How to discourage someone from making rape jokes

How to discourage someone from making rape jokes

(Trigger Warning: Rape jokes, Rape culture)

I don’t know about you, but I hear rape jokes all the fucking time. And if you watch TV or listen to the radio or ever leave your house, I bet you do too.

Every time I hear a rape joke, a little piece of my heart chips off.

I know, I know. Dramatic much? But it’s true.

I have made my young career out of supporting women who have been physically and sexually abused.

I have seen the strength and resilience of these women. I have seen how hard they have worked to survive their traumas.

And all I ever want to do is lift them up in their survival.

There are not words for the work it takes to survive a sexual assault.

There are not words for how contemptible it is to make jokes about violence – violence that ruins and ends people’s lives.

And it enrages me to hear other people make jokes that belittle and demean these experiences of survival.

What a privileged position one must be in to make these types of jokes.

But it happens all the time, and we can’t just blame the individuals who make these jokes, even though that would be easiest.

We have to understand the cultural narrative around sexual violence as being insignificant and normalized. We have to understand the ways we contribute to rape culture, which allows these jokes to exist.

And while we absolutely need to critically examine the cultural context, we also have to reach out specifically to the people who perpetuate rape culture by making jokes about sexual violence.

Rape Jokes Are Just Not Funny. They’re Traumatizing.

Here is what I want to say to people who make jokes about rape, who compare capitalism to rape, who compare a tough exam to a sexual assault, who think that rape is a way to jokingly compliment someone.

Every time those words leave your mouth, a person in your company wonders if they can trust you.

This could be your girlfriend, your sister, a guy on your football team, your guitar teacher, the person sitting next to you on the bus.

It could be anyone, because anyone can be sexually assaulted.

The point is this – there is no safe space to make a rape joke. You run the risk of insulting, re-traumatizing, and deeply hurting someone, regardless of the company you keep.

There are no safe spaces to make a rape joke, and there is no way to maintain a safe space when a rape joke is made.

It can be incredibly triggering for a survivor to hear a rape joke.

One of the hallmarks of trauma is constant mental intrusion. It’s like a video recording of the traumatic event is playing at all times. There is an unrelenting crisis in regulating that video.

So, knowing that, imagine this: You’re a survivor of sexual violence. Maybe you were raped once, maybe you were raped every day for years (although the symptoms present differently).

You’re sitting with friends, drinking coffee or smoking a cigarette or whatever it is that you and your friends do.

A person you’re with makes a joke about rape, and all of a sudden you’re back in the moment of your assault.

And think: you’re with your friends and you finally let yourself feel safe, you finally let yourself laugh, you finally found a way to pause that video, but then wam!

Someone makes a rape joke and you’re back in the video loop again.

How to discourage someone from making rape jokes

And this time it will take longer to stop because THIS IS WHAT YOU GET FOR LOOKING AWAY, your mind tells you.

Or imagine that you are in the middle of that traumatic video that just won’t stop playing.

You’re only half present with your friends. You’re barely listening to anything because attachment and intimacy are far more difficult after an assault.

But then you hear the word “rape” and see other people laughing and you know that you are not safe at that table because the people you care about don’t take your pain seriously. They don’t value your truth.

And so it has been confirmed. You are as alone as you feel.

That’s a pretty fucked up thing to do to someone who you care about, don’t you think, funny guy?

It is not worth the joke. The trauma that you may cause someone by releasing the pause button is not worth the moment of satisfaction that your rape joke brings you.

It is just not worth it.

And my guess is that you will feel the same way when you really think about it.

What To Do If Someone Tells You A Rape Joke

For the people who hear rape jokes and also feel a piece of their heart chip off, remember this.

You are not alone.

That is but one piece of evidence supporting the reality that most of the humans in this world are decent and stand in solidarity against “jokes” that retraumatize survivors and exist to keep women down.

Here are three things that you can do to survive hearing a rape joke:

1. Remember that you are not alone.

See above. A lot of people believe that rape jokes are bad. These people are smart and strong, just like you.

2. If you feel safe, say something.

Even though I usually want to yell expletives, I do my best to stay calm when I challenge people on their rape jokes. I generally don’t engage with people who are incredibly resistant to growth.

