“I was only joking!” Freedom of speech and rape jokes


by Guest    
3:23 pm - January 28th 2012

      Share on Tumblr

contribution by Jennifer

Defining what we consider ‘comedy’ is impossible in terms of jokes; everyone has a different set of standards to how amused or offended they are by something. Almost every joke made is at the expense of offending somebody somewhere. Some jokes are just engrained in our culture to the point that many of us laugh without really examining what it is that makes the joke funny.

Many argue that you can’t pick and choose where to draw the lines and that anything is up for grabs when it comes to comedy.

I consider myself firmly in the ‘against’ camp when it comes to jokes alluding to rape or sexual violence, not because I’m easily offended, and not because I’ve necessarily been affected first-hand by either, but because I genuinely don’t see how such a topic can be funny.

Did it ever occur to you that if the statistics of those committing rape are so high, it’s very likely someone in your circle of friends has or will commit such an act? The open letter ‘To all the men who don’t think rape jokes are a problem‘, was a real eye-opener for me, because I’d never even considered it from that point of view.

I’d like to think that none of my friends would ever do something like that, but reality is harsh. I’d also like it to be the case that none of my friends had been the victims of rape or sexual violence, but again, reality is harsh.

Comedian Sarah Silverman is arguably best known for her rape jokes. In a New York Times article proposing to be about the ‘breaking of taboo’, Jason Zinoman said “if you had to pinpoint one joke as a breakthrough for this new generation of female comedians, it might be this one: ‘I was raped by a doctor, which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl.’

When I saw Sarah Silverman deliver that signature one-liner in a downtown theater almost a decade ago, the audience exploded with laughter followed by groans. Then came the anxious chuckles whose subtext seemed to be: ‘I can’t believe I laughed at that joke.’ On a separate occasion, Silverman delivered a joke that directly drew attention to the fact that the majority of sexual assault victims never report it, “Who’s going to complain about rape jokes? Rape victims? They barely even report rape.”

It may well be the case that certain rape jokes can provoke people to become more conscious, more aware, perhaps even make it easier for victims to come forward and there’s a chance it could even lead to better discussions on how society deals with sexual violence. It might even be possible that using humour in this way, by way of a rape joke, can be a useful way of getting that statistic through to people, as The Funny Feminist has considered, “That’s a rape joke I can get behind, because she’s not making fun of the victims, but in fact pointing out one of the most fucked-up things about our culture: that rape victims often don’t report rape.”

Certainly, it could be argued that there is a difference between jokes that make fun of rape victims or the act of sexual assault and those that make fun of rapists, rape culture, or acknowledge the low percentage of rapes reported.

As far as social media is concerned, we must consider at what point we consider something posted on Facebook or Twitter as being possibly harmful to victims. There are many other cases – racial hatred, homophobic content and threatening behaviours – that are not tolerated and, depending on just how ‘important’ you might be deemed, are punishable in different ways.

Of course it’s difficult to justify censoring anything, because by its very nature censorship is the removal of true freedom of expression.

But if the sensibility and empathetic natures needed of society are somewhat lacking, how else can we challenge those that either seek to harm, or inadvertently do so? I’ll keep standing up to people and keep saying it until I’m blue in the face: ‘It’s NOT OKAY’.


This is an edited down version of a longer post here.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
This is a guest post.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: a) Section ,Blog ,Feminism ,Media


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


I’d like to add a slightly different angle to this, and that’s prison rape jokes.

With a well known football manager currently in the dock there have been 100s of jokes going round, many are very funny and well crafted but sadly many are to do with themes like looking out for ‘Bubba’ or being careful when soap is dropped. When I’ve seen these ‘jokes’ and called people out on the fact that what they are joking about is rape pure and simple (not to mention the often inherent homophobia) but there seems to be a mentality amongst many that these are OK because they’re ‘standard prison jokes’ (or variations on this theme). I’ve even had people tell me they would never joke about rape because of such-and-such reason and they seem to genuinely think that there’s nothing wrong with what they have said and they weren’t actually joking about rape at all, even though it’s blatantly obvious that is exactly what they’re joking about.

