In Case You Haven’t Heard, Rape Isn’t Funny

“Rape is funny and so am I! Right? …Right?”

Some comedian I’ve never even heard of before–but now have–is under fire right now for a “joke” he made in one of his shows. I use the word “joke” (just as I will use the word “humor”) broadly here.

In the words of a woman who attended a show by comedian Daniel Tosh, this is what happened:

So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didnt appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”

[...]After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, “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…” and I, completely stunned and finding it hard to process what was happening but knowing i needed to get out of there, immediately nudged my friend, who was also completely stunned, and we high-tailed it out of there. It was humiliating, of course, especially as the audience guffawed in response to Tosh, their eyes following us as we made our way out of there. I didn’t hear the rest of what he said about me.

So, what we have here is a (male) comedian insisting that rape jokes are funny (in itself a barely defensible position), getting called out for it by a female audience member, and insisting that it would be “funny” if she got gang-raped.

Naturally, Tosh made a typical non-apology:

Credit: Feministing

I just love how he claims, as usual, that his comments were taken “out of context.” Is there any context in which, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now?” is an acceptable thing to say?

While I’m pretty sure that most decent people would see this “humor” for the crap that it is, a number of online conversations I’ve had the misfortune of having today suggest otherwise. For the record, every single person who has defended Tosh in this situation is 1) a man, and 2) someone who admitted to having previously watched and enjoyed Tosh’s show. So something tells me that there’s a little bit of “But I like this guy and I need to convince everyone that I’m still a good person!” psychological trickery going on here. In technical parlance, we call that “cognitive dissonance,” and it helps explain why some people defend assholes like Tosh so rabidly.

Here are some Actual Arguments that I’ve seen.

But humor relies on offensive jokes!

Now, that’s just false. My favorite comedians, such as Jon Stewart and Tina Fey, may make fun of people, but they don’t need to try to crack jokes about rape to be “funny.” And, as I’ll discuss later, there are different ways to be offensive.

But that’s just his Thing!

Um, so…get a new Thing, then? If you need to remind people of some of the most terrible things they’ve ever experienced in order to earn a living, you might want to consider getting a different career. Just sayin’.

But joking about terrible things makes it easier to get past them!

Why don’t you ask the survivors of said terrible things? Most rape survivors would disagree with you. Also, while there are definitely ways to incorporate sexual assault into a comedy routine that are sensitive and useful (Donald Glover has one that I can’t find the link to right now), joking about the gang-rape of an audience member is emphatically not one of those ways.

But FREE SPEECH!

Words cannot describe how tired I am of this argument. Anyone who makes it lacks even the most basic understanding of our Constitution. All the First Amendment means in this context is that the government can’t restrict Tosh’s right to include offensive material in his routines. It can’t censor videos of his routines, it can’t impose any fines or penalties on him for doing his routines, it can’t make it illegal to joke about rape, and so on.

But that’s it. The rest of us can still speak out when someone says something terrible. A company that employs that person or syndicates that person’s material can still fire the person or stop syndicating the material.

Yes, you have a God-given, constitutional right to be an asshole. But why, why must you exercise it?

But people should know what they’re getting into if they’re going to his show!

Well, that sounds awfully victim-blamey, doesn’t it? Should women also “know what they’re getting into” if they go to a bar alone? Should people going to prison “know what they’re getting into” if they get sexually assaulted there?

First of all, this isn’t always practical. The woman in question here was going to see a show that included several comedians, some of whom she knew of and others that she did not. It’s unreasonable to ask everyone going to a comedy show to research the comedian’s entire oeuvre to make sure that it’s free of rape jokes.

Second, Tosh has a show on Comedy Central. One of my friends pointed out that it’s often playing at the gym when she goes. Should she just avoid the gym, then? Should she call every gym she’s considering going to ahead of time to make sure that none of their TVs are currently playing Tosh’s show?

Third, jokes about rape have an effect that goes far beyond their potential to trigger and terrify an individual audience member. I’ll quote Melissa McEwan from Shakesville, complete with links to relevant pieces on her blog: “Rape jokes are not funny. They potentially trigger survivors, and they uphold the rape culture. They tacitly convey approval of rape to rapists, who do not appreciate “rape irony.” There is no neutral in rape culture, and jokes that diminish or normalize rape empower rapists. Rape jokes are pro-rape.

But other Comedy Central shows are offensive too! Why focus on this one?

