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