In my opinion they’re not in any way shape or form alright and similar forms of justification could easily be applied to (for instance) racist jokes in the recent past.

Sorry for the slight diversion to the theme of the article.

This was a sobering note from that open letter link:
A quick and simple rule for language and behavior if you want to be a decent person: Ask yourself, who is more likely to be made to feel comfortable around me based on whatever I’m about to say/do? Rape survivors? Or rapists? Who is more likely to be made to feel uncomfortable? If you’re doing something that is more likely to make rapists feel comfortable and/or rape survivors feel uncomfortable, then don’t do it!

Randomly attribute such jokes to either Jonathan Ross or Jeremy Clarkson and see what gets the Mail worked up.

4. Chaise Guevara

Hmm. Thanks for an interesting post. I was glad to see someone from this side of the argument taking the time to consider that different people find different things funny, and that you’re arguing in favour of making your personal objections heard rather than censoring jokes you dislike. The distinction you draw between Silverman’s two jokes is an intelligent one that many people miss.

I don’t get this, though: “I consider myself firmly in the ‘against’ camp when it comes to jokes alluding to rape or sexual violence, not because I’m easily offended, and not because I’ve necessarily been affected first-hand by either, but because I genuinely don’t see how such a topic can be funny.”

I just don’t see how that’s relevant. I can’t stand coriander and can’t understand why other people like it, but that doesn’t mean I think coriander should be stopped. A far better reason to be against rape jokes is the concern that they will upset victims of rape.

I’m not such a fan of the Shakespeare’s Sister article you linked to. It makes some good arguments, then falls down with a stupid ad hom at the end: “maybe you’re not so anti-rape as you thought”. That’s the kind of ridiculous equivocation that you were right to avoid in your own post.

@1. @N5_1BU: “Sorry for the slight diversion to the theme of the article.”

In my opinion, you do not need to apologise and your comments were not a diversion.

6. Chaise Guevara

@ 2

“A quick and simple rule for language and behavior if you want to be a decent person: Ask yourself, who is more likely to be made to feel comfortable around me based on whatever I’m about to say/do? Rape survivors? Or rapists? Who is more likely to be made to feel uncomfortable? If you’re doing something that is more likely to make rapists feel comfortable and/or rape survivors feel uncomfortable, then don’t do it!”

I’m not sure I agree with this. I DO agree about a decent person taking care not to upset a victim when they make a joke, but I’m not sure that the fact that a bad person would like something is a reason not to do it.

Why? Mainly I think it’s just illogical. But the implications are worrying. Imagine we have some weird glitch in the law that means the average sentence for pickpocketing is 20 years. I find this excessive and support moves to reduce such sentences. To which you reply: “Who would be more comforted by the change in the law, pickpockets or their victims? Pickpockets! Don’t do it!”

If, as the article implies, telling rape jokes is likely to naturalise rape in the mind of the rapist or potential rapist, and therefore make them more likely to commit rape, that’s a good reason not to tell those jokes. But the article kinda contradicts itself there, as it presents data claiming that rapists think rape is normal despite how much it’s condemned by society. Which suggests that they’re going to think that regardless of what jokes their friends tell.

@OP, Jennifer

The title line dismayed me a bit but my initial reservations were misjudged. The essay, the bit at the top of the blog post, is worth reading.

I spotted: “It may well be the case that certain rape jokes can provoke people to become more conscious, more aware, perhaps even make it easier for victims to come forward and there’s a chance it could even lead to better discussions on how society deals with sexual violence.”

I guess that part of it is that rape jokes should be *exceptional* and cross boundaries — not just politeness boundaries. If rape jokes make people think, they are good; if rape jokes are casually delivered, assume that only idiots go to the “comedian’s” next show and that rape is a minor event in life.

N5_1BU commented about “prison rape jokes” and why we should not treat them as jokes. It seems so obvious to me that anal rape is wrong and that it it isn’t a joke. It is especially unfunny when you recycle an old crack.