This argument generally refers to South Park, which is well-known for being offensive. But there are different kinds of offensive. South Park, for the most part, is “offensive” because it covers taboo subjects and uses strong language. Such things can be shocking and unpleasant if you’re not expecting them, but they’re not outright prejudiced and harmful. And in fact, this type of “offensive” material can actually break down stigmas and encourage more openness around these subjects, which is great.

Joking about rape, as I mentioned above, is different from joking about religion or bodily functions or sex. It’s not merely “offensive,” it’s actually harmful to individuals and to society as a whole.

But other comedians are offensive too! Why focus on this one?

This is a stupid argument. I can’t speak for every single person offended by this incident, but I speak out every time I encounter something like this. Nobody is singling out poor Tosh, so calm down.

But she “heckled” him!

Am I to assume that interrupting a comedian’s show makes one deserving of rape?

First of all, as this woman makes clear in her blog post, we have a responsibility to speak out when something isn’t right. Could she have waited till afterwards? Sure. Could she have written Tosh a nice, polite, friendly letter that never made it past his secretary? Sure. But she wanted to be heard, and she had the right to be.

Second, even assuming that she was acting improperly (not something you’d ever accuse a man of, is it?), that still doesn’t make it okay to announce in front of an audience how “funny” it would be if she were gang-raped. I honestly have trouble believing that there are really people who would justify Tosh’s behavior this way, but I saw them with my own eyes on Facebook earlier this afternoon.

But you’re just taking it too personally!

Congratulations, you’ve now completely failed at being a decent person. Yes, there is such a thing as taking an insult too personally. If a comedian made a joke about brunettes or writers or psychology majors or other such mundane groups that I belong to, and I exploded at him, then yes, I would probably be “taking it too personally.”

But sexual assault is not something that can be “taken too personally.” It is personal. It’s personal even if you haven’t personally experienced it, because I guarantee you that someone you care about has.

It’s personal because a woman who accuses a man of sexual assault is still questioned about what she was wearing at the time. It’s personal because a man who accuses a woman of sexual assault is still laughed at and considered less of a man. It’s personal because a man who accuses a man of sexual assault is still called a f*****. It’s personal, people.

Perhaps there will come a day when sexual assault is treated exactly the same as other crimes. When it does not disproportionally affect women, people of color, young people, poor people, and others who are already marginalized. When we can all agree that there’s nothing anyone can do to “ask” for rape.

Perhaps when that day comes, it’ll be possible to joke about sexual assault and wonder how it could ever have been that people didn’t treat it seriously.

But I doubt it.

*Edit* Sign the petition!

*Second Edit* New arguments!

But Nobody Cares™! That’s Just How Things Are™! Nothing Will Ever Change™!

You’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more people care, the faster things will change. Because they’re already changing. If you’re not interested in helping, bugger off while the rest of us change things.

But he said he’s sorry!

First of all, no, he really didn’t. He said, “All of the out of context misquotes aside, I’d like to sincerely apologize.” Out of context? Misquotes? Honey, stop. Here’s what should be a primer on how to actually apologize for something you’ve publicly said.

Second, even if he had made a genuine-sounding apology, I don’t understand this requirement that we have in our culture to accept any and all apologies and then never speak of the Matter again. What if I don’t accept your apology? What if the words “I’m sorry” are simply not sufficient to make up for what you did?

Nobody owes forgiveness to anyone, and even if Tosh had actually apologized, that doesn’t mean we should stop analyzing his words and making sure that others understand why he was wrong. You don’t get to be like “Yeah well I said I was sorry so why can’t you just get over it already!” Sorry, nope.

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78 thoughts on “In Case You Haven’t Heard, Rape Isn’t Funny

  1. No one cares. It was a joke that went wrong. Literally happens all the time. He apologized for it and moved on. Find something else to do besides complain and move on too.

      • I didn’t see an apology. This world is getting too out of hand with what they find “funny”. I have a great sense of humor, but things like this are just not funny. At. All.

      • Really not trying to even pose an argument. All I am trying to say is that places like the Comedy Channel pretty much give free reign to all of their “performers.” Sadly what they air has already gone through internal standards boards and the like. Half of what they air is done so for the “shock” factor. It’s what sells. Just look at Family Guy for an example. It’s widely offensive to almost everyone, and I’m pretty sure they’ve cracked a few rape jokes in there too at some point. Yet it is one of the most popular shows in America. TV producers know some of what they air will knowingly upset people. But the potential cost associated with disturbing a few bloggers is far outweighed by the revenue gained from the show itself.

