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See, This is What I’m Talking About – Tosh.0 and Rape “Jokes”

July 10, 2012

[trigger warning] Once upon a time, I wrote at this very blog about the offense of Daniel Tosh’s (of Tosh.0) use of rape “jokes” in his “comedy,” that such comments “normalize sexual violence for cheap laughs and money.” Today, Tosh’s most recent foray into rape “humor” has been all over Twitter – in a live performance, when heckled about a rape “joke” by an audience member, Tosh reportedly responded by saying: “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…” Tosh acknowledged the incident with a crappy Twitter apology.

My position, then and now, is that joking about rape makes it seem normal, it perpetuates rape culture by trivializing rape and the experience of victims, by promoting attitudes that rape is not a serious matter, and the jokes are part of a continuum in which victims can’t get taken seriously or get justice. In other words, constant trivializing of rape in media, jokes, etc. ultimately makes rape more acceptable.

I think this most recent incident is a frank example of how this continuum works – first you’re joking about rape in the abstract, and then you’re suggesting that specific people in the middle of a large crowd should be raped and that that would be acceptable, and a whole crowd – accustomed to and appreciative of your frequent rape jokes – goes along with it instead of booing your dumb ass off stage. Meanwhile, the woman this was said to exits that crowd, with a reasonable fear of what might physically happen if she stayed. Apparently you can’t yell “fire!” in a theatre, but it’s okay to encourage your audience to rape somebody.

Unsurprisingly, there are also plenty of folks online defending this behavior as acceptable, as part of Tosh’s act, and even as “funny.” Those same folks have a tendency to turn around and create their own threats against those who question this type of “humor.” When I last posted about my dislike of his rape “jokes?” – I got rape threats. I won’t repeat the content here, and obviously did not let those comments be publicly posted, but just the expression of distaste for this “humor” was enough to inspire internet assholes to tell me what I should be able to “take” and what they’d do to me if they could.

Not unlike the vile responses to the calling out of sexism in video gaming, those who don’t want their privilege and misogyny called out do everything they can to diminish concerns as humorless, and so it is with objections to Tosh’s frequent rape jokes. Thus, comments are on for this post, but I’ll cut them off if things go sideways. They will be strictly moderated, and the eleventy billion comment variations on “lighten up! it’s funny!” that folks feel compelled to tell me to justify their own rape culture tastes will not be posted.

Now, an action item: in a conversation about the recent debacle on Twitter, I mentioned to Jenn Pozzner that Tosh *frequently* makes rape jokes on his show on Comedy Central. Jenn suggested documenting this, involving a video remix artist to cut together all of the clips along this line from the show, as a way to demonstrate the issue to Viacom and as a tool for activism.

I think this is an excellent idea. Seeing them all strung together would be more stomach-turning and undeniable than one-off reports of the issue. Problem is, I have no knowledge, skills, or experience in video editing or remixing, and offhand can’t think of anybody I know who might volunteer. Anybody out there want to take this on? I’d be happy to help find the relevant clips, and to coordinate volunteer readers who might also want to help find the relevant clips. [Update: I heard from a college friend with video skills. If you’re interested in helping me scour for clips, please let me know in the comments, or use the Contact form.]

An easier action item:
Here’s Comedy Central’s feedback form, and the network’s Twitter account.

Here’s Viacom’s contact form and the company’s Twitter account.

PS-Tosh is absolutely awful for basically inciting a crowd to commit gang rape. You know who else is actually awful? All the people in that effing audience who laughed, who stayed, who didn’t see the problem. I have no problem saying that every single one of them who didn’t walk out in disgust is propping up rape culture, and is absolutely part of the problem. You just paid money to hear a guy suggest it would be awesome if one of you were raped, and you stuck around for more.

Additional reading: Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny – a round-up of several posts by Melissa McEwan of Shakesville – there are plenty of feminist folks online who have written more eloquently and persuasively about rape culture and rape “jokes” than I could; start here and then do some more exploring.