@6

Re: your last couple sentences. I think one of the big problems with rapists normalising the act in their minds, as the linked article points out, is that they will hear rape jokes made every day, in every way and these small points add up to a big problem of society appearing to not really care about the act or its victims. So rape jokes are exactly the kind of thing which make rape appear normal to them, and even though, as you say, “despite how much it’s condemned by society”, they don’t know this if we’re happy to make shallow jokes about it.

9. Chaise Guevara

@ 8 Hamish

You may be right – I hadn’t thought to include the jokes as part of the *original* reason for the attitude. On the other hand, the idea that rapists assume that rape is normal behaviour sounds to me less like typicial mind projection fallacy (i.e. the assumption that other people think like you do) and more like a serious case of denial, or possibly even part of the reason that rapists commit rape: maybe many of them have something physically wrong in their brains that makes them honestly *not get* why rape is wrong. In the latter two cases I don’t think jokes would make much difference.

[deleted]

I have A female friend who Is bipolar, she once said “On An evening in she slipped herself Rhiptnal, threw herself on the bed and raped herself with A vibrator”

I split up with a Girlfriend and she still new her Ex Boyfriend and told him about It,Her ex Boyfriend came upto me and suggested Me and Him “get our ex P@ssed and rape her”, i said to the girls Other ex boyfriend that “I was going to get him P@ssed and rape him and he said that I din’t need to get him P@ssed If I wanted to rape him.”

Are these jokes ,are they acceptable?

but I’m not sure that the fact that a bad person would like something is a reason not to do it.

Well, assuming that you don’t mind the company of said bad person, then it probably won’t be reason to not do it. If however you do care about the quality of character of those you surround yourself with, then well, that’s a different story.

“it could be argued that there is a difference between jokes that make fun of rape victims or the act of sexual assault and those that make fun of rapists, rape culture, or acknowledge the low percentage of rapes reported”

Yes, it could be argued.

Because it’s self-evidently true.

I don’t really get this post. The second half seems perfectly sensible. But the first half makes same honking error as most of the others on this topic: “I genuinely don’t see how such a topic can be funny”. As if laughing at a joke about X is the same as laughing directly at X.

Some “rape-jokes” are disgraceful apologism (“so I raped her!”, badoom-tish). Some “rape-jokes” are razor-sharp social satire (the Brass-Eye paedophilia special). Some “rape jokes” occupy an uncomfortable middle-ground (perhaps Sarah Silvermann’s).

How about we condemn the reprehensible ones, praise the good ones, and stop talking about “rape-jokes” as if they were a single phenomenon. A bit like a discussion of “race jokes” which fails to distinguish between Benard Manning and Richard Pryor.

11. john: “Are these jokes ,are they acceptable?”

I don’t know whether they are acceptable. But they just aren’t funny.

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 12 Cylux

“Well, assuming that you don’t mind the company of said bad person, then it probably won’t be reason to not do it. If however you do care about the quality of character of those you surround yourself with, then well, that’s a different story.”

The whole premise is that you might be telling the joke to a friend who you *don’t know* is a rapist.

I agree. Joking about rape is no better and no more acceptable than joking about stabbing someone or mugging or phrases such as, “she was asking for it.” But are commonplace but vulgar sexual allusions to animals acceptable such as “they were f****** like rabbits” and “he was hung like a stallion”?

@16. Bob B: “But are commonplace but vulgar sexual allusions to animals acceptable…”

Within the realm of consensual adult sex, references to animals are common, and as long as no non-human animals are involved, I find it difficult to concern myself. Grunt.

@15 Exactly.

19. Social Libertarian

Given the ‘comments policy’ (or censorship as others might call it) of this site, I won’t waste my keystrokes disagreeing with any of the above. I’d simply suggest you reading a very short book called ‘On Humour’ by a philosopher called Simon Critchley. Afterwards you might have a bit of an idea of what humour is and how and why it works.