        • You know, that’s exactly what people said about Rush Limbaugh, whom I’ve written about before. Yet when “bloggers” reacted angrily, advertisers pulled out of his show in a hurry. Don’t underestimate what an engaged, informed base of consumers can do.

    • 1) Actually, yes, there are people who care about this. Miriam is one of them. I’m another. Don’t get led astray by the false-consensus effect.

      2) Apologizing and moving on would have been fine… had it actually been his first reaction to the situation. But no, it was his second reaction, after he realized that he was actually taking heat for this. His first reaction, as has been recounted, was to respond to a critic by saying, “You know what would be funny? If you, personally, got raped.” And that’s what people are up in arms about, even more so than him making jokes about rape in the first place.

        • To be honest I am a little offended you edited your post with: “But Nobody Cares™! That’s Just How Things Are™! Nothing Will Ever Change™!” Having directly stated in your comment policy it is inappropriate to directly attack a person, let it be known I feel personally attacked. It would be, frankly, idiotic of me to suggest that “Nothing will ever change” or any iteration of the sort. All I am really suggesting is that yes, what happened on Tosh’s show was unfortunate, inappropriate and all around offensive. Should there be some sort of punishment? Yes, probably so. But as I referenced above, the programs are driven by the consumers. Where “change” is truly needed is with society. On a whole fuck ton of levels.

          • How is this a personal attack? A personal attack would be if I called you stupid or referred to you with an insult or a slur. I did nothing of the sort. I’m sorry that you feel offended, but honestly, you weren’t even the direct inspiration for that edit.

          • No problem. But by the way, you didn’t exactly suggest that change needs to be made. Rather, you said, “Find something else to do besides complain and move on too.”

  2. Re: “But people should know what they’re getting into if they’re going to his show!”

    If I’m remembering correctly, the woman said that she had no idea who Tosh was, and in fact thought that he was just some amateur who was there to follow Dane Cook.

    • Yeah, exactly. And several of us made this argument in our online discussions, to which someone replied that people should research everyone involved in a comedy show before they go see it. Derp derp.

    • I agree. If you are going to Tosh you should be prepared to hear it all. I like some of his skits, but when it gets too out of hand I ask my BF to turn it down. He had children singing about “smelling d***” and that was too much for me. Makes me sad for these kids. Their parents allow anything and everything just to make a quick buck off of them.

  3. I’ve seen very little of Daniel Tosh and only on youtube. I don’t find him funny. But regarding what jokes are kosher and what are not, it’s a tough line to draw. Stand-up comedy often sits on that line and pushes it just to see how far it can get.
    George Carlin has a bit where he says, “Rape can be funny. Just picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd.” Now, it’s possible Daniel Tosh was getting to something like that. What he said next shouldn’t have been said. But imagine getting heckled up there on stage. You need to react. You need to be funny. And outrageous. Sometimes, it will backfire. He was wrong to say what he said, but not evil.
    Also, I’ve heard lots of stand-up bits involving castration getting big laughs from women. So clearly, some types of sexual violence are funny.
    But I’ll say this—if you don’t like what a comedian says, ignore him or walk out. There’s no excuse for heckling.

    • For the record, I don’t think castration is funny. But it’s a bad parallel to draw. Does one out of every four men get castrated in his lifetime? If a man gets castrated, do we ask him what he was wearing at the time? Do we inquire about his previous sexual history, perhaps if he’s had sex with women he picked up in bars before? Do we generally believe that it’s okay to castrate a man if you’re married to him? Is there anything a man can do that would be “asking” to get castrated?

      I could go on.

          • Is it that hard to address the point that someone you actually think is funny had a segment that was a long rape joke?

            You also incorrectly assert that rape is a gender specific crime. I’m not sure why.

          • My bad, I was referring to your claim that I don’t “get” something about castration.

            As regards the Daily Show segment, KJ covered that well just now. You seriously need to work on your comprehension skills.

          • The segment was a rape pun.

            pun: the humorous use of a word or phrase so as to emphasize or suggest its different meanings or applications, or the use of words that are alike or nearly alike in sound but different in meaning; a play on words.

            So jon thought it was humorous. Point still stands.