But if I think it won’t be a huge waste of my time, I try to say something. I have said all of these things:

  • “You know, a lot of people who I love have been raped. That joke isn’t funny to me.”
  • “It’s really hard for me to hear jokes about violence. Can you not say that anymore?”
  • “One in three women been assaulted. Can you be more considerate when you tell jokes? There’s a really good chance that you’re saying that in front of a survivor.”
  • “What a lazy joke. You’re better than that.”

3. Take good self care

We can’t say it enough here on Everyday Feminism: Self care is key to survival!

If a joke is triggering for you, use your coping skills to get through the moment.

Take a deep breath, count to 100, create a calming image in your mind, get up and walk away.

Do whatever you need to do to keep yourself emotionally safe, and don’t apologize to anyone for it.

You have a right to safety.

There’s no way around it. Jokes about rape are wildly inappropriate and downright cruel.

We all have the right to exist in the world without being triggered by another person’s insensitive and offensive jokes.

Let’s all hold each other accountable in understanding that rape jokes are wrong and in supporting the people who get stuck hearing them.

How to discourage someone from making rape jokes

Sarah is a Contributing Writer of Everyday Feminism and a graduate student in Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is focusing on clinical work with survivors of trauma. Sarah works at a domestic violence agency as a therapist intern, and she also volunteers as an abortion and pregnancy loss doula. Before moving to Philadelphia, Sarah worked for a suicide and rape crisis hotline, and was an emergency room advocate for survivors of sexual assault. In her free time, Sarah likes to talk endlessly about her dog and cat. Follow her [email protected]

I have friends and acquaintances and friends of friends who have been raped and sexually assaulted. I patiently listened when they recounted their experiences of what had happened, or what should have happened, and what will never happen.

The shock that materializes at the realization that someone close to you has been raped or sexually assaulted shatters reality and questions whether there is actually good in the world.

In the United States, an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes, and yet people continue to think that making jokes about rape or sexual assault can be interpreted as being funny.

Some people say it’s because I “just can’t take a joke,” or I need to “lighten up” and get “a better sense of humor.” My sense of humor is fine, but thanks for checking.

When you’re in your home and you receive a phone call from someone close to you that they think they have been taken advantage of and why the hell would someone do that, your world tilts on its axis for a few moments and you try to maintain your balance as you listen to what they have to say.

So hearing a joke about rape shouldn’t be funny. Questions like, “Wouldn’t it be funny if a woman was gang raped?” Or, “Isn’t morning sex great — except if you’re in prison?” Or when discussing the results of a test with classmates, isn’t it funny when they express that they were ‘raped’ by the test because of its difficulty?

Of course it’s not funny. It’s rude and insulting.

This also stems from our culture. Songs glorifying sexual assault and abuse are Billboard 100s, movies that feature rape and sexual assault are Oscar award-winners and rape appears to be used as “television’s go-to plot-twist.” Articles have gone viral where victim-blaming is the norm. High school and college students share videos and pictures of rape and sexual assault to their friends and it spreads like wildfire. People post jokes about rape on social media, and when others try to say it’s not funny, they reply back and say they just don’t get that kind of humor.

Though the details are still being hashed out, essentially comedian Daniel Tosh made a “rape joke” when an audience member “heckled” him and that story has gone viral. He said:

“Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl [referring to an audience member who “heckled” him about rape jokes not being funny earlier in his set] got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?”

But the true meaning of what “rape” and “joke” together needs to be looked at further. As Elissa Bassist wrote in her article in the Daily Beast:

“The debate over Tosh shouldn’t be “are rape jokes funny?” That’s misdirection: his statement was a wildly inappropriate putdown, reminder, and threat that this woman could be gang-raped, like right now. There’s a distinction between making a joke to cope or to point out the absurdity of a situation and what Tosh did, consciously or not, which was to use humor to humiliate a woman who stood up for something she believed in.”

What does joking about such a serious issue say about recognizing sexual assault as a violent act? In a new report, it was revealed that young women “regard sexual violence against them as normal.” If we keep downplaying the effects rape and sexual assault have on a person, keep acting blasé over a rape scene in a movie, continue to say “boys will be boys,” and then continue the process of victim-blaming, how can we move past this?

