Missing the punchline

I hate the term “frape”, defined as the changing of another person’s Facebook status or profile without their knowledge. This is a frustrating thing to hate for a couple of reasons, the most obvious being how commonly used it is. The other main reason it frustrates me is because it’s not technically a misuse of the word rape, which aside from the legal definition more generally means to violate, plunder or otherwise despoil. It’s not like I can get my pedant’s anonymous hat on and whinge about the youth of today and their flimsy grasp of the English language, like the way some people use “alas” in a positive context, say “literally” when they mean figuratively or can’t seem to stop themselves inserting “like” into every other sentence. Even if this was the case I probably wouldn’t complain on those grounds, because I’m only twenty seven and it would make me feel far too old to be whinging about the youth of today.

It makes me feel uneasy because Facebook is such a trivial thing, and although I might just be over sensitive to the subject, attaching the word “rape” to a faked status update seems indicative of a much wider issue: rape jokes, maybe rape culture itself. Another example I could use is twitter trends – most recently #ReplaceBandNamesWithRape (#RapeDirection apparently being the most popular), with an almost identical one centred around movie names and paedophiles a week or two previously. Someone I love and who I know has several friends who have been subjected to sexual violence joined in with that one, which confuses me. From my offline life I could tell you about the lady at college who runs the little coffee shop. I walked into the canteen last week in the middle of her telling a group of my friends about how the college make her wear a panic alarm, and how this was clearly ridiculous because “chance would be a fine thing, I could walk down all the dark streets I like and not get any action – they’re more likely to try it on with the door than me!”. All my friends – all these future counsellors – laughed like it was the funniest thing they had heard all day.

So maybe I’m humourless, or maybe I’m taking all of this too seriously because of my own experiences and just need to sort my shit out. But to me it seems like just a few small steps from treating rape in a lighthearted manner to this sort of thing: Rape culture in up to 140 characters.

My theory is and has always been that victim blaming and certain types of humour come from people not wanting to believe that it could happen to them or their loved ones. If rape is funny, if rapists are to be respected and if all female survivors are stupid sluts and all male survivors are gay then some sort of illusion of control can exist: it won’t happen to me because I’m not like that. It wouldn’t matter if a footballer took advantage of me because he’s athletic and attractive, and who would say no? It’s only natural for young men to want to rape a pretty girl who wears a short skirt – she’s teasing them. Lesbians are just women who need fucking by the right man. Men can’t be abused by women because they are always stronger, and why would any man say no to sex anyway? And so on.

From Rape Crisis:

Around 21% of girls and 11% of boys experience some form of child sexual abuse. 23% of women and 3% of men experience sexual assault as an adult. 5% of women and 0.4% of men experience rape. (Cross Government Action Plan on Sexual Violence and Abuse, www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/ Sexual-violence-action-plan).

Black humour isn’t such a bad thing – I know I’ve made some fairly inappropriate comments to lighten crappy situations at times, and I get why health professionals are particularly well known for it. But there’s a big difference between people in stressful situations trying to cope with them as best they can and using other peoples’ pain for entertainment value. It makes me sad that rape jokes are so common place that many otherwise intelligent, sensible, kind people don’t bat an eyelid in their presence. My relatives, my friends on twitter, my fellow counselling students, other adults and parents I know – it just sort of washes over them. It’s that sort of thing which makes our culture feel toxic to me. That it goes by unnoticed and unremarked upon. I wanted to mark it myself.


4 responses to “Missing the punchline

  1. Excellent post, Katie. I 100% agree with everything you say. Because of the attitude that some have towards rape, or some of the stereotypes regarding rape victims, I feel it is entirely justified to regard rape as completely off limits when it comes to jokes. I saw some of those twitter trends I was so fucking angry…. you are just much better at putting into words what I feel. Thanks for that.

  2. read this amazing dissection of rape jokes yesterday: http://libcom.org/library/anatomy-joke. I agree completely and this sort of thing makes me rage…so if I’m humourless and uptight and stressed who the fuck cares, I’d much rather everyone I know was humourless rather than unintentionally feeding into a culture which encourages and legitimises rapists.

  3. This kind of thing certainly doesn’t go over my head. It makes me feel vaguely sick. I wondered which Twitter trends were bothering you when you mentioned it in a couple of Tweets. I still don’t know what ‘trends’ even really are (don’t laugh) so I didn’t realise it was something as deplorable as this.

    I don’t understand how anyone can laugh at rape. In any context. I do have a slightly recoiling attitude towards the idea of sex anyway, so perhaps I’m particularly sensitive to this kind of thing, but to me it’s the last thing that should ever be made light of. Plus, that Twitter idea isn’t even clever or funny: it’s just moronic.


  4. sanabituranima

    I think you’re right. I call it facebook-hacking, which isn’t exactly an accurate term, but less offensive.

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