The Rape Joke


I went to a comedy show last weekend.

It took me a long time to convince myself to go, as a theatre isn’t really a good place for a person who is scared of the dark, large crowds, and confined spaces.

But I reminded myself that I’m a big girl now. I’m not scared of the dark, or crowds, or rape jokes.

(Editor’s note: YES I AM. I AM AFRAID OF ALL OF THOSE THINGS.)

So I went to this comedy show, to have fun and to laugh.

I’m not going to tread into the debate of where and when rape jokes are appropriate, or if comedians should or should not be allowed to use them. You can do whatever you want. But I will tell you what this joke did to me, and how it made me feel.

I knew there would be a joke about Bill Cosby. I knew it. I handled that one fine, as it seemed to make him the butt of the joke. “the audience will leave here, after being in a dark room for 4 hours, slightly confused with a bit of a headache. Kid of like a date with Bill Cosby”

But the Jian Ghomeshi one really got to me. As soon as I heard his name, I tensed up. I was on the edge of my seat and all of the muscles in my body clenched up. With the “did you get consent from the patient” “oh, it was implied” joke, I started panicking. I couldn’t breathe and there wasn’t enough air in the room. When he joked about using restraints, I bolted for the door. I stumbled out of the room like a drunk. I couldn’t see anything. My palms were sweating, i was shaking. I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I didn’t even recognize myself. I was a shell all over again.

The worst part was the audience laughing. All I could think of was being physically restrained and assaulted. In my mind, the entire audience was laughing WITH the attacker, and laughing AT me. They were laughing about the time I was almost murdered.

It felt like the moment after a roller coaster derails – the carnival music is still playing, but now it sounds creepy. All the clowns that used to be funny are just plain scary. Nothing is the same after that moment.

My roommate walked me home – literally – I could not navigate the 5 blocks on my own. I was mute for 4 hours, I could not force a single word to come out of my mouth. I sat staring at the TV until 5am. I truthfully don’t even know if the TV was turned on. I was trembling, dazed, curled up in the smallest ball I could physically manage. When I finally fell asleep, I woke up in a cold sweat after less than 15 minutes – another nightmare where I was being choked.

I understand that no topics are off limits in comedy, if you are offended easily you should stay home, etc.  I’m not always a spoil sport, I swear! I found some examples of jokes that I find funny: Wanda Sykes and Dane Cook have both done an amazing job.

As a comedian, you can say or do whatever you please. Freedom of speech is still a thing. However, rape is also still a thing. And statistically, if there are more than 3-5 females in your audience, you are probably looking at a rape victim. And I’m not so sure you want to make them the way I feel right now. But, if you feel so inclined, here is a flow chart to guide you through the creation of a rape joke, and This is a good piece about how to tell a rape joke.

This is a poem titled “The Rape Joke”, created by a survivor who encourages others to write their own. 

And this is me, still sleeping with the lights on.

Author

Elizabeth

Elizabeth

Hi! I'm Elizabeth, a blogger on When You're Ready.org I spent 2 years struggling with PTSD and panic attacks following a violent attack. I want to use my experience and my voice to raise support for others. I desperately want to make the world a safer place for girls and women, especially my two little sisters. Keep talking, Keep sharing. When You're Ready, I'll be here.

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