Tosh did apologize, but it seemed to be a “sorry I’m not sorry” tweet:

all the out of context misquotes aside, i’d like to sincerely apologize

He later tweeted:

the point i was making before i was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them. #deadbabies

Just because there is such a thing as free speech and yes, you are able to and have the ability to say anything you want and make jokes out of tragic situations and even people, it doesn’t mean that you should. It doesn’t mean that it’s right. Not every awful thing in the world needs someone to make a joke about it.

An Open Letter to My Colleague Who Makes Rape Jokes

I’m serious, stop.

You have no idea what it is you’re saying. None. Rape is just a word to you. It’s an abstract idea, it’s something you can debate about, it’s something you can talk about. And you can do that, because to you, it’s just a word. It’s not something that ever happened to you.

I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to laugh, and say that I’m just a crazy feminist, who gets offended at everything. And you’re going to hide behind that, so that you’ll never have to admit that what you’re doing is wrong.

And I know you’ve heard how other people talk about it. I know you’ve heard other people make these jokes, and you’ve heard people laugh, so you’ve come to the conclusion that society finds this funny, and that these jokes are acceptable. But I’m here to tell you: you’re wrong. Those people laugh because to them, rape is just a word.

But it’s not just a word to everyone. It’s not just a word to me. To me, rape is the reason I stay up on a rape crisis hotline late at night, supporting people whose lives have been turned inside out. Rape is why I’ve been summoned to the hospital to hold strangers’ hands. Rape is the reason one of my friends dropped out of school. Rape is the reason my mom is scared when I have to walk home alone at night.

Rape is the narrow escape that I managed last summer. Rape is what he would have managed. It was an attempt, but it still gives me nightmares. It still makes me cringe. It still makes me feel nauseous.

I don’t wish that you understood how it feels when you make these jokes. I don’t, because the only way to truly understand would be to experience it, and I would never in a million years wish that on anyone. I really, truly mean that.

But I wish that you understood how hurtful you’re being. I wish you could just wrap your head around that, so that you would stop. Stop acting like rape is a joke. Stop acting like it’s something we can just laugh about.

Because you know what? When you make those jokes, you take his side. You tell him, and every guy out there who is like him, that it was okay. It wasn’t that big a deal. You tell him, and every guy out there who is like him, that women are just objects that you can touch as you see fit, that women’s bodies are up for grabs, that it doesn’t matter what we want.

And you’re a pig for it. I’m just going to say it: you’re a pig. You’re disgusting. You would have to be, to find that amusing.

You think being “violated” is amusing? Try living with that. Try living with that every day of your life. Don’t try living with what I live with-

-that’s the easier version. I got away. I’m okay. Try living with the worse version-

-the violent version, the kind that leaves bruises, leaves scars, leaves you in a hospital. Do you ever even think about that? I doubt it, because if you did, there is just no way that you could ever throw around terms like “rape” or “violate” the way that you do.

There are so many things you could joke about. SO MANY. There are so many things you could joke about that aren’t offensive, that don’t have to hurt people.

You choose to laugh at things that hurt people. I know you do, because you do it to me all the time. And it’s pathetic. You are pathetic.

I am not just some crazy feminist. And you DON’T get to gaslight me, dismiss my feelings as nuts, and tell me to sit down and shut up. I am sick of being called crazy for demanding that you demonstrate some human decency. Because that’s all I’m asking for: just show some decency and stop belittling the trauma that so many of us have had to go through. I don’t care how smart you are, or how smart you think you are; I don’t care how important you are or think you are. I am a person, and I’m not going to sit down and shut up until you start treating me like one.

You aren’t smarter, funnier, or better than I am, because you can laugh at rape jokes and I can’t. All you are is lucky, because you didn’t live my nightmares, and a jerk, because you point and laugh when you could be a friend.

How to discourage someone from making rape jokes

Rape jokes aren’t funny. They weren’t in 2012 when comedian Daniel Tosh said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl [referring to an audience member who “heckled” him about rape jokes not being funny earlier in his set] got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now?” , and they still aren’t today.

In the United States, an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes, yet people still seem to think that joking about rape and sexual assault is okay. IT’S NOT.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I need backup, I’m getting raped over here!”, or “Man, that test just raped me!”. Comparing rape to something slightly unpleasant makes rape seem less serious than it really is, which, to put it very simply, is not okay.

Our society has become so comfortable with the idea and subject of rape, that songs on the Top 100 list glorify it and Oscar-Award winners include sexual assault scenes just to add a ‘plot-twist’ or get more views.

