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Leo Bøe

Leo Bøe is the President of Warwick SU.

"Rape. Loljk?" No.

 

Rape. The first thing that comes to mind is not humour. Nor a desire to, in some repugnant and machismo way, come up with a joke just because I can.

Rape. Standing alone with a full-stop is not an invitation to joke.

Rape is rape. Let’s talk.

I have become disgusted by a general lack of appreciation on the sensitivity of this subject and indeed the word itself. Upon what basis is it by any definition acceptable to find something like this humorous? I can immediately hear the stirrings of ignorance thinking up responses relating to freedom of speech, or worse, to the idea that it’s ok just to joke. I can hear people start to buff up their chests ready to make what they think is a valid argument about political correctness gone mad. All of them men.

How could anyone justify using rape as a humorous premise? I can appreciate that yes, most humour is at the expense of others. But then there’s this touchy issue of taste, which then links to a conception of freedom of speech. I think it’s funny and I’m a devout feminist believing in striving for equality between men and women- sorry, you’re not. That’s like saying I can joke about the Holocaust because I’m Jewish – no, you can’t. Ultimately, taking things too far means knowingly or unknowingly joking about an issue which at its very core is not only not amusing, but rather is deeply disturbing, perverse, abhorrent and relates to questioning the equal rights and identity of a particular demographic directly, or indirectly. It’s not rocket science. Come on.

Then there are those who say ‘it’s the impact that’s funny, rather than the content’- this attempts to avoid the issue of what is grossly inconsiderate in the attempt to make something funny. The logic doesn’t work. Using rape to shock people into laughing is almost more perverse than the idea rape itself. I don’t care what makes people laugh- as long as a word is used which feeds on the discrimination of any identity-based group, it is abhorrent and shouldn’t be tolerated. In this context, it only contributes to the idea of the permissiveness of rape culture which normalises, excuses, or tolerates sexual violence.

It’s about decency, it’s about respect, and it’s about growing up. It’s about acknowledging that yes there is freedom of speech, but it does not give you the authority to knowingly bring up a discomforting issue which, quite frankly, you are likely to know nothing about.

The reason why rape jokes are wrong is the same as to why racist, xenophobic, sexist, and homophobic jokes are distasteful and have no place on our campus or in our society. You assume they are funny because you think that being raped is something that can be tossed aside after it has happened, or more generally, that the right over your body is something that can be laughed about. That is, after all, what rape amounts to- losing the right over your body and being sexually abused. Hilarious, isn’t it?

‘Oh come on, it’s just a joke, get over it!’ I’ve seen you write. Sorry, but I trust women who say that you don’t understand what it’s like to be raped or to feel at threat of being raped. When such a worrying action which can lead to horrendous consequences is trivialised to the extent that you can joke about it only means that you have no respect for the sanctity of a woman having ownership over her body. It is disgusting and disgraceful to allude to the idea that something as serious as being physically abused in such a way that your dignity stolen, only to fulfil someone else’s false construction of their own can be taken lightly.

It has to be said that this feeds into feminism, something I am proud to say I wholeheartedly subscribe to. It is unhelpful for supposedly humorous comments about rape to come out of what should be an institution which prides itself in striving to be the pinnacle of innovation, tolerance, and progressiveness, because these only lead me to think that those who will be at the helm of society in various sectors in the coming decade, including Warwick alumni, will still think it’s ok to make fun of the thought of a woman losing the right to her dignity.

On another note, last year I conducted research into hate crime and sexual assaults on campus. In the pool of around 500 women surveyed, one in eighteen said they had been sexually abused or assaulted, and one in ten had said they had been sexually harassed, verbally, whilst at university. On a national scale, one in seven female students nationally has been sexually assaulted. Hilarious, isn’t it?

As long as you don’t respect the thought of what has been described as the most soul destroying thing that could happen to someone, you remain sexist.

 As long as you perceive the thought of objectifying women to the extent that it’s ok for men to use their bodies by force for their own sexual desires, you remain opposed to gender equality.

As long as you think that attacking women out of a false sense of pride and desire to dominate is something that can be laughed off, you remain bigoted.

Whenever you make a ‘joke’ about rape, this is what you’re actually saying.

This is something that cannot and will not continue. You’re at university, you can have an excuse to change your mind now about how you view women and the thought of them being sexually abused. It’s ok, you can say that you’re wrong. Better late than never.

Just grow up. You’re not funny. It’s never ‘just a joke’. 

