Anatomy of a Successful Rape Joke

Jessica Valenti in The Nation:

Believe it or not, jokes about rape can be funny. (Yes, even feminists think so.) But Daniel Tosh’s hotly debated “joke” aimed at a female heckler was far from humorous—in fact, it was a perfect example of hownot to joke about rape.

Tosh has come under fire this week after a woman blogged about her experience seeing Tosh at a comedy club. According to her, Tosh was talking about how rape jokes were always “hilarious.” She called 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…”

Her post has since gone viral, prompting Tosh to write a tepid apology on his Twitter account:

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

— daniel tosh (@danieltosh) July 10, 2012

In the meantime, hordes of fans and other comedians have come to his defense, some in the most violently misogynist way possible.

Elissa Bassist at The Daily Beast gets to the heart of why what Tosh said wasn’t funny—in fact, why it wasn’t a joke at all.

Tosh says he was joking. Comedians make rape jokes every day, so why is this one getting so much attention? Because Tosh was more than “just kidding.” He was angry. His “joke” was reactive to the so-called heckler who called him out in front of an audience. He used humor to cut her down, to remind her of own vulnerability, to emphasize who was in control. The “joke” ignited a backlash because it was not a joke; it was vastly different from other jokes about rape.

Jokes about rape that work—those that subvert rather than terrify—do exist. Sarah Silverman has one about being raped by a doctor: “…so bittersweet for a Jewish girl,” she says.

More here. See also this.