I would love to be able to walk around and go to school, without hearing someone make an insensitive joke about rape. One of the most infuriating things to experience is when people say, “Can’t you take a joke?”, “Lighten up!”, or “You don’t have a sense of humor!”. These jokes have absolutely nothing to do with your sense of humor, and everything to do with the normalization of rape in our culture today.

As someone who has been affected by sexual assault, rape jokes are more than enough to make me have flashbacks that I try to avoid. It’s a type of joke that should be steered clear of, and although those who make these jokes may not realize that it’s something that is hurtful and relevant to my life and people’s lives around them personally, it’s still not okay.

Rape jokes aren’t a matter of trigger warnings and safe spaces, and it should go without saying that they are unacceptable and inconsiderate in any situation.

A study conducted by Thomas E. Ford from the SAGE Journal shows that when people are exposed to jokes about rape, men tend to start to view rape as normal and okay, and women start to see themselves as objects. Although jokes might not make a major impact on the world at large, they can greatly affect people in very personal ways.

Instead of letting people laugh at these jokes or look away with unease, encourage them to use their voice. It may create an uncomfortable conversation, but that is exactly the type of conversation we need to be having right now.


PERIOD is fighting to end period poverty and stigma through service, education and advocacy.

Following is our collection of funny Rape jokes. There are some rape rapier jokes no one knows (to tell your friends) and to make you laugh out loud.

Take your time to read those puns and riddles where you ask a question with answers, or where the setup is the punchline. We hope you will find these rape fraud puns funny enough to tell and make people laugh.

Top 10 of the Funniest Rape Jokes and Puns

What’s white on top and black on bottom?

Whats black on top and white on bottom?

I said to my girlfriend, “Do you want to experiment with a role-play rape fantasy?”

I said, “*That’s the spirit!*” —Jimmy Carr

What do 9 out of 10 people call a good time?

How to discourage someone from making rape jokes

Today I called the rape help line.

But apparently it’s just meant for the victims.

A woman stopped me in the street today and told me a joke.

After hearing it, I thought it had all the ingredients of a great joke: child abuse; incestual rape, tears, poverty and suffering; but I didn’t understand the punchline.

Something about $10 a month.

Maybe not a joke as much as a cute misunderstanding but.

I cracked open a rape kit last weekend. I had never seen one before.

Anyway, I obviously have been operating under a huge misconception. I laughed so hard, she got away.

A man is asked to give a speech on rape.

He stands up and says “Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure. “

How to discourage someone from making rape jokes

So I tried using one of those date rape drugs the other night.

It turns out its really hard to rape a girl when you’re drooling on the floor the room is spinning.

You know how dolphins rape a lot?

They do it on porpoise.

Collection of my favorite Latvian Jokes.

* Man is hungry. He steal bread to feed family. Get home, find all family have gone Siberia! More bread for me, man think. But bread have worm.

* Man car break down near house of farmer. Take shelter in barn. Find farmer daughter in barn. Oh! Hot stuff! But TOO LATE! Is already rape by soldier.

* Latvian walk into bar with mule. Bartender say, Why so long face? Latvian say, I was thinking of my daughter. She has been lie with soldier for potato feed baby.

* Three Latvian are brag about sons. My son is soldier. He have rape as many women as want, say first Latvian. Zo? second say, My son is farmer. He have all potato he want! Third Latvian wait long time, then say, My son is die at birth. For him, struggle is over. Wow! You are win us, say others. But all are feel sad.

* Q : What are one potato say other potato? A : Premise ridiculous. Who have two potato?

* Q : How many Latvian is take screw in light bulb? A : 25. One screw in, 24 ride bicycle generator for 1-hour shift. But time probably better spend search food.

* Q: What is happening if you cross Latvian and potato? A: This is cruel joke. please, no more.

I called that Rape Advice Line earlier today.

Unfortunately, it’s only for victims.