Comments

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Agus Murod
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Nabeel Aga
5:47pm on 10 Jun 12 Such a waste of time:)
Dean Love
12:52am on 29 May 12 It's an horrendously complex topic, and frankly this topic only skirts the very edges of it. I'm uncomfortable with expressing this as purely a feminist issue for a start, as in the context of your argument it seems like you're giving the okay to jokes about male rape (which, at least professionally, are far more common). Secondly, I agree with you, if and only if the rape victim is the 'victim' of the joke. That's actually rarely the case. 95% of rape jokes I have heard, the joke is either on the rapist, or it's entirely neutral. And when it comes to 'rape culture'. We're in a period of transition right now. For many, many years rape wasn't just something you couldn't joke about, it was something you couldn't talk about either. If it happened to you then you kept it to yourself and couldn't talk to anyone and that was horrendous. Now I don't know the cause/effect relationship here. I don't know if comics pushing the envelope and joking about rape made it something we could actually talk about, or if those jokes were a result of it actually being a topic that was no longer taboo. But that's the point. Talking about rape is no longer taboo and that's bloody brilliant. That's the biggest step forwards we've made as a community over the whole thing in decades. But part of that is it now becomes a subject to joke about. Does that sometimes mean we get some horrid, unfunny jokes about it? Sure. But I'd rather that than go back to people telling us how we can and can't talk about it. Because frankly just ten years ago those same people were telling us we couldn't talk about it *at all*.
Matthew Jones
12:10am on 27 May 12 Is this the official position of the Student's Union on jokes? If not, please leave your political musings to your twitter page Mr Boe. I'm sure your presidential duties do not include building yourself a reputation as a political pundit or... scorning mother.
Joseph Barnett
12:02am on 27 May 12 Agree with Karen O'Brien, Helen Gould, and James Warren. Also this article is incredibly condescending and will probably only serve to provoke the people who make those jokes anyway - it will serve no purpose whatsoever other than to get your opinion onto the internet. The people who don't make those jokes will still not make them, and the people that do will probably just make more.
Karen O'Brien
11:41pm on 26 May 12 Although I do not disagree with your ideas, the way you have written this makes me want to. You raise some valid, interesting points, but your style of writing makes you sound like a condescending knob. It'd be a good idea not to lecture university students the way unpopular teachers lecture unruly children. It seems like perhaps the worst way to get anyone to agree with you. I expected more from someone actually getting paid to run the SU.
Dafydd Henke-Reed
3:10pm on 26 May 12 (This is addressing the article, not the comments) With all due respect Leo, I don't believe your attitude of absolutism should be, nor can be justified as being, applied to humour. Evidencing my opinion, you say "That’s like saying I can joke about the Holocaust because I’m Jewish – no, you can’t". Who are you to be arbiter of how several millions of people come to terms their identity and attitudes in relation to the most traumatic event of the modern western world? You're taking Adorno's (misinterpreted) "poetry after auschwitz is barbaric" and applying it to humour; positing that irreverent poetry, verse, jokes, reduces the holocaust, and therefor shouldn't be accepted. But how are you justifying that? Other than: it emotionally hurts and affects sensibilities. You're not. You're also acknowledging and undermining freedom of speech in the same sentence, suggesting a universal freedom should be expected to be contingent on empathy and taste. Then, you're both befittingly, slightly hypocritical in your presumptions, and circular in your argument. For example, you say: "A issue which, quite frankly, you are likely to know nothing about", which implies that one shouldn't joke about what one doesn't personally know. Yet, you then say "No, you can’t [if you're Jewish and want to joke about the holocaust]. So people shouldn't joke about things that don't know about...because it's ignorant, and hurts people affected people. Yet, affected people aren't allowed to joke about it either...because it's "not amusing", "deeply disturbing, perverse, and abhorrent", [all subjective terms], "and relates to questioning equal rights particular groups" [because equal rights doesn't include the right to critique said rights. Although, also, the idea that I cannot separate a reductive representation, from my personal ideology of freedom for all, is a belittling justification. I can be enthralled by Heart of Darkness's world without questioning the rights of black Warwick students, because I'm not an idiot, and humour isn't intrinsically less than literature]. As said, I then find your argument slightly hypocritical. You say: "[Freedom of speech] does give [one] the authority to bring up discomforting issues which [they] are likely to know nothing about". The idea that you're presuming that, for example, I haven't been abused is as reductive, to me, as people joking that women are sluts for wearing shirt skirts. You're making an unfounded assumption about people you don't know, and are judging them, because of something you have a personal opinion about. In turn, who are you to say I shouldn't joke about abuse you don't know if I've experienced, or engage in the catharsis of others? Of course, that said, you're every right to post this article. Just as much as I have to engage with shock humour.
Catherine Knight
2:19pm on 26 May 12 What about rape victims who make rape jokes?
Michael Buttigieg
4:30pm on 25 May 12 Elliot and James, you have both hit the nail on the head superbly. No need to throw a condescending hissy fit, Leo.
James Fleming