          • Making a pun with the word “rape” on a news segment about a rape amendment and saying that it would be funny if an audience member was gang raped are not the same. And again, since you clearly did not read Miriam’s article, I quote:

            “there are definitely ways to incorporate sexual assault into a comedy routine that are sensitive and useful”

            So your clip just helped to prove Miriam’s point. Thank you.

          • Wow. Are you dense? Did you even watch the segment? He’s not making fun of rape or saying that rape is funny, he’s bringing attention to how awful that clause is through comedy. Again, Miriam already said that comedy can and SHOULD be used to address awful things in our society, not to make them worse.

          • In fact, he didn’t even make any rape-related jokes. All of his jokes were about how awful and stupid republicans are for supporting this clause.

          • That would be true if the segments name wasn’t a rape related pun of grape nuts.

  4. I don’t think you fully understand what humor is and your absolutely blatant attacks on anyone who disagrees with you are… well… not helping your cause. If you want to be heard as an intelligent person, you’re going to need to show some intelligence. Whether you’re right or wrong here, going down the list and downgrading every single argument along with those who use them is far from smart.

    I’m not a fan of Daniel Tosh. His brand of humor is extremely direct AND blunt. He has very few lines. But if you’re unable to see any humor in rape, then you’re completely missing the point. If you draw a line between what’s funny and not funny then you’ve fundamentally decided that jokes are commentary of what they are about. Which they aren’t. Rape is a horrible horrible thing, but it CAN be funny. It’s hard to do that though lol. Though if rape is over the line, what else is? There are far worse things that rape in the world. Killing is worse. Genocide is worse. Hell even racism is worse. In the hierarchy of evil keeping an entire race of people below human standards for no reason other than their circumstances of birth is worse than someone getting unwanted sex.

    • Why hello there, concern troll!

      I understand humor just fine, but thanks for the condescension. I also don’t need any advice from you on how to craft an argument or make sure that everyone is convinced of my intelligence.

      • Glad I didn’t need to put any further thought into that comment since now I know you weren’t really going to put any effective thought into a response!

          • Actually, it is, because that comment can easily be rebutted with a more careful reading of my post. I don’t have time to restate my points for whoever is too lazy to read them the first time.

    • Woahhhh. So many things wrong with this response that I don’t even know where to start. First of all, who deemed you regulator of the Hierarchy or Horrible things? Because whoever did needs to loose their job. Yes, there are things that are worse than rape, but that doesn’t mean rape is funny. It really isn’t, and speaking as a black woman who happens to be a sexual assault survivor, rape is worse than racism, and the two are often intertwined. I would much prefer an encounter with a racist than a rapist. As stated in the article, rape is disproportionately high for women of color. Also, genocide and murder victims are often raped also.

      Honestly, I don’t see what’s so funny about a violent attack that often leads to physical injuries, contraction of STDs, unwanted pregnancy, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and even suicide. I’m pretty sure if you had to meet a loved one in the hospital after they had been raped you wouldn’t fucking be laughing. And clearly you didn’t read the article, because she said that there is a way to address rape in a comical way that isn’t offensive/insensitive/threatening and brings attention to the issue. But Daniel did the exact opposite of that.

    • But if you’re unable to see any humor in rape, then you’re completely missing the point.

      Oh, my fucking I don’t even. How about this?

      If you’re unable to see any humor in rape, then you may be among the majority of people who have a friend, family member, coworker, neighbor, or self
      who is a survivor of rape.

      It’s not “missing the point” to articulate why the point is harmful and dangerous.

  5. Why were you even at the show? Tosh is known for his incredibly offensive humor, why support his business? I’m assuming you were unaware and going with a friend to be a friend. He’s also made fetus jokes, abortion jokes, doesn’t seem like the cup of tea you would be interested in…

    • Did you read the post I linked to by the woman who went? She’d never even heard of him before, and was there primarily to see Dane Cook. Also, I address the argument that she should’ve “known better” in my post.

      • Do you seriously believe he though she deserved to be raped? The answer is no, he did not. When a comedian is heckled, he will often try to turn the joke on the heckler. He should have known better than to try that while on the topic of rape, but being interrupted in the middle of performing in front of a crowd can cause people to do stupid things.

      • One more thing: In your free speech section thing you say that “you have a God-given, constitutional right to be an asshole. But why, why must you exercise it,” and yet that concept vanishes when you talk about how the woman should be able to yell any objection she has from the audience of the comedy show. You have to remember that a comedy show is not an open forum, it is a show put on by one person who is only trying to do his job (whether he does it well, or not). The heckler is the asshole in this situation, by your logic.