20. So Much For Subtlety

16. Bob B

I agree. Joking about rape is no better and no more acceptable than joking about stabbing someone or mugging or phrases such as, “she was asking for it.”

I am not getting what is wrong with making a joke about stabbing someone. I can’t think of a funny joke about murder off hand but I bet there are some. The positive side of jokes about murder is that you’re not likely to offend a victim! Which isn’t funny really.

A phrase like “she was asking for it” is different. It is vastly more complicated for a start. Because there are circumstances in which you can say that.

“I got home, my Significant Other had covered the place in candles, cooked me a lovely dinner and was wearing only a little thing in French lace … she was asking for it.”

Perfectly acceptable.

“The defendant was showing us photos of her bruises and a medical report of her internal injuries, but she was wearing hot pants at the time. She was asking for it.”

Not acceptable.

Moreover you may be talking to a victim which is a problem.

However in general I don’t see the big deal. Yes you may offend a victim. You may do so whatever you say. You can’t go through life avoiding offending people all the time. LC would be a very different place if that was the rule. Rape jokes are not in good taste. Not very middle class and all that. But they shouldn’t be banned. The question is whether they are funny. And yes, I laughed at Sarah Silverman’s joke. I am deeply conflicted over whether she is too appalling to be socially acceptable, but she is funny. As was Bernard Manning of course but there was no conflict there.

@20. So Much For Subtlety: “I can’t think of a funny joke about murder off hand but I bet there are some.”

The film “Kind Hearts and Coronets” (1949) is a continuous murder joke and some of us find it bloody funny. The original version of “The Ladykillers” is a glorious dilemma about murdering an old woman.

It is difficult to be funny for 30 seconds about any subject. Some people manage to write a 90 minute screen play about murder that is funny and thoughtful. Comedians who make wisecracks about murder and rape have a very high standard to match.

22. Paul Newman

Its all about context. Thats a bit like the old Jewish joke ” Help help ,my son( the Doctor ) is drowning “People drowning is not funny either, any raw material can be presented as comedy. Frankie Boyle went a lot further, he,suggested that an anti speeding ad should feature Richard Hammond trying to remember his wedding day
Rejected Exam questions ” All PE teachers are paedophiles …Discuss?”
Hostage videos should be cheekier, I `d .like to see the man about to get his head chopped turn round and say ” Short back and sides please big man ! ”
“If Justin Bieber went to prison he would be thrown around like a dog toy … the only thing that could spoil his gig would be a gun jamming in the darkness..”
Jesus have you seen Jimmy Carr`s incest routine .. moral dilemmas ok .. 1 ” Would you fuck your dad to save your mum…” and on it goes ..
Incest at gun point … funny or not – discuss .. well it can be. Another one was ” Would you kill a whale to save two pandas .. don`t worry its not going ot be the finale of the show or anything ”
…and that’s the point , its not real, you might just as well say rape should never appear in a novel
( I`m here all week )

23. Chaise Guevara

@ 19

“Given the ‘comments policy’ (or censorship as others might call it) of this site, I won’t waste my keystrokes disagreeing with any of the above”

It’s rarely enforced, if that’s any comfort. Posts do get deleted and I’m not going to claim it’s always fair (how would I know?), but it’s not draconian.

24. Chaise Guevara

@ 20 SFMS

“However in general I don’t see the big deal. Yes you may offend a victim. You may do so whatever you say. You can’t go through life avoiding offending people all the time. ”

Thus far, at least, I’m pretty much with you on this issue. But I want to check something here: are you talking about accidentally offending a victim, probably because you didn’t realise they were a victim, or making the joke in their presence knowing that they’re a victim and likely to be offended?

The first case is totally understandable. The second… well, I support your right to make any joke you like, but it’s a very unpleasant thing to do. It also raises the difficult issue of broadcast jokes: if Frankie Boyle or someone makes a rape/murder/whatever joke on national TV, it’s a statistical near-certainty that someone affected by the issue will see it and be upset. But does that mean that such jokes should be permanently off-limits to avoid upsetting a small portion of the audience?