Related Topics

  • decapitation
  • abduction
  • accuse
  • rapier
  • gangrape
  • fraud
  • statistically
  • robberies
  • sodomy
  • molestation
  • robbery
  • embezzlement
  • tekashi
  • rapist
  • assault
  • burglary
  • legitimate
  • raped
  • cosby
  • pillage
  • incest
  • consent
  • felony
  • theft
  • congolese
  • paedophilia
  • victims
  • pornhub
  • anally
  • loot

You can explore rape accuse reddit one liners, including funnies and gags. Read them and you will understand what jokes are funny? Those of you who have teens can tell them clean rape gangrape dad jokes. There are also rape puns for kids, 5 year olds, boys and girls.

A German woman was walking down a dark alley when she got accosted by eleven men.

. who tear her clothes apart and start to rape and molest her. The woman shouts ‘Nien! Nien!’, so two of them left.

A man comes home to his wife.

Upon entering their home he promtly asks her, “hey honey, do you want to play the rape game tonight?”, a flat and unenthusiastic “no” is her response, to which he replies excitedly “good sport”

What do nine out of ten people agree on?

Raped by a canadian

A woman called the police saying she was raped by a canadian, the policeman asked how she knew he was canadian. She said he said sorry after.

Next time somebody tries to argue using statistics.

Remind them that 9 out of 10 people enjoy gang rape.

How to discourage someone from making rape jokes

A greedy man, a rapist, and an alcoholic.

A greedy man, a rapist, and an alcoholic meet a genie. The genie says to them, “If you can resist your urges I will grant you each one wish. But should you fail, you will disappear” The three men agreed and tried to go a full day without alcohol, rape, and theft. The alcoholic’s wife leaves him so he takes a drink, then he disappears. Later the greedy man is on the bus and a lady drops a dollar. The man bends down to keep it, and the rapist disappears.

Latvian Joke

Man sits in broken cottage with daughter. Man is cold and hungry. Man not have potato for days.
“Knock, knock” is heard at door.
“Who there is” man say.
“Politburo who” say man.
Politburo burst in cottage rape daughter. Man now cold, hungry and sad.

Nowadays, and too often, a joke is used to camouflage anti-group feelings.

“What do you tell a woman with two black eyes?” That’s the first line of a “joke.”

Joking is a social interaction strategy that people use to do a variety of things. Sure, even Freud would say that sometimes a joke is just a joke. I, myself, love punctuation jokes. “A panda bear walks into a bar, eats, shoots and leaves.” Yes, sometimes a joke is just a joke.

Even so, sometimes a joke is used in an attempt to reduce interpersonal anxiety between people who are interacting with each other. Sometimes a joke is used to make a social comment. Today in America, interpersonal anxiety and social comments are both often motivated by neo-diversity anxiety.

Neo-diversity refers to the interpersonal situation all Americans now live in; a situation where every day we all have encounters (and sometimes interactions) with people from many different groups by way of gender, bodily condition, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental health condition, religion, gender identity, and race. For some, that situation brings out neo-diversity anxiety that activates prejudice and bigotry.

Nowadays, jokes are too often used to camouflage prejudice. But the camouflage is itself a neo-diversity problem. Camouflage does not eliminate the bigotry of the joke. Outward expressions through words or deeds of anti-group feelings are bigotry. No matter how it is dressed, bigotry is still bigotry.

Understand that the point of bigotry is to incite group division; us versus them. Jokes activate that minimal group effect; automatic categorization of people into groups with a tendency to see those groups as being in competition with each other.

A blonde joke, then, is not just a joke; it is divisive.

A joke about women is not just a joke; it is divisive.

A joke about violence against women is more than divisive; it is demeaning and dangerous.

You might wonder, though, who would joke about violence against women. It turns out far too many college men think those jokes are funny. And not only do some college males think such jokes are funny, but they are so confident that these jokes are acceptable they tell such jokes to female classmates. A female student in my “Interpersonal Relationships and Race” course wrote a paper about the time a male classmate told her a “joke.”

She wrote: “In this particular class, there was one guy that I got to know pretty well, but it was strictly a classroom interpersonal relationship. To elaborate, we joked around a lot, but … one moment, in particular, caught me way off guard and to this day I am a little frustrated with my own response of laughing in an effort not to seem uptight. But let me tell you about the interaction.

I can’t remember why the class was so relaxed that day, I think we had just gotten back a test and we were waiting to go over the answers. This young man made a comment about something (to this day I still don’t know what he said) and I couldn’t hear him. After asking him twice what he said, he looked at me and asked, “…what do you tell a woman with two black eyes?” My response, simply enough, was “um, I don’t know, what?” “Nothing, you already told her twice,” and then he laughed to my face, as it turned red from embarrassment.”