        • If you are seriously suggesting that, on the Asshole Scale, telling a comedian his joke’s not funny = implicitly threatening a woman with gang rape, you need to seriously reexamine your values.

          Furthermore, she didn’t tell him it’s not funny just to be an asshole. She told him it’s not funny for all the very good reasons that I–and the posts from Shakesville that I’ve linked to–have outlined. Do yourself a favor and actually read them before attempting to argue.

          He, on the other hand, did not implicitly threaten her with gang rape because he thought it would bring some good to society. He did it cuz he’s a really poor excuse for a “comedian.” And because he’s an asshole.

          • Miriam, I have read your blog and generally agree with your sentiments, but I am somewhat disappointed by your reaction to this situation.

            I will first summarize the situation as I understand it.

            1) A female rape victim goes to see Daniel Tosh at a comedy club.
            2) Daniel Tosh makes some broad statements about how rape is always funny.
            3) The female rape victim then shouts “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!””.
            4) Then Daniel Tosh said ” 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 raped her?”

            I would like to give rebuttals for your “But people should know what they’re getting into if they’re going to his show!” section.

            Firstly I don’t like how your first sentence insinuates that anyone who argues against you on this point is a rape victim-blamer. This situation is different from victim-blaming because in this situation the woman in question actually did something to cause her attack. She heckled the comedian. I agree with you when you say it is unreasonable to suggest that she researches every comedian she sees. It is not unreasonable to suggest that if she is offended she leave without shouting.

            Seeing a few minutes of Tosh.0 is not going to kill you. If you do not like it on at the gym then ask them to change it. If they refuse and you can’t stand to watch it that much I suggest you find a new gym or forgo going to the gym at all and work out at home. I hate Fox News, but it is on wherever I go because I live in Alabama. I ignore it and go on with my life.

            And for the Melissa McEwan article let me just say I am not a rape apologist, I do not have a lack of integrity and decency, I am not an enforcer of rape-culture and I do not appreciate being called such things just because I disagree with Melissa McEwan. It also seems that she puts forth very little evidence in her articles to support her statements.

            I will add more to this soon but for now I have to go.

  6. I didn’t realize if I ever heckled a comedian, I should get gang raped by 5 men….now I know.

    What I can’t figure out…is what I did to deserve being sexually assaulted since the age of 5! Or why it had to continue throughout my childhood until I started to “look” like an adult (since I always look five years younger than I am). Or why two people I thought were friends tried to rape me, or what I did to get stalked when I tried to go home, or what I did to deserve to be raped on more than one occasion….

    Thank you Tosh and all you ignorant and cruel people who can look at their daughter and think “Yea, Tosh is onto something, wouldn’t it be funny if five men raped my daughter!”

    You wont be laughing when it happens, because sexual assault and rape happens more than you realize – and it isn’t funny. I hope when you look at your 5 year old daughter – you don’t find it funny!

    • I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I’m sure people tell you this all the time, but it’s still worth repeating: you did nothing to deserve that.

    • I know there’s not much I can say to make it better because I’m there too and just got into the hospital to stop myself from trying suicide again and deal with PTSD and eating disorders and anxiety and no sleep and depression etc partially because of sexual abuse since I was 3 and one stranger rape and attempted murder among other things. So just want to say you’re not alone and you are loved. and you did NOTHING to deserve it! *hugs*

  7. Just saying for those who are saying “it’s just women being oversensitive about this” and trying to compare rape to castration as an excuse because if men can laugh about castration, women should be able to laugh at rape: I know people like to live in their sheltered worlds and excuse things they don’t want to accept or think they’re so uncommon, but in reality rape isn’t a gender thing at all! Yes, female rape is more frequent but male rape isn’t i the least an uncommon crime and the reason why those men are laughing about it or “it’s only sensitive woman who are complaining about this sort of comedy” is because it is even more stigmatized and embarrassing for a man admitting to sexual abuse as if women don’t feel enough shame. Very few men are going to speak out about it for fear of being seen as unmanly or weak whether it happened when they were a tiny kid or an adult.

    Slightly off topic but if men and society are going to pressure women to be more sexy, don’t blame them for the outcome. Especially when in modern society 10 year old kids are wearing miniskirts and crop tops and push up bras because that’s “cool”. They don’t know the affect of that. Yes, adult women should know what their choice of clothing does to men, but that shouldn’t mean they can’t dress in the slight bit sexy or wear anything that doesn’t fully cover their bodies without being afraid of what a man will do.

