Why you should care
Is it OK to laugh at rape jokes? Is it OK to even make them? Yes, but proceed carefully.
Rape is not funny.
I just want to make that clear, before I go into the kind of rape jokes that, in my opinion, work.
Rape culture is not funny either. However, rape culture’s existence — along with the pervasiveness with which misogyny permeates our society — is so ludicrous, that it is worthy of many a discussion. And at times that discussion can involve humor. It’s like joking about death with a cancer victim. That dark humor is sometimes the best way to grapple with something so horrific and terrifying we can’t believe it’s happening to us.
I feel like that should be a game show: Here’s Your Rape.
— Ever Mainard
This is why I believe jokes about rape culture and the inescapable hold it has on women’s minds, can work. As #YesAllWomen showed us, many women think about how they will avoid rape and violence every day. Take comedian Ever Mainard. Her “Here’s Your Rape” stand-up is an excellent example of a successful rape joke.
Mainard tells an anecdote about walking home alone at 11:45 at night when a man wearing sunglasses and a hood starts to “strut” quickly behind her. She talks about how women are taught not to walk alone at night and that “you need a man to survive, unless he’s following you at night, then you will die.”
“The problem is every woman in their entire life has like one moment where you think, ‘Oh, here’s my rape. This is it. 11:47pm, how old am I? 25. Alright, heeeeeere’s my rape,’” she says to the comedy club audience. “We wait for it. ‘What took you so long?’” And then she continues. “I feel like that should be a game show. Here’s Your Rape. It’s loud in the club and there’s music bumping and you went to the restroom. Time out — you forgot to put that cardboard thing over your drink. Here’s your rape!”
It’s funny because it rings true. The omnipresent anticipation of rape is so sad, all we can do is laugh. And even as these jokes are shocking in their frankness, they may help us acknowledge a painful truth — and maybe even change it.
Comedian Amy Schumer has a bit about rape that similarly speaks to the universality of rape culture; she jokes about the phenomenon of “gray rape” or “grape.”
“We’ve all been a little bit raped,” she says on her show. “Like, not totes consench. There is a gray area of rape.”
Schumer spoke with NPR about the joke, confessing most women she’s close to have had an uncomfortable sexual experience. “There’s just so many different things that can happen, so it’s not always this, ‘Well, you’re going to jail and that’s it,’” says Schumer. “There’s other stuff where it’s like, ‘Wow, it would be so much work, and it would be such a life-changer for me to … press charges or take any action against this person.’ But every girl I know has had some experience that is kind of like ‘grape.’”
I first watched Mainard’s video a year ago and have mentioned it to many girlfriends since, discussing the bit’s haunting humor. I’ve even thought about it after I felt jumpy when walking home at night and felt like a guy was following me. I could hear Mainard’s “Heeeeeeere’s your rape,” voice in my head, and was able to laugh to myself, relax and feel just a bit less alone.