How could a college-educated male think this was funny and acceptable enough to tell a female peer? It seems this is a more general problem than previously understood. Consider the Sigma Nu fraternity at Old Dominion University.

For the first day of the new semester, members of the fraternity hung giant welcome signs outside a private house where some resided. The signs of welcome were directed at incoming female students and their mothers saying:

“Rowdy and fun, hope your baby girl is ready for a good time.”

“Freshman daughter drop off.”

“Go ahead and drop off mom too.”

Many on the campus and in the nation were offended. Implied was the belief that women are only good for one thing; that group prejudice showed clear in the gender-bigotry of those “welcome” signs. Yet some thought, come on it’s just a joke. One online commentator said, “These are hilarious, it’s what happens in college and people just need to chill out. I can’t believe they suspended the fraternity for this.”

But official reactions were rightly swift and condemning, which isn’t surprising given the real concerns universities have about sexual assault on campuses, concerns about what some call a “rape culture.” John R. Broderick, President of Old Dominion, used his Facebook page to address the campus. He wrote:

“I am outraged about the offensive message directed toward women that was visible for a time on 43rd Street. Our students, campus community, and alumni have been offended.

While we constantly educate students, faculty, and staff about sexual assault and sexual harassment, this incident confirms our collective efforts are still failing to register with some.

A young lady I talked to earlier today courageously described the true meaning of the hurt this caused. She thought seriously about going back home.”

Camouflaged or not, these kinds of demeaning jokes about groups have a real social impact on our peer citizens. Yet too many of us think we should be able to say what we want, when we want, to whom we want, especially if what is said is camouflaged as a joke. But what that misses is that in America today, the camouflage is easy to see through.

We no longer live in an America where anyone can say anything about anybody and go unchallenged. When Americans did live in that kind of social context, it was because our country was living under the belief and social structure that made some groups less than other groups.

  • Women were less than men, in the law.
  • Blacks were less than whites, in the law.
  • Homosexuals were less than heterosexuals, in the law.

Through legitimate means, America got rid of and continues to get rid of those laws and customs. As a result, we are no longer living separately from one another. In fact, Americans from all kinds of groups are interacting with each other every day on equal footing supported by new legal statutes that give us equal citizenship under the law.

Moving into the light of the 21st century, the social-psychological context of American interpersonal life has been changed in fundamental ways as we move toward a more perfect union. And we are not going to go back into the darkness where camouflage can work. We are not going back. No joke.

Dr. Rupert W. Nacoste is Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor of Psychology at North Carolina State University.

A dinner party, new people, a joke about rape: It was already bad enough. Then he said sorry, and it only got worse

By Jenny Kutner
Published January 3, 2015 8:30PM (EST)


I was at a relative’s birthday party not long ago with a lot of people I didn’t know. All of the guests were already close friends, and for the most part they, like me, were in their 20s. Some of them were a good deal older, though, and one man—who seemed to be about my parents’ age—appeared to be the leader of the bunch. He was raucous and inappropriate and had a penchant for finding chops to bust; what he did not have, it soon became clear, was any sense of decorum.

At one point, while the whole group was outside on the deck and engaged in fragmented conversations, the man loudly interrupted his wife while she was talking to another woman. He wanted to tell a joke. He did. Or, I guess, he thought he did, because when he was finished most of the group started laughing. But the “joke” he told turned rape into a punch line. It was something he said in hopes other people would find it funny, and it sucked.

I wasn’t the only guest who didn’t respond with laughter, but I think I was the only one who didn’t even crack a smile. Everyone quickly turned back to their conversations, but I leaned over to another relative and whispered, “Glad rape jokes are still in vogue.” I pulled out my phone and fired off some similar snark for Twitter, then went inside to eat some more salami.

About 10 minutes later, when everyone was back in the kitchen filling their plates with food, the rape joke-teller stopped me as I passed him on my way to the dining room. “Hey,” he said, “someone pulled me aside to say that you’re a big feminist, so you probably didn’t appreciate my joke. I want to apologize.” He went on to say that rape is never funny, and that he knows people who have been sexually assaulted and that he would never want to make fun of their trauma. All in all, the jokester said some pretty enlightened things. But then he finished his remarks by saying something about how he was just joking, but he really hoped he didn’t offend me too much. He asked for a hug to let him know I had truly accepted his apology, to show that I knew he wasn’t a bad guy. I relented.

