Content warning: This article discusses topics around sexual assault that may be triggering for some readers.
I will never understand the appeal of making rape jokes.
When I was a college freshman, I was sexually assaulted. I was 17, bubbly and chipper, and ready to take on my newfound freedom away from home. I was disappointed it took such a turn within the first week.
Since becoming a member of the sexual assault survivors club, it’s been a rocky road. In the beginning, it felt like my entire life was falling apart, like this was my punishment from the universe for every fault or mistake I’ve made in life.
Although it has been about a year and a half since it happened, I still have triggers that bring me right back to that moment. Most recently, I saw talk about the actor Armie Hammer, who had disturbing Instagram direct messages surface detailing his cannibalistic desires, as well as several women coming forward accusing him of sexual assault or coercion.
Social media users were making jokes about the allegations against Hammer. Some jokes were made at the expense of Hammer, and some at the expense of the victims. Regardless, these were jokes that garnered likes, laughing emojis and keyboard smashes in the comments. People were making jokes at the expense of every single person who’s ever been sexually assaulted.
Not only can these jokes be extremely triggering for sexual assault survivors, but they also downplay the severity of rape and sexual assault. Cracking a lighthearted joke about sexual assault frames it as being less serious than it really is.
Rape culture is so ingrained in our society that it’s normal to make rape jokes. If you don’t laugh, then you just “can’t take a joke.” Some of the most well-known comedians, like Dave Chapelle, who had a stand-up segment about male rape, have gained their fame from poking fun at the trauma of others. This shows just how much this behavior is normalized and celebrated.
Every time I hear a sexual assault joke, my heart falls into the pit of my stomach. It feels like a sick inside joke that I’m not a part of. Once I muster up the courage to speak up about it, suddenly I’m a snowflake that’s too sensitive to understand “edgy” or “dark humor.”
I am admittedly no expert on the topic, but I was always under the impression that dark humor is supposed to be funny. Poking fun at the trauma of others for shock value is not funny and never will be.
The jokes are still despicable even if you think no one you’re saying it to is a survivor. Although I’ve told most of those closest to me about what happened, many in my life are still unaware of what I went through.
Hearing sexual assault jokes is painful, like someone is stabbing into my wound that was just on the brink of healing. Every “joke” is another jab, and seeing how pervasive rape culture still is today, it looks like my wound will never close.