Humor and the R-word

by Jeph Johnson 


Humor itself is as multifaceted and diverse as each individual human is and every topic is subject to be influenced by humor. Likewise, it is my belief that humor should be allowed to influence every topic.


Sometimes a joke that utilizes rape (or race, or any number of other taboo subjects), is not perpetuating rape culture so as much as it is recognizing rape culture and utilizing it for humor's sake.


Q: What do 9 out of 10 people enjoy?
A: Gang rape


The "9 out of 10" joke is NOT making fun of rape, it is making a valid point about those involved in mob rule, UTILIZING "rape" as a powerful subject/tool to drive the humor and point across.


It is not that dissimilar than the Larry Flynt quote:

"You can't have five wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for supper."


This does NOT mean that the "9 out of 10" joke may not offend someone, it likely will. BUT a overwhelming majority of jokes intent IS to offend. Sheep just don't have online blogs to protest, so the Larry Flynt "joke" becomes more acceptable.


This is why we use the term "butt" of a joke. There always is (and hate to use this word) a "victim" in a joke. Many who already have been victimized do not want to be reminded. But many people (even rape survivors) also recognize the POWER the very word RAPE carries and understand by someone choosing to utilize rape as their pinnacle example in a joke or point they are making, they are giving rape and other heinous crimes the seriousness that they are due. It only perpetuates rape culture to those who cannot get past the subtleties of humor.


Or if seen as a half-empty/half-full: Do jokes trivialize rape (and other serious issues) or do serious issues such as rape make jokes more powerful?


The answer: Both.


How one looks at it is different for each person depending upon their circumstances. The comedian must be cognizant of the sensibilities of those their joke offends, while the one who finds it offensive must be aware of the intended usage of the joke teller.

Author's Notes/Comments: 


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