In case you’re wondering, he did not apologize to anyone else (especially not to the women whose conversation he interrupted).

Immediately, I felt like an asshole and a coward for allowing myself to be hugged. I was being disingenuous. I did not want to hug this person, who frankly I found very obnoxious, or forgive him for saying something awful. He engaged in the sort of behavior I criticize professionally, committed the sort of microaggression that I believe to be at the root of why we condone violence against women. He really, really upset me—but what upset me more was that he and I both knew I was alone. That’s why he apologized to me and no one else—because I’m the “big feminist,” and so it’s my responsibility to get pissed when someone tells a rape joke at a dinner party.

The fact that I am always the one to get pissed floated through my mind as I agreed to give the rape joke-teller his hug. This is why I felt like a coward: because I’m not, usually. I always make a scene, am always alone in making a scene, always alienate people around me because I can’t just chill out and take a joke. On Thanksgiving, I stormed out of the room in tears because I thought everyone around the dinner table was blaming domestic violence survivors for their assaults. My beliefs are often announced dramatically.

And I’ve found that my readiness to self-identify as a feminist often does to me what people fearful of the label think it will do to them: It separates me, makes me different and sometimes it makes people scared of me. Or, it singles me out as the one person in the room who can absolve people of their own ignorance and sexism, though I hate to say that’s not usually why I go to parties.

What I find confounding about this trend of people apologizing to me—and, if I haven’t made it clear, this is a trend—is that people usually know why they should be “scared” I might step in as the token feminist spokesperson. They know exactly what they have to apologize for. It seems they choose to apologize to me because they know I’m most likely to find whatever it is they’ve said to be repellent, but the decision to say sorry requires them to see something offensive in their own comments. People don’t apologize to me about their rape jokes because I’m a mean person who’s prone to fits of unintelligible rage, but because they know they’ve said something insensitive, sexist and problematic. I guess that’s better than people being totally, genuinely oblivious to their own sexism, but it’s also a sign of willful stupidity. It is, I suppose, what we call “a start.” It’s OK. It’s better than nothing.

But you know what would be better than “better than nothing”? People not laughing at rape jokes or even cracking smiles. Party guests thinking it’s not appropriate to tell rape jokes in the first place, or to even call them “jokes” at all. Acquaintances not tiptoeing around the “big feminist” after they decide to say something stupid, when they would otherwise make rape jokes without a second thought if the big feminist weren’t there.

Those are high hopes, apparently, so here is something I can settle for: I would love for people to stop apologizing to me for their rape jokes, and instead go apologize to someone else—preferably, someone who laughed. If jokesters do still feel the need to apologize to me, the one who’s “different,” I would like them to consider how different we really are. Do they consider sexual assault to be funny, or do they consider it to be a serious problem that 1 in 6 women will face in her lifetime? I would like them to think long and hard about what it is that they’re apologizing for. I would like them to think about what is funny about rape.

Then, I would like them to encourage other people to do the same when a different jokester makes a crack about violence against women, or women being objects or anything involving women making sandwiches. Maybe there won’t need to be a big feminist on the sidelines; instead there can be one right at the center of the conversation.

Jenny Kutner

MORE FROM Jenny KutnerFOLLOW @JennyKutner


Lecturer in Media and Communications, Brunel University London

Research Fellow at the Centre for Academic and Primary Care, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol

Disclosure statement

Simon Weaver has previously received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (2009-10).

Karen Morgan has previously received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (2001-03; 2005)


University of Bristol provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.

Brunel University London provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.

The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations

How to discourage someone from making rape jokes

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Some people believe that offensive humour such as sexist or racist jokes can help break down barriers and challenge prejudice. Others simply find it appalling. The topic is clearly sensitive and often leads to discussions about free speech, morality and political correctness. But what can academic research tell us about the implications of offensive joking?

We examined the the subject looking at jokes about rape that have appeared in the media in recent years with some regularity. High profile comedians that have used rape jokes include Jimmy Carr, Frankie Boyle, Dapper Laughs, Daniel Tosh, Sarah Silverman and Ricky Gervais. All of these jokes are different.