    Also if you’re going to go around blaming the victims, please be aware that a)rape and sexual abuse happens to children a lot more than you might think and growing up in society that laughs at stuff like this is only fueling their reasons not to tell or speak up or get help. In joking about sexual abuse you are joking about all sexual abuse and in almost all cases the woman did nothing more to “deserve” it than the child. Blame her for reaching puberty, having hormones, growing breasts. Some men will go as far as to say “but she came on to me!”. Go ahead and dig your own grave cuz if you want us to feel bad for liking or flirting with a guy, you’ll just be getting a lot less.

    Also if you’re going to laugh, just look at the statistics. It is so highly doubtful that nobody you care about has been affected man or woman (given you do care for human beings) and your actions are only making them not want to talk to you and pushing them away.

    • Yeah, lots of very good points in here. And it’s sad to see (relatively) few men taking this seriously–as you said, the barriers to reporting and dealing with sexual assault are even higher for men, because we as a society tend to laugh at them for it…

      • It’s true. To the point of one of my best male friends was sexually abused in multiple foster homes (not even going to get into how screwed up the system is) and child services didn’t take it seriously and a policeman actually laughed at him. Funny? Really? If you’re laughing at this stuff you’re either sick or trying to protect yourself and your ability to handle like by denying reality.

    • But what’s funny about a woman getting gang-raped?

      As has been pointed out by many commentators online already, sexual assault CAN be made into humor…if there’s actually a point to the joke other than “lololol this chick got raped LOL.”

      • A woman actually getting gang-raped is obviously not funny. But, making a harmless joke about a heckler getting gang raped can be funny to some people if it’s delivered well. It won’t be funny to the heckler and people who are very sensitive to rape joke. However, the club manager said that Tosh’s set got a standing ovation, so I’m assuming it was funny to most of the audience.

        Sherri Shepherd on The View said “When you heckle a comic, a comic will annihilate you the point where other people laugh .. so you won’t say anything further.” I agree that the comedian has a right get laughs at a heckler’s expense.

        She should have felt insulted but not threatened, because Tosh didn’t actually mean it would be funny “if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now.” He was just joking. I’m sure he said it with a sarcastic grin and not it a serious threatening tone.

  8. Miriam, I think you would get a laugh when you hear this guy talk about the Tosh incident. I would love to see what you think of some of the points he made and tear them down :) You are the best counter arguer I’ve seen in a long time.

  9. I strongly suspect he’s a psychopath, and so are the people defending him, laughing about this jokes and not cancelling all his contracts immediately. Only a psychopath can giggle about the idea of another person getting hurt. To them this IS actually funny. This explains why some people say ‘but this is just another kind of humor’. Yes, psychopath humor.

    • Agreed. Lack of remorse and empathy is one of the main traits of psychopathy. If imagining someone being gang-raped doesn’t cause you to involuntarily stiffen and feel uncomfortable, there’s probably something a tad bit wrong with you.

  10. Pingback: Outraged Beyond Your Understanding: On Listening to Minority Voices | Brute Reason

  11. Obviously, this not a funny topic, but if you were really serious about this you would probably directing your efforts at having longer prison sentences for rape, and not whining about a joke that really actually doesn’t hurt anyone.

    • How do you know what I direct my efforts at, David? This blog post took me about 20 minutes to write. How do you know what I do with the rest of my time?

      Also, longer prison sentences don’t solve anything. Rape isn’t caused by the lack of a fear of going to jail. Please educate yourself before making uninformed comments like this.

      • I have so much respect for you, Miriam, for writing this. I agree with your arguments. I think some people underestimate the power of seemingly harmless things like jokes but those harmless things can downplay the seriousness of rape. Although I’m not a rape victim, I can’t find anywhere in my heart to find rape jokes funny. And… some say that rape jokes can have a cathartic effect on rape victims if executed appropriately but… I think Tosh’s “joke” definitely wasn’t the case. It frustrates me greatly to see a lot of males saying that it was no big deal because all I can sense from Tosh’s attitude and his defenders’ attitude is male chauvinism–and, maybe even a little bit of sadism. There are so many things to make fun of in the world including oneself. He really had to pick “rape”? I wish he would just man up and admit that he made a mistake. And whether he was misquoted or not wouldn’t be an issue here because he had picked one of the worst categories to begin with. Anyways, my point being, thank you Miriam for writing this.