25. Chaise Guevara

@ 18 Cylux

I’m not following you here.

I think we’re faced by a post-modern dilemma. Certain comedians broke down taboos and shocked us while making us laugh. Now, lesser beings stroll through the breach in the wall. The original laughter came from the shock value (“I can’t believe he said that”), the risk the comedian took. But without that shock, and without that risk it ain’t funny.

Comedy is often aimed at somebody. I would make a distinction between whether it’s aimed at those high and mighty, to pull them down to earth, or aimed at those who are unfortunate and weak, in which case it is more to grind them into the dirt. The first stands up to a bully, the second is a bully.

I’m not into banning things I disapprove of, and I think there is an unfortunate tendency when one disapproves, to progress the thought to ‘this is unacceptable’ – a dangerously ambiguous term – and then to reflect upon what should be done about it. I would say, disapprove and do so openly.

( I thought of kind hearts and Coronets Charlieman…)

I don`t think, btw that the use of racial stereotypes ins off limits but here the context has to disarm the obvious un-funniness of the strong picking on the weak. Thats why only a black comedian could have done Chris Rocks magnificent routine about black people and (insert N word) and really it only works with a black audience.
Its just a special example of context, some people were hugely offended but plenty more laughed their arses off . I thought it was rather mirthful myself, but he does have a Tex Avery delivery that seems to give him the space for extremes .

Hey should we stop Road Runner being nasty to Wile E Coyote ?
Its sick,sick I tell you, an innocent coyote tortured maimed humiliated and rendered a charred insensible insult to the proud prairie coyote !
Damn that Road Runner
Beep beep

.

@24. Chaise Guevara: “…if Frankie Boyle or someone makes a rape/murder/whatever joke on national TV, it’s a statistical near-certainty that someone affected by the issue will see it and be upset.”

Humphrey Lyttelton received weekly complaints about his innuendo on Radio 4. Somewhere between Frankie Boyle and Humph there is a constantly moving acceptability point, and the broadcaster will always be wrong.

I have never found Jimmy Carr to be funny. He is almost as smug as I am.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRwK_XVfm0I

Thats the Chris Rock Routine.Funny ?The audience certainly seem to be enjoying it ( not sure Dianne Abbot would ). Made me laugh.

@27. Paul Newman: “I don`t think, btw that the use of racial stereotypes ins off limits but here the context has to disarm the obvious un-funniness of the strong picking on the weak.”

The same rule applies to gay stereotypes and comedy. Gay people now make jokes that would be unfunny when delivered by straight people. Society has moved on a lot since “Are you being served?” was written.

31. So Much For Subtlety

21. Charlieman

The film “Kind Hearts and Coronets” (1949) is a continuous murder joke and some of us find it bloody funny. The original version of “The Ladykillers” is a glorious dilemma about murdering an old woman.

Well I agree with you but I would ask the minor question of whether that is humour about killing someone or the process of trying, and mostly being unable, to kill someone? They are not making a joke about the squealing noise she made as the knife went in.

It is difficult to be funny for 30 seconds about any subject. Some people manage to write a 90 minute screen play about murder that is funny and thoughtful. Comedians who make wisecracks about murder and rape have a very high standard to match.

I agree with that even more. I have never seen A Beautiful Life – is it possible to make a film about the Holocaust and be funny? Jerry Lewis tried and most famously of all, failed. At least I think he was trying to be funny.

Chaise Guevara

Thus far, at least, I’m pretty much with you on this issue. But I want to check something here: are you talking about accidentally offending a victim, probably because you didn’t realise they were a victim, or making the joke in their presence knowing that they’re a victim and likely to be offended?

Sure. Someone who knowingly offends a rape victim is beyond an arsehole. But someone who makes a comment unknowingly is another matter.

It also raises the difficult issue of broadcast jokes: if Frankie Boyle or someone makes a rape/murder/whatever joke on national TV, it’s a statistical near-certainty that someone affected by the issue will see it and be upset. But does that mean that such jokes should be permanently off-limits to avoid upsetting a small portion of the audience?

