This past Thursday I went to TDU for an open mic night. There were people performing poetry, singing, and a few stand up acts. One girl, however, went up to do stand up and took the joke a little too far.
She started talking about how she went to a party and was dancing with this guy she thought was cute. Then as they were dancing though, she said he reached down and grabbed her crotch. She said, “and then I was like um what?” So I thought we were going to talk about how that is not okay and how she told him off or something. But instead, none of that happened.
She just kept saying, “I thought to myself, is this a thing?” and kept laughing about it. She then said she didn’t know how to tell him to stop because he seemed nice enough, was dancing well before that, and was kinda hot. Her joke ended with her turning around and just saying something funny to make light of the situation, removed his hand, and they kept dancing saying “he was really cool about it”.
There was so much of this I was offended by. First, she never once called it sexual assault or anything similar. When someone grabs your body in an unwanted way, that is assault and its nothing to joke about. When we talk about sexual assault in this way by not naming it, people second-guess whether what is happening to them is bad “or they are just over reacting.” Also, she kept saying how she didn’t know what to say because she didn’t want to offend him and he was good looking, which only provides for excuse making. Sorry if someone “feels bad” because you called them out, they shouldn’t be invading your privacy.
We’ve talked about rape jokes before, and sexual assault jokes as a whole, and this is not a time when rape jokes are done right. Lindy West has a great article about when a rape joke works (when the butt of the joke isn’t the victim or raising awareness to sexual assault) but this set just left me with a bad taste in my mouth. And while many sexual assault jokes are told my men, I was surprised a woman said this. She just did not acknowledge the severity of this kind of incident that happens every weekend—and it is not okay. As journalist Todd Leopold, explains
“It’s not just a joke. It doesn’t just exist on your Twitter and then go away. Things have real-life consequences. So it’s not that comedy is right or wrong, it’s how you’re using it.”
At the end of her set to wrap up the joke she said laughing, “I thought to myself, so if college is supposed to prepare me for the future, am I supposed to be prepared for this? I’m supposed to learn that guys are just going to grab my crotch?” It was not a consciousness raising effort, but the butt of the joke that women do face this. As cpowell pointed out, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month so my response is: yes. But we only need to learn it because of incidents like this where people reinforce rape culture instead of fighting it. Rape jokes, and sexual assault jokes as a whole, are not funny. If you agree, you should check out rapeisnojoke.com and sign their pledge to change our culture of acceptance for jokes about rape.