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27 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2012 8:15 pm

    Hey Rachel! Holler at me and I’ll totally do it. (I have the technology, skills, and most importantly Adam and I got into it recently where he challenged me to do something about it and not take that shit lying down.)

  2. Brian Wooton permalink
    July 10, 2012 9:01 pm

    Thanks for the heads up to continue to avoid this guy. The lack of human kindness that the whole idea illustrates no longer surprises me. I hope more people will see how cruel even the thought is. I would hope that amount of evil can’t reside in one person’ soul.

  3. Jeff permalink
    July 11, 2012 9:53 am

    If you dont like it, dont watch it… its as simple as that. I dont like chruch on my TV on Sundays so I dont watch it. You have a remote for a reason. By watching it all you are doing is giving ratings a boost. Same went with Stern in the 90s. More of the people that disliked listened more than his fans. I am by no means advocating rape, but if you choose to watch and pay for that humor you are free to do so.

    • July 11, 2012 9:55 am

      Right, and we should never, ever talk about things we don’t like, just ignore it and hope it magically goes away. Got it. Jeff – you might want to see the previous post – we’ve been over this territory. Repeatedly.

    • Sam permalink
      July 11, 2012 5:47 pm

      Do you also have a wonderfully “helpful” suggestion of what to do when the people who do like it and continue to watch it then take this guy’s “jokes” to heart? What happens when people who already don’t see the issue with rape jokes then start treating real victims’ stories like they’re just one of those jokes? When someone sees all those people laughing at rape and begins to think that maybe, rape isn’t as socially unacceptable as they were once told?

      I don’t watch the show and I would never go to this man’s shows, but that doesn’t mean the things he does in them can’t affect me. I hear too many “jokes” repeated back too me in my day-to-day life, too much of that language then being used in relation to real rapes as though it’s an appropriate way to react to someone’s violent assault. Tosh might not be the only person peddling this stuff as comedy, but he is part of the problem and has gone far beyond the “norm” in the specific situation referenced.

    • July 13, 2012 11:17 am

      I don’t like killing people. It bothers me and, if done with certain implements, can be really messy. So I don’t kill people.

      Is that all the statement I need to make about murder? Should I let other people who DO like killing people just go a stabbin’? Please.

  4. gidget commando permalink
    July 11, 2012 4:32 pm

    I have some decent desktop video equipment and work and the okay to use it for personal items. Email me and I’ll be happy to help assemble clips, etc., if I can.

    • July 11, 2012 4:52 pm

      Thanks, gidget. My friend Anne is probably going to do some work on this, but maybe you can give her a hand as well. I think I’m also going to set up a shared doc of some sort for people to document the relevant clips as they find them.

  5. July 11, 2012 9:36 pm

    How about the following clip that was featured on Tosh.0 that shows a young man being sexually assaulted.

    But rape jokes are still just “jokes”, right?

  6. Frida permalink
    July 12, 2012 1:17 am

    I’m in agreement, except for the part where you say that every single person who didn’t walk out is guilty of propping up rape culture and part of the problem. It’s not inconceivable that there were people, perhaps rape victims, in the audience who didn’t leave for fear of being singled out by Tosh upon doing so.

    • July 12, 2012 7:13 am

      Frida, that’s an excellent point, and one I hadn’t thought of.

    • Blake Anne Kero permalink
      July 12, 2012 2:01 pm

      Yeah, but we can’t be “singled out” if we don’t act single-ly, but as an I-am-Spartacus-esque BUNCH.
      Granted, it’s hard to be the first to stand up, not knowing if any others will follow.

      I’m guessing a lot of the audience who would have liked to take a stand were just in shock, and then intimidated by the laughter.
      I know I would have been.

