How do we respond to rape jokes?

Hello blog readers.  The concept of rape jokes and rape pages has come up n reference a few times before in this blog, but for me these have been primarily in the abstract.  However, tonight I saw the following status/comments show up in my news feed from one of my Facebook friends:

Original post: Its not rape if you yell surprise.

6 people like this.

Commenter 1: Just made my week with that (:

Commenter 2: I agree with her ^^^

Original poster: Lol youre welcome

Commenter 4: uhm psst ur missing sumthing to that

Commenter 4: its not rape if u yell surprise and throw confetti

Commenter 5: Well I’ll remember that [name removed] and if I ever get in trouble I’ll plea insanity and say you told me it was ok as long as I yelled suprise!!:))

I was shocked not only by the status, but also by other people’s response to it.  Unfortunatley, this is not the first time I’ve heard this joke, but it was the first time I had seen a individual publicly promote such ideas (compared to a more collective rape page, which are slowly being removed from Facebook due to public pressure.)  I reported the post to Facebook, and sent the original poster the following message:

Hey [name removed].  I am sure you didn’t mean anything harmful by this, but rape jokes are not funny.  Not only can they be psychologically triggering for survivors of rape and sexual assault, but they also make light of a very serious crime that is underreported because survivors are shamed and/or not taken seriously.  Rape is the only crime where the victim has to convince others that he/she did not want to be victimized.  Your joke plays on the type of cultural stereotypes that promote this lax view of sexual violence.  So, while I am hopeful you meant nothing by your post, I would appreciate if you would take it down.  I find it’s sentiments and the comments and like below it deeply disturbing.
I feel I had an obligation to confront this person about the potential impact of their message (even though they are not a member of the Haverford Community).  I was upset, but I didn’t want to alienate them.  I wanted them to understand.  Was I effective?  What is my responsibility towards the commenters, who expressed agreement?  I also want them to hear this message, but am I out of line to call out this person for what they have already posted publicly?  By posting this statement publicly, is the original poster opening themselves up to being called out publicly as well?  What is the most effective means to understanding by the most people?
What is our responsibility to speak truth to power?  How do we speak to those who are not familiar with the conversation we’ve been having here on the CiS blog, or with the tenets of trust, concern, and respect for others?  How do we promote a more sensitive, informed, and concerned conversation about sexual violence outside of the Haverbubble?
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2 thoughts on “How do we respond to rape jokes?

  1. This is a tough one.
    OP, I really don’t think you could have done any better than you did with sending that message. It was polite, respectful, private, and got the point across well. In general, I think it is most important to remember to not offend or embarrass people when they make rape jokes.
    I do think maybe one more thing you could do is to emphasize that rape jokes also make people more likely to commit rape. It’s portrayal as funny / edgy makes them think it’s not a big deal to pressure someone, ignore a “no” sign, or not wait for a “yes” sign. Jokes about cancer are rude, and especially hurtful to survivors, but they don’t actually cause cancer.
    Thanks for your post.

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