2:32pm on 25 May 12 What a lot of misguided anger in this article! A few comments: "the thought of objectifying women to the extent that it’s ok for men to use their bodies by force for their own sexual desires" Actually there is quite a large body of research, conducted among various male demographics, that have examined the motivations behind sexually aggressive individuals. Generally these studies show that rape is motivated by anger, the need to demonstrate power, and disinhibition. There is rarely, if ever, any sexual desire implicated in the act. See, for example, "Motivational factors in nonincarcerated sexually aggressive men." by Lisak and Roth, 1988 - you can find it on pubmed here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3210146 "as long as a word is used which feeds on the discrimination of any identity-based group, it is abhorrent and shouldn’t be tolerated." Which word was that? "Rape"? I assume that the identity-based group that you are referring to are rape victims (not women, I hope!). In that case, how does the word "rape" have anything to do with their discrimination? Unless you meant to suggest that there is a social stigma associated with being a rape victim - and I do hope that you don't miss the irony in that particular bit of prejudice. Look - the truth is that both sexism and sexual assault are serious problems in our society. If you want to improve that then please don't spend so much of your time and effort on something so utterly trivial as lambasting some peoples' sense of humour. If you want to get passionate about something, start talking about the real problems like occupational sexism, gender stereotypes, or the wage gap between men and women. If you want to campaign against sexism, you need to do that by changing attitudes, not by stigmatising certain forms of humour. Because at best you will be treating the symptoms and not the cause of sexist attitudes. At worst, you're angering people who would otherwise be sympathetic to your views.
Elliot Chaim
2:24pm on 25 May 12 Peter Johnston can't be ignored here. Men get raped, why didn't they get surveyed last year!? Does feminism mean favouring the opinion of men over women? That doesn't sound like equality to me. You're assuming that we find rape jokes funny because they involve rape. NO! "that exam raped me" is NOT EQUIVALENT to "that exam made me lose control over my body, my sense of dignity, and it sexually abused me". And what a silly comparison to make! You actually think that everyone that makes these rape jokes, or everyone that doesn't oppose them, is sexist, bigoted, against gender equality and ultimately has no place on campus? You're saying that at least half the people on campus shouldn't be here? EVERY JOKE would offend the wrong audience. It's stupid to focus so much so on rape jokes, what about jokes of death? What about saying "I'm going to kill you" in anger? Everyone has said that before, joking or not. And a lot more people have experience death than they have rape. Should death jokes be banned as well? Taking this to such extremes is just silly. I believe in gender-equality, I am not sexist and I don't find rape jokes distasteful.
Christopher Purcell
12:57pm on 25 May 12 I think the use of the term "rape joke" here is too broad. There is no excuse for merely making light of rape, which is just about as horrific an act as can be imagined. Nor is it ok to mock those who have been raped, clearly. But I believe it is entirely possible to make a joke that contains the concept of rape without doing either of those things. I am by no means defending anyone who makes a crass joke on facebook where rape is intended to bring a shock value to an otherwise unfunny idea. But to say that anyone who might bring up freedom of speech in this argument is ignorant, or doing so disingenuously, is a little self righteous to say the least.
Tess Hanneman
12:36pm on 25 May 12 I agree with James Warren. I also think it's a matter of when and where jokes are made - joking around with your friends who you know aren't going to be offended and also know that you only mean what you say as a joke is normal and I think permissible, but obviously making controversial and potentially very hurtful jokes publicly is a different matter because you don't know your listeners and so are risking their feelings for the sake of humour.
Helen Gould
9:09am on 25 May 12 I'd just like to add here about the effects of triggering. "Being triggered" is not the same as being offended, let's get that out right away. Being triggered is a form of PTSD. It is a rape survivor's negative reaction to something that has reminded them of their experience - like a rape joke - which can range from a bout of breathlessness and tears to an all-out panic attack, and includes things like flashbacks, suicidal/self-harming urges, or a period of disassociation (i.e. emotional withdrawal). When you make rape jokes on Facebook groups or in groups of people you don't know, there is a VERY high chance that someone who reads or hears it will have been raped. And there is a chance that you will trigger one or some of these reactions in them. If you still don't care and want to go around making rape jokes around strangers, then it is my advice to just accept now that you have little empathy for people who have been raped or sexually assaulted. Here are some posts others may be interested in (I especially recommend the first one): http://fugitivus.wordpress.com/2009/06/24/a-woman-walks-into-a-rape-uh-bar/ http://www.shakesville.com/2008/11/rape-isnt-hilarious.html http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/anastasia-richardson/rape-isnt-a-joke-for-the-_b_1015898.html
Georgina Aldridge
8:36am on 25 May 12 Peter Johnston: That is the point. Many people also make jokes about male rape-"prison rape jokes" and the like. So it's still sexist to make those sorts of jokes. Basically they all need to stop.
Peter Johnston
6:36am on 25 May 12 The irony of calling these people sexist. You know that 'rape' is an issue for males as well.
Joseph Doherty-Bailey
2:24am on 25 May 12 Thank you so much for writing this. So many otherwise seemingly intelligent people need to hear it.
James Warren
2:17am on 25 May 12 I guess it's just a matter of context - like any joke. Sure, rape as an event isn't funny at all, but jokes are funny because they take things out of their original context. As soon as you put it back into the original context, it stops being funny, because it isn't a joke anymore...I'm not disagreeing with the article, I just think you could use the arguments it presents to call most joke topics unacceptable.

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