in rape jokes. I write spec fic and poetry. I know jack all about being funny.
All I really want to know is “why now?” Why, if this has happened a lot at The Owl, are people just paying attention to it now? How long were those terrible things that the Dalhousie students said up there before someone was like “we should probably do something about this before some poor sixteen year old wakes up from getting a tooth pulled with vaginal pain”? How long was that stupid chant a tradition before someone said “…wait, what the hell?”
Most human beings (we hope) figure out that rape is bad shortly after figuring out what rape is. This is usually before you get to university. I sure as hell hope that by the time you start running a university you know what rape is (hint: think of murder, then think of something much worse). These people probably had a sneaking suspicion that these behaviours were idiotic and harmful and did jack all. New students probably heard the frosh chant and went “wait a minute” but didn’t say much. Why?
This isn’t to say that the people speaking up now are doing the wrong thing. Far from it. But I think the larger cultural context is that these sorts of jokes have been allowed to be told for so long that some people just accepted that rape jokes were going to happen no matter what. Might as well laugh, right?
There’s a reason that racist jokes get flack now. Our society, because humans are social creatures, has a “laugh when the king laughs” mentality, except the king is all of us. We’re so afraid of being ousted that we will laugh when others laugh, in this case the few douches who think that raping someone is funny. So the jokes become “funny” because we let them be funny. This isn’t even beginning to touch on the cultural context that thinks when a man is raped by a woman it’s wacky comedy and not, you know, a horrible crime against another human being. It’s not just women suffering from this mentality.
If you’ve been reading my blog a while, you know that I don’t have any answers. If you’re just reading me for the first time, I don’t have any answers. I barely even ask good questions. I just feel that I have to ask questions, because if I can get one person to think about my words then I’ve done my job as a writer.
I’m also not going to answer these questions because I feel like society will have to explain itself.
So why now? And why not when people first started making these jokes?
And when is it going to stop?