My name is Caitlin Looney. I am a college student. I am a feminist. I am a comedian currently studying comedy writing and performance. I am a rape victim.
And I am having some trouble, you guys. Because here’s the thing: rape jokes are not funny because rape is not funny.
You, with your edgy rape jokes that you claim are really just made to reveal the atrocity of rape, are not funny. And all the rational-well-thought-out-educated-reasonings for your edgy rape jokes are not gonna cut it. Because rape jokes are not funny because rape is not funny.
One more time with feeling: rape jokes are not funny because rape is not funny.
And I get it. Opinions are opinions. You dig peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and I just want to get my face all up in a turkey-on-pretzel-roll-sandwich. Different strokes for different folks. Whatever floats your boat or trips your trigger. Everybody is allowed to have their various thoughts, likings, and preferences. We are all beautiful, different unique individuals who are allowed to have beautiful, different unique opinions. BLAH BLAH FUCKITY BLAH.
Ok, cool. You think rape jokes are funny. Go ahead. Carry on my wayward son, there’ll be shit for you to eat. I will not and am not going to stop you from enjoying a good ol’ gang bang rape joke because that’s your life and you’re living it. But these comedian-man-boys who are defending their shitty rape jokes by bringing up the rationales of comedy and why it exists and how it works and come on, ladies, it’s cathartic and reflective of the times and the atrocities wrought upon our fellow humans, are just assholes who think they are ahead of the curve on how funny works. Sure, you’ve been in this business since before I was even aware of what rape is or even what jokes are, but your seniority, experience, and extensive group of homeboys who are gonna back you up don’t make your rape joke, that you claim even your own mom loves, any less triggering, painful, and insensitive.
That said, I can’t police your work. I wouldn’t want to because then I’d have to wade through the rest of your shitty comedy and ain’t nobody got time for that, but here’s what we, as a people, need to understand or even just try to comprehend. Rape jokes are not funny because rape is not funny. What’s that you say? RAPE JOKES ARE NOT FUNNY BECAUSE RAPE IS NOT FUNNY.
His floppy mohawk and its shaggy regrowth was not funny. His need to wear sunglasses indoors because of some bizarre-o eye disorder was not funny. His creepy-music-studio-turned-bachelor-pad-equipped-with-a-sad-air-mattress was not funny. His need to repeat every Ron Swanson line on the episode of Parks and Rec we watched was not funny. Him throwing me onto my knees, not letting me breathe, not letting me move, not letting go of my throat, as he forced his sad little dick into me was not funny. My inability to leave his house that night because of the pain, the shame, and the fact that the train home had stopped running hours before was not funny. None of it was funny. None of it is funny. None of it will ever be funny.
Because believe me, I tried. I tried so hard to make my rape funny. I thought, if I can make my rape humorous, funny, and relatable then maybe I can be the one to turn the tide, to make it better, to make people understand, and to make people actually laugh over such a horrific act of violence. I thought, if I can do all of that, maybe I could eventually feel better about what happened to me and to what I know happens to thousands of people every single fucking day.
But I couldn’t do it. I could not find it anywhere. I wrote for days about it. I watched comedians from all walks of life, all different backgrounds and tried to find a way in, tried to find the glimmer of hope that maybe this could actually be really funny and I failed. I couldn’t do it. Nothing about that night was funny. The ever present humiliation, the degradation, the hopelessness, the fear, the pain, the I-should-have-known-better of that night overwhelms anything that I could make light of. And it sucked. It sucks. Because I love comedy. And I knew that if anything could help me get through that night, get over that night, it was going to be the comedy of it, but there was nothing. There is nothing. Because rape jokes are not funny because rape is not funny.
It’s fine if you don’t understand though. It’s truly impossible to ever know or understand or even try to walk through the shoes of anyone who has experienced something life shattering. Whether it is a terrorist attack, whether it is a cancer diagnosis, whether it is a sexual assault, it’s really fucking hard to get why something as seemingly innocuous as a joke matters so much to the victims. It’s hard to relate, to have compassion, and to be sensitive because, god willing, it’s not happening to you and will never happen to you. There are so many things that our fellow humans go through every single day that so many of us cannot even begin to fathom, but that’s not to say that we can’t try to help, that we can’t ease the pain, that we can’t do our part in helping people heal.
I know it’s easy to say, “Well this is how you do a rape joke the RIGHT way” or “Just don’t listen to it. You’ll be fine,” but that’s not the point. Why do we have to split hairs? Why can’t we just say no? Why does your comedy suffer because you have to get rid of the singular rape joke in your set? Why do you think you should let or have your art pander to people who truly enjoy rape jokes from the bottom of their hearts? What does that say about you as a comedian, as an art? Sure, Louie CK has the right idea and Wanda Sykes came real close, but isn’t there enough shit going on in the world that we can joke over that isn’t something as cruel and brutal as rape?
Comedians should know this, but if they don’t, here it is: your voice is more powerful than you could ever know. Whether you’re doing shitty open mic stand ups every single night or your Twitter has hundreds of thousands of followers, your work as a comedian is important and powerful, especially in this day and age. So stop using your incredible wit and your close to unfathomable power to hurt people. You may not even realize it hurts or even mean for it to hurt, but the controversy over rape jokes alone should tell you that hey, maybe, you should just joke about something else for like… ever. And don’t castigate your audience for being truly hurt by work that is crude, insensitive, and just really fucking unoriginal. Audiences are there for a reason and if you’re going to abuse your audience because they are trying to help you get through your shitty rape joke phase, maybe you should just stick to whatever day job you want to get rid of for the rest of your life.
One more for the road: rape jokes are not funny because rape is not funny.