      But y’know, I would have eventually stood up anyway, and tossed out my own heckling comment, no matter how long afterward.
      But then, I’m a crone. And gawd help anyone who threatens to rape ME (again). :-)

  7. Tayler permalink
    July 12, 2012 12:55 pm

    I don’t really see what the point of making a video of all the rape jokes is. To point out that he makes rape jokes? I really don’t see what you are trying to accomplish here, get Daniel Tosh off the air, because that certainly won’t happen or to have him stop making rape jokes. I understand the whole idea of the jokes normalizing rape, which isn’t fair but there is really not much that you will be able to do. So I would suggest to stop watching it and stop concerning yourself with it.

    • July 13, 2012 11:22 am

      The point is this. You are, I presume, a young person–younger than 40. You are here saying:
      –We can’t get Daniel Tosh off the air
      –We can’t get Daniel Tosh to stop making Rape jokes.
      –We can’t change the culture in any way that will stop the ongoing normalisation of Rape jokes.

      You presumably believe these things wholeheartedly. That people cannot have any effect on the environment around them.

      The point is that we stand up and say “I don’t know where you got that idea but you are WRONG. We can change this world, we can be HEARD as loudly as that vileness coming from Daniel Tosh. Our rightness can speak as loudly as his wrongness.”

      The point is that all voices are important and we can and should say the things we are moved to say. Being on TV and on Stage doesn’t make your voice any more important than mine. Just like having a penis doesn’t make your voice any more important than mine.

  8. July 13, 2012 2:40 am

    if you still need help with this, iMovie and Flash will definitely help on the video end. there are even some free downloads like Audacity for audio work. im no expert but i could definitely lend a hand in putting something together with you

  9. Gretchen K. permalink
    July 14, 2012 1:17 pm

    I’m sorry that you got such horrible threats after your previous post. You don’t deserve that. No one does. I wanted to mention that I learned something new today. Did not know what “trigger warning” meant. Googled it. Good to know!

  10. Dan L permalink
    July 15, 2012 4:36 am

    Point made, but why then does no one ever get all up in arms whenever a big name comedian makes a racist joke? I guess racism is OK then? I think it’s foolish to assume that everyone that laughs at something must therefore thinks its acceptable. Given the context of the entire dialogue between the two, it was definitely uncouth, but do you honestly believe people in the audience were going to try and rape her because of that comment? Were they all unable to tell that he was being facetious? Do we really need big brother to hold our hands and make sure we follow all the rules to a T? What ever happened to parenting? I watch Tosh.0 from time to time, and while sometimes things can be offensive, I generally find things more humorous, this stuff needs to be taken with a grain of salt. I was raised in a loving household and learned to respect women from a young age. It’s something I feel strongly about… but, have I ever laughed at a “politically incorrect” joke? Yes, and I believe you would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t at some time. (Jesus not withstanding.) It would be great if he didn’t make rape jokes. But I find it just as offensive to read an article which implies that people (myself) who have watched his show and found some of his material humorous are advocates of rape and think rape is totally cool and hilarious. That’s freaking absurd. More importantly, there are surely other much more productive ways you can get the word out in your local community that rape is not something to be taken lightly… if you really want to. At any rate, what comes of this, comes. But really, there’s way better (and more important) things that the world needs help with… like hunger for example…

    • July 15, 2012 10:02 am

      Dan, it may come as a surprise to you, but most people are able to hold more than one thought and be concerned about more than one thing at a time. People do get “up in arms” about racist jokes – as one extremely obvious example, see Michael Richards.

      See also: http://www.derailingfordummies.com/complete.html#moreimportantly

      • MomTFH permalink
        July 18, 2012 3:44 am

        Oh, Rachel, don’t worry your pretty little head. We parents have this whole rape thing covered. Oh, and hunger and racism.

  11. August 4, 2012 12:30 am

    I’m not really a big fan of tosh.0, but I don’t take comedians too seriously. =D

  12. September 29, 2012 11:46 pm

    Woah, woah, woah!!! Thank you so much for the heads up!!! My teen boys watch that show!!! Sometimes with my 2 little daughters around!! I had no idea that kind of nonsense was going on!! I am a gang rape survivor. Jokes like that are desensitizing and flat out not funny!! Tosh.0 is Tosh.out of my house as of NOW!

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