Some researchers argue that offensive jokes do not have any wider implications – they are inconsequential or “just jokes”. This view broadly sees the criticism of offensive humour as a part of “political correctness”, which is viewed as a movement that encourages censorship and threatens liberty and free speech.

But there is psychological research on humour that denigrates, belittles, or maligns an individual or social group that argues the opposite. This work has found that such jokes act “as a releaser of existing prejudice”. One study even found that exposure to sexist humour can decrease male perceptions of the seriousness of rape.

Another study found that women were more likely to view themselves as objects and worry more about their bodies after viewing sexist humour. This research suggested that although jokes may not instantly change the world, they may affect people at an interpersonal level.

Some research argues that there are positive effects of offensive humour – usually as a form of resistance. The use of racist stereotypes by black and minority ethnic comedians has been shown to have the potential to undermine racism. Disabled comedians have also ridiculed stereotypes of the disabled by reversing the offensive comments of the non-disabled. But the success of this “reverse joking” has a lot to do with the identity of the comedian – white and non-disabled comedians joking about black or disabled people have to work much harder not to reinforce stereotypes.

Case studies

Not surprisingly, in rape jokes the common themes are often sexual objectification, devaluation and violence. Our own research examined the few rape jokes that have been told by British comedian Ricky Gervais. There are two or three in his stand-up routines, and a few more on child abuse. Jokes can always be taken or “read” in more than one way. This small number of jokes garnered significant criticism on social media. Here is one such joke from 2010:

I’ve done it once, I’m not proud of it in the slightest. I’m fucking ashamed of it. I wasn’t drunk, I was over the limit. That was Christmas and I took the car out and I knew I shouldn’t. I knew at the time I shouldn’t be in the car. But I learned my lesson ‘cos I nearly killed an old woman. In the end I didn’t kill her. In the end, I just raped her. But as I say nothing came of it ‘cos luckily, thousand to one shot I know, she had Alzheimer’s. Yeah, not a credible witness.

Gervais defended the joke online: “The joke clearly revolves around the misdirection in the term ‘nearly killed’, suggesting narrowly avoided. But, as it turns out, ‘nearly killed’ means something much, much worse. A big taboo, but comically justified I feel.” When Gervais defends the joke as “comically justified” he is really suggesting that he thinks it might be satirical – he is attempting to do more than simply laugh at rape. This relies on “nearly killed” meaning different things in different contexts.

But despite Gervais’ intention, it is not possible to avoid the problematic misogynistic reading. And the satirical reading is not obvious. In the “lead-in” when setting up the joke he was not talking about satirical attitudes towards rape but to public service adverts on drink driving. The punchline relies on the statement “I just raped her” which connotes that rape is not serious and certainly not as serious as being “nearly killed”.

There is no clear anti-rape satire developed in the joke. The lines about the woman not being a credible witness trivialises the criminality of rape – a social problem that is often cited in relation to justice for rape victims. Again, the satire is not well developed.

Silverman rape joke.

Meanwhile, US comedian Sarah Silverman has joked about rape in a way that is more obviously satirical:

Needless to say, rape, the most heinous crime imaginable. Seems it’s a comic’s dream, though. Because it seems that when you do rape jokes that, like the material is so dangerous and edgy. But the truth is it’s like the safest area to talk about in comedy. That’s the trick. Cause who’s going to complain about a rape joke? Rape victims? They don’t even report rape. I mean, they’re just traditionally not complainers.

Silverman directs her joke at male comedians who tell rape jokes. She juxtaposes a rhetoric of edgy taboo breaking with a reality of victims to critique male comedians who use rape in their comedy. Indeed, she highlights a hypocritical culture which simultaneously refer to rape as a serious crime, while also laughing at rape jokes.

Offensive humour is political and highlights a connection between our identities, politics and the pleasure of laughter. When people engage in joking about rape or sexual assault – Donald Trump is perhaps a good example here – there are intended and unintended consequences for society. In contributing to a blurred distinction between a culture of sexual abuse and humour, rape jokes may contribute to the normalisation of such abuse and make it more difficult than it already is for victims of sexual abuse to speak out.

There may be a place and time for certain offensive humour. But if you’re unsure about just how damaging a joke could be, it may be wise to think it over one more time before delivering it.