  12. It looks like the general public is mostly defending tosh in the online polls.
    http://thecomedycouple.com/2012/07/11/daily-poll-should-daniel-tosh-have-apologized-for-his-rape-joke/
    http://www.ontheredcarpet.com/Daniel-Toshs-rape-joke-controversy:-Comedian-apologizes-Poll/8732559
    ———————————
    Here is a misinterpretation I think you have made:

    One says: “But she “heckled” him!”
    You say: “Am I to assume that interrupting a comedian’s show makes one deserving of rape?”
    I say: NO! But interrupting a comedian’s show makes one deserving of a serious insult and that is exactly what Tosh did. “But she “heckled” him!” therefore is a valid argument
    No one, not even Tosh, thinks anyone deserves rape. It’s just an insult. Example: “You are a motherf&#ker.” No one actually thinks that the insultee has sex with their mother just like Tosh doesn’t think it would be funny if she got raped.
    ——————————–
    I understand that rape survivors and many women cringe when they even hear the word rape. I understand that hearing about slavery, rape, or the Holocaust can completely ruin someones day, even if it was just a joke. But this does NOT mean that people should make these crazy accusations that Tosh thinks it would be funny that someone got raped. I’m sorry you got hurt, I really am, but see this objectively.

    • “It looks like the general public is mostly defending tosh in the online polls.”

      You might’ve noticed that popular opinion isn’t something I really base my opinions on.

      “But interrupting a comedian’s show makes one deserving of a serious insult and that is exactly what Tosh did.”

      No, “wouldn’t it be funny if she got raped” is NOT an insult. It is a veiled threat. You can’t make a veiled threat and then say “oh I’m sorry you interpreted that as a veiled threat.” The threat of rape has been used to keep women in line for centuries.

      Also, I still don’t understand why, when an audience member calmly says a single sentence in disagreement, the comedian can’t just ignore it and keep going. That’s what any public speaker has been trained to do, and a comedian is just another type of public speaker. Why the need to insult the audience member? Why the need to defend his honor?

      “but see this objectively”

      Those of us who see this as an issue have made copious arguments about the culture that these “jokes” promote, how they discourage rape from being taken seriously, how they allow an environment in which rape can be used as a threat against women who step out of line. We’re seeing this just as “objectively” as you are. I detect a bit of “oh silly women, stop being so emotional” in your argument.

      • I agree with your point about the whole rape culture thing and that popular opinion doesn’t mean much. I didn’t mean to sound like “oh silly women.” I’m a woman fyi. I guess where we disagree is whether it was an insult or a threat. The she perceived it as threatening but the intention was to insult. We also disagree on whether a comedian should take down hecklers. You are seeing these parts objectively even if we disagree. You have valid points

        The part I thought you weren’t being objective about is accusing Tosh of thinking it would be funny if someone got raped. That would make him a psychopath, which he is most likely not. C’mon, you have to admit you don’t actually think that if he saw a women getting raped he would laugh.

        Please, please admit that although he’s probably an asshole, he’s not a psychopathic rape sympathizer. Please tell me that I misinterpreted your comment “Am I to assume that interrupting a comedian’s show makes one deserving of rape?” by thinking that you think Tosh believes the heckler deserves to be raped.

        For the love of god PLEEEEEEEEAAAAASE respond to my post with this: “Tosh is an asshole that trivialized the seriousness of rape, but I don’t actually think that he thought the woman deserved to be raped and/or would find it funny if she was raped.” I’m begging you.

        • Nope, I can’t give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he doesn’t think rape would be funny.

          First of all, he actually encouraged his viewers to film themselves sneaking up to women on the street and touching their stomachs (specifically, their “fat rolls”) without their consent. People actually did this and posted videos of it (all men). Sure, not “as bad” as rape, but the fact that people actually did what he suggested even though it constitutes battery–a criminal offense–is worrisome.

          Second, he’s made a joke about playing this practical joke on this sister:

          “I replaced her pepper spray with silly string, and anyway, that night, she got raped. And she called me the next day going, ‘You son of a bitch!'”

          Did he actually do that? I’m guessing not. But for a normal person, who has empathy, the thought of their own sister being raped and having no defense ought to be sickening. When I watched this video, I thought of my own little sister and I felt sick.

