1. You can’t get pregnant from rape. No, it’s true, the Missouri Republican representative said it.
2. Rape can be legitimate. That’s the kind of rape you don’t get pregnant from.
3. Rape jokes are, like, totes on trend right now.
4. There is a show called Sex Tourist by Chris Dangerfield, which has a flyer you can take to an escort agency for £10 off. (Not strictly rape-related, I know.)
5. ‘With the death of feminism in mainstream culture more and more people are prepared to put up with [jokes about rape and domestic violence].’ – Nick Page
So after I talked about how not to be funny, it seems that there are a lot of rape jokes out there. A lot. The Guardian reckons that at the Edinburgh Fringe, you can hear 20 comedians telling 20 rape jokes in one night, should you so desire. And I’d like to think that Todd ‘Legitimate Rape’ Akin was just jumping on board the rapey stabby jokes bandwagon, but if he’s being ironic he’s doing it so well that no one’s noticed.
How to be funny and clever
The commenters on the Guardian article are pretty much right on the money:
I am of the belief that anything is fair game in humour, it’s the way humans deal with terrible things. Would you rather no one mentions the above topics at all and we just tut and carry on with our lives for the sake of propriety? When comics tell these jokes I would imagine few people are laughing because they are all wife beaters and rapists enjoying the show because they identify with his jokes more people who are chuckling at the monster on stage who is so far beyond the bounds of human decency he is a caricature. This does not normalise violence against women rather ridicules it, making people who do it the laughing stock.
And, summing everything up neatly:
A comic called Paul Revill says: “Some audiences say they don’t like rape jokes. They say that, but I know what they mean.”…
That’s clever, and it’s funny; or at least as I see it, because the “joke” isn’t about rape victims, it’s about the idiot culture that refuses to believe that no means no.
In some ways I want to get on my high horse about feminism. I don’t want serious social problems to be trivialised, or even normalised. But even if you hear 20 rape jokes from 20 comedians in one night, I still don’t think that we can draw what would be a pretty arbitrary line in the sand to say – this is funny, and this isn’t.
Page was due to appear at an Edinburgh showcase last week, but he left after watching “three comics in a row doing rape or violence material. They were damaging comedy. But with the death of feminism in mainstream culture more and more people are prepared to put up with it.”
Comedian Nick Page says what I think are two completely different things.
- Three comics in a row doing rape or violence material = damaging comedy.
That’s not because rape and violence can’t be made into humour, but because listening to the same kind of joke over and over again is BORING, especially if the jokes are not actually amusing.
- Feminism has died a death in mainstream culture.
Maybe so, but that’s a separate argument, and doesn’t take away from the fact that anything can be made into a joke, so long as it’s funny.
Female body: even more awesome superpowers than previously supposed
So, back to a world where someone believes that the female body can somehow magically defend itself against pregnancy when being ‘legitimately raped’. In fairness, Todd Akin has backtracked on his remarks, after offending almost the whole world. Well, the whole world on Twitter. And not just the woolly-headed, vegan liberals. (Although some of my best friends, etc.)
But he’s still refusing to resign despite repeated demands. Literally, his party is like, um, leave now please. And he’s like, let’s not hide from important issues!
Actually, I completely agree with what he said to a radio show host the other day, as reported by the NYT:
“We can’t run from our shadows every time someone says ‘abortion.’ ”
This reminds me of the oft-repeated (in the UK, at least) mantra that it should be possible to talk about immigration without being called a racist. But stating that some kinds of rape could be called ‘legitimate’ is not a useful contribution to any discussion. And to be honest, I think the demands for him to resign are more to do with the fact that this is an election year. He’s admitted he used the wrong words. Well, we all do that sometimes, and although this was a particularly egregious example, it might generously be seen as possible to forgive his mistake.
For example, I could imagine that when he said ‘legitimate rape’, he may have meant ‘rape as opposed to consensual sex’. He’s still utterly wrong about the getting pregnant thing, but I’m just trying to imagine why he might have used the word ‘legitimate’.
Except that this is politics, and you really do have to be ridiculously careful with what you say. Everything you say will be analysed and interpreted and over-analysed and twisted, even when what you said was perfectly fine to start with. When what you say is not perfectly fine to start with, you have problems. Big problems. And it’s time to back down and admit that you’re “unelectable”, as the non-partisan Cook Political Report remarked.
And finally, for the best analysis on this subject, see The Awl’s enlightening list of other facts Todd Akin believes about the uterus, including:
- The more uteruses a woman can collect during her lifetime, the higher her status, and the more servants she will command, among the dead.
- It is possible to summon an inhabitant of the drowned city of Atlantis by blowing upon a uterus like a conch shell. This can be done only once.