Well Frankie Boyle probably shouldn’t be on the air, because it is not a small section of society. Or it shouldn’t be if it is. I think jokes about the disabled are worse than jokes about murder myself, but it is a fine hair to split.

32. Chaise Guevara

@ 28 Charlieman

“Humphrey Lyttelton received weekly complaints about his innuendo on Radio 4. Somewhere between Frankie Boyle and Humph there is a constantly moving acceptability point, and the broadcaster will always be wrong.”

Absolutely, and I was thinking along those lines when I posted, wondering where “someone’s gonna complain” was a pointless truism.

I think the difference is that generally the correct approach is to ignore the complainer, almost to see them as the enemy. That doesn’t work for rape victims being upset by rape jokes. The line is fuzzy as hell, but there’s a moral difference somewhere between being offended because the comedian affronted your personal sensibilities, and being upset because a joke makes light of a horribly traumatic experience that you suffered.

That’s why I raise the idea of broadcasting rape jokes (and similar material) as a moral question: when does the entertainment of the many outweigh the cost of upsetting a few people who have absolutely understandable reasons to be upset? It’s not a rhetorical question: I genuinely can’t fathom the answer myself and, as this thread so far seems to mainly contain sensible people, I’d be interested in some input.

“I have never found Jimmy Carr to be funny. He is almost as smug as I am.”

He’s grown on me, partly because it’s become clear over time that he’s not the callous sod he often pretends to be. As a generally rule I’d say he’s good at back-and-forth banter and dreadful at stand-up.

33. Chaise Guevara

@ 31 SMFS

“Well Frankie Boyle probably shouldn’t be on the air, because it is not a small section of society. Or it shouldn’t be if it is. I think jokes about the disabled are worse than jokes about murder myself, but it is a fine hair to split.”

Agreed about the disabled/murder thing – I’m not entirely sure why, but jokes about disability trigger my What-The-Hell Meter much more often than jokes about murder.

@25 Well it’s a fairly simple thing to follow:

Ask yourself, who is more likely to be made to feel comfortable around me based on whatever I’m about to say/do? Rape survivors? Or rapists? Who is more likely to be made to feel uncomfortable? If you’re doing something that is more likely to make rapists feel comfortable and/or rape survivors feel uncomfortable, then don’t do it!

If you like to crack rape jokes a lot, then rape survivors are more likely to think you’re a tosser and want nothing to do with you, while rapists are more likely to think you’re a top bloke who is great fun to be around. Meanwhile if you instead challenge rape jokes, rape survivors are more likely to think better of you, while rapists will think you’re a killjoy and finger wagging tosspot, and would thus not want to hang out with you.
I know whom I’d rather not hang out with if it were within my power to choose, which, of course, it is. Making rape jokes isn’t so important to me that I’d be willing to accept rapists thinking I’m quality guy in on the craic, I’d rather scold and have better friends as a result.

Of course it’s difficult to justify censoring anything [...] But

I wonder, is “I’m not a censor, but” the new “I’m not a racist, but”?

36. So Much For Subtlety

34. Cylux

If you like to crack rape jokes a lot, then rape survivors are more likely to think you’re a tosser and want nothing to do with you, while rapists are more likely to think you’re a top bloke who is great fun to be around. Meanwhile if you instead challenge rape jokes, rape survivors are more likely to think better of you, while rapists will think you’re a killjoy and finger wagging tosspot, and would thus not want to hang out with you.

The problem is that you are ignoring the vast mass of people who are neither rapists nor rape victims and probably enjoy the odd joke about rape from time to time. Alan Alda, hardly a rabid member of the Right Wing, wrote the famous “Rape is an assault with a friendly weapon” joke for M*A*S*H I think. No one much complained about it at the time. It was only later when victims became more organised that he apologised. But presumably most people gave it a little chuckle and never thought about it again.

I know whom I’d rather not hang out with if it were within my power to choose, which, of course, it is. Making rape jokes isn’t so important to me that I’d be willing to accept rapists thinking I’m quality guy in on the craic, I’d rather scold and have better friends as a result.