          I don’t understand why you’re “begging” me to agree with you. Based on my study of psychology, Tosh’s behavior is abnormal and shows a stunning lack of empathy for others, including his own sister. Do I really know what’s going on inside his mind? Am I a mind reader? No. But this is my opinion, which is based on evidence from Tosh’s behavior and from my studies, and it’s not going to change. I’ve changed my opinion on many things in the past, but this just isn’t one of them. Sorry.

        • You are telling us we should all just ‘assume’ what people are actually saying. I guess no one is supposed to be responsible for what they say to each other. I don’t care if he’s a comedian, he’s responsible for what he says to others. There is a line – even in comedy – and he crossed it.

          In fact he is even MORE responsible for what he says to others and what he implies because he IS a public figure and what he says influences people. That is part of being a public figure, and fans always love to ‘act’ and ‘behave’ like their fav celebrities. Fans wear what they wear, act like they act, believe in what they believe, adopt their personalities and yes even support them in everything they do whether it be right or wrong (as we are witnesses with Tosh.0). You ‘assume’ that normal individuals would know better…I think you forget that you are ‘assuming’ that every person on this planet is a sane and normal individual and wouldn’t think it’d be funny to try it.

          Sounds crazy? Well, I work with fashion, and anything celebs wear, do or say will be repeated by thousands. I see it happen all the time. It becomes the next big thing. Is “Wouldn’t it be funny if ____ got raped by 5 men right now?” be the next big fad for guys to be saying to chicks? With a group of guys…you have ‘no’ idea where that’ll go. They egg each other and build each other up in their harassment in what “they” think is funny and next thing you know, they’ve committed rape.

          Don’t think that happens? It happened to me. My first experience with attempted rape happen with my two friends who happened to have me alone in school and they thought it was “funny” to push me around, make rude remarks and next thing you know it progressed from what I guess could have been “horseplay” (cuz i would horse around with my friends back then) into grabbing my breasts, trying to rip off my shirt, dragging me across the ground and then trying to rape me. (thankfully they could not pull off my shorts as much as they tried) Know what they told the principal? “We were only kidding!” (one was suspended for 2 days, the other was suspended for a week, that’s how ‘serious’ it was to the school)

          So indeed, something perceived to be just a “joke” or just “funny” can easily turn into something serious. We don’t need men thinking that rape jokes are ok, that it’s ok to verbally harass a woman like that…it doesn’t take much for a group of immature men to take it a step further…and a step further…

          Here’s an example of how celebs and public figures influence others. Look at all the kids that copy Justin Beiber. Fairly innocent right?…Now…look at all the kids and young adults who copy the lifestyle of all those famous celebrity rappers and the “cool” lifestyle they preach about in their songs and the way they live their lives off screen!

          So yes, indeed Tosh is very much responsible for what he says and implies.

          • It no longer affects my life so greatly, and though there have been some…rather unpleasant events, I’m proud of who I am now and I may not be the person I am without all those experiences. It is quite likely that they were simply immature and they will never do that again. One of them did apologize to me and it was clear he was upset…it is quite possible he honestly ‘thought’ it was just a joke and didn’t realize that “I” didn’t find it fun or funny. That was perhaps the last time I ever saw him. It just goes to show how it is so easy for something to be perceived to be “funny” can get out of hand and how people can influence each other and turn something that is innocent into something very bad.

            And that’s why people can’t be ignorant and shrug off what Tosh said to that woman. As a public figure, the quote of this blog really rings true – “with great snark, comes great responsibility!”

      • I apologize for saying that you weren’t objective. I didn’t mean it as a form of derailment. I take it back. Please forgive me.

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  16. First, at the risk of sounding obsequeous, let me say that this is one of the most lucid, persuasive and heart-felt arguments I have ever read. I think you hit the nail on the head: we can never condone “jokes” suggesting violence against anyone. What Daniel Tosh did was to make a mockery of one of the most shameful aspects of our society (the rape culture), downplay the severity of the of sexual violence in our society, suggest violence against his veiwer and then attempt to rationalize his deleterious behavior. From the interactions you describe above, I must say that I am deeply ashamed and troubled that other members of my gender would attempt to defend Tosh’s abhorrent comments. Please know that like me, there are plenty of other men out there that find his actions just as disgusting and repugnant as you do. He certainly has the right to say something so insensitive, cruel and repulsive, just like you, me and everyone else appauled by his comments has the right to condemn them.

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