MYSAAY 2: Rape is No Joke

Lauren Gualtieri is part of the Sexual Violence Program Team at 2nd Chance, Inc. She studies social work at Jacksonville State University and will always pet a cat when she meets one- even though she is terribly allergic. 



Rape is no joke.

We have all probably heard the jokes at some point in our lives, and we have probably heard some of the defenses of it too: “It’s just a joke, lighten up;” and “It’s free speech.” Sometimes it’s family, friends, or even strangers passing by. It’s not just men who make these kinds of jokes either. I have recently heard a woman “joke” about forcing her boyfriend to have sex, even if he didn’t want it. I pointed out that it was wrong and was told “it’s just a joke, I don’t really mean it.”

They say that with comedy nothing is off limits, but jokes that minimize the struggles of people, who have experienced a trauma, should be. They should not be made to feel triggered for the sake of a few laughs. Rape is, unfortunately, very common. With every one out of four women and one of out every six men having experienced sexual assault in their lifetimes, there is a great chance that your audience may include someone who might be emotionally triggered by your snide remark. Whenever a rape joke is made, it is incredibly likely that a survivor is hearing it and could be negatively affected. Rape jokes could trigger emotional distress and even flashbacks. Even if these jokes don’t trigger such a severe response, it would definitely show that the joker doesn’t take rape seriously. This could cause their friends, who have experienced sexual violence, to not trust the joker enough to share their experiences with them.

Rape jokes mock and silence survivors. Whenever you make a rape joke, or when you laugh at a rape joke, it normalizes the concept of rape. This means that any rapists who observe your behavior continue to think of their unacceptable sexual tendencies as “no big deal” or “what every guy thinks.” Rape jokes are not jokes. They are ignorant, malicious, and typically sexist.

Sexual assault is not funny, it’s scarring. It is a violation of everything that constitutes a safe environment for all. Sexual assault is many horrible things, but it most certainly is not is funny. When you say something you think is “funny” you have no idea who you could be hurting. Survivors feel enough psychological pain; becoming the butt of a sick joke will make them feel worse. Those who suffer from sexual assault or abuse do not laugh about this abuse, they do not laugh about a traumatic situation happening to them. It’s not the punchline to a joke. It’s not the thing to make a meme about. It’s not something to sweep under the rug. It’s not “locker room talk”. It’s not something to ignore. I am not personally a survivor of sexual assault, but I work to help those who are. I have heard my own family and friends make jokes like these before. Even if I wasn’t working with those who have been assaulted, I would still have told them it was wrong to make these jokes. I feel we all have the responsibility to stand up and say their jokes are not funny. We should always defend those who have been sexually assaulted.