How many jokes can people think of involving rape? I would have thought Animal House ended with a strongly implied heterosexual rape. It certainly ended with an open homosexual prison rape involving a gorilla. I would have thought most people found Animal House funny at least at one point in their life.

But sure, I am also certain there are puritanical lemon-faced kill joys who would like to see that film banned. I am sure that people who enjoy sucking on life’s little lemons would enjoy the company of other lemon suckers. But I don’t think most other normal people do.

37. the a&e charge nurse

“We fall into discussing Ricky Gervais’s recent and widely decried use of the word “mong” on Twitter. In fact, it’s Sadowitz who brings it up. While he isn’t a fan of Gervais (“He does something that’s terrible, which is to take brutal subject matter and make it cosy for a large audience”), he will defend his use of the word. “One of the reasons I do what I do in my show is because there is no line to be drawn. So you might as well go all out, because you can use the word idiot, and that’ll be offensive to someone who’s an idiot”.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/nov/09/jerry-sadowitz-interview

38. So Much For Subtlety

Being an idiot is a preventable character flaw. Being a “mong” is a genetic defect no one chooses and everyone would want to avoid.

Making jokes about the former is, therefore, entirely reasonable. But jokes about the latter are cruel and should be avoided. Not banned, but avoided. And RG, who was never funny really, is an arsehole.

Why stop there? Should we accept people making jokes about public figures dying? What about religious jokes?

This is well worth a public discussion, but it is far too narrow. Should humour be allowed to offend, or should we limit peoples rights to be offended?

40. Chaise Guevara

@ 34 Cylux

I think you’re taking this a tad too far. It’s not like rape jokes are some kind of beacon that attract rapists, nor that the average person has a queue of rapists and rape victims lining up to try being friends with them. In reality your decision would be unlikely to change your friendship group at all.

Taking a broader view, I like people who are hard to offend and who enjoy a tasteless or close-to-the-knuckle joke. So, while it’s not a case of making a conscious decision, I’m more likely to seek out their company than people who turn their nose up every time you say something that wouldn’t get repeated on Blue Peter. And I’m not going to censor myself, much less abandon people I like, just because we have a half-baked theory on the go about tasteless jokes appealing to bad people.

41. the a&e charge nurse

[38] I was trying to draw attention to Sadowitz rather than RG – if you follow the link you can read about Sadowitz’s take on the psychology of risky jokes.

42. So Much For Subtlety

40. Chaise Guevara

Taking a broader view, I like people who are hard to offend and who enjoy a tasteless or close-to-the-knuckle joke. So, while it’s not a case of making a conscious decision, I’m more likely to seek out their company than people who turn their nose up every time you say something that wouldn’t get repeated on Blue Peter. And I’m not going to censor myself, much less abandon people I like, just because we have a half-baked theory on the go about tasteless jokes appealing to bad people.

Well I don’t agree with Cylux, but there is a limit surely. I remember someone writing of a prisoner getting out of a cattle car on a train, dropping his suitcase and getting booted up the arse by a guard. To the amusement of all. Close to the bone? No doubt. Something to laugh about? Well it was probably in Solzhenitsyn so most people here probably think it is fine as jokes go. But if the guard had been German, probably not.

Most of modern British comedy has been an effort to make some jokes unacceptable. Bernard Manning for instance. Anything about Mothers-in-law. Anything about people with slightly darker skin than most. There are actually boundaries. Most people agree on that. But we aren’t a community any more and so we don’t agree on where they are. For most of the last 20 years the Left would not have allowed a joke about Muhammed – just try it on Comment is Free or even here – but they would allow an insult about Jesus.

43. Chaise Guevara

@ 42 SMFS

We’ve got Tim Minchin cracking jokes about Mohammed and the Koran (an Aussie, but on UK television). And “the Left” as you put it are not in a position to disallow jokes they dislike. Even if I were to accept that the execs at the BBC, C4 etc are broadly left-wing, “leftist” is not synomous with “authoritarian who pushes double-standards between Islam and Christianity”.

44. the a&e charge nurse

I see poor old Frankie’s show has been tanked – ‘I put a couple of quite long sketch ideas for the second series into my new book. I wrote them up in a couple of days and went back and tweaked them every time I thought something was funny. It was a lot more fun than filming the f***ing things and getting them past lawyers.’

The decision to axe Boyle comes after he sparked fury earlier this month for making a joke about the McCann family.

45. So Much For Subtlety

43. Chaise Guevara

We’ve got Tim Minchin cracking jokes about Mohammed and the Koran (an Aussie, but on UK television).

Never seen the guy. But a quick google suggests otherwise:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100125918/minchin-and-the-nauseating-moral-cowardice-of-the-liberal-left-trenderati/

(OK, citing JD is a red rag to a bull, but bear with me)

“When I Tweeted this morning in response to this “Really looking forward to hearing Tim Minchin’s fearless comedy song about Mohammed”, some members of his fan club – including the ephebically pouty-smile-tastic Prof Brian Cox, no less – Tweeted back that he had written a funny song sending up Islam called “Ten Foot Cock And A Few Hundred Virgins.”

“Actually, though, when you examine the lyrics, you realise that the title is about as daring as it gets. Nor is it directed specifically at Islam. It’s an equal-opportunities offence number, which also has a dig at Christianity, rapture-based cults and religion generally. Sure, it’s brave even to broach Islam at all. But no way does it criticise Mohammed – or indeed, even mention him – with the same unbridled satirical glee Minchin deploys on Jesus (above) and has done in the past on the Pope. Had he done so, he’d be needing a bodyguard this Christmas.”

And I just had a quick check of the lyrics. JD is actually right.

And “the Left” as you put it are not in a position to disallow jokes they dislike.

That would be why Bernard Manning spent the 1980s appearing on the BBC. Or indeed any British TV channel. Despite being hugely popular. Voted in the Top Ten British comics of all time I believe. Yet someone managed to get him black listed. Who was that then? The Tories?

Even if I were to accept that the execs at the BBC, C4 etc are broadly left-wing, “leftist” is not synomous with “authoritarian who pushes double-standards between Islam and Christianity”.

As a first order approximation I tend to think it is. The only people banning things these days are on the Left. And the libertarian left is tiny.

I think this scenario is probably the best way to deal with this;

A) I think rape jokes are funny
B) I dont, I actually find them very offensive
A) Oh…
B) Mmm..
A) Maybe we shouldn’t be friends
B) That’s a sensible idea, perhaps we should find one of the other 6 billion people on the planet to be friends with
A) Great idea, we could even choose them based on common ideals and opinions that we share
B) Will do. Well then, bye.
A) Bye then.

47. Chaise Guevara

@ 45 SMFS

“But a quick google suggests otherwise:

[...]

And I just had a quick check of the lyrics. JD is actually right.”

Let me get this straight. You post a source that straight-out shows I’m right (Minchin mocks Koran), check it for yourself to CONFIRM I’m right, then claim that I was wrong because mocking the Koran doesn’t count if you mock the Bible as well? Are you accusing lefties of being biased or of failing to share your bias? Either way, those goalposts have trundled quite a distance!

He did make a joke about Mohammed. It was in a different song, which strangely enough you didn’t pick up on in your thorough assessment of his entire career based on 3 minutes of material. He also did a whole skit about the paranoia about offending Muslims in a recent live show (at least according to my brother, who saw it).

“That would be why Bernard Manning spent the 1980s appearing on the BBC. Or indeed any British TV channel. Despite being hugely popular. Voted in the Top Ten British comics of all time I believe. Yet someone managed to get him black listed. Who was that then? The Tories?”

That would be the large quantity of people, left and right, who find obvious bigotry to be offensive these days. I don’t see any need for censorship, but it’s not a leftist conspiracy, unless you’d say the same about the deplorable lack of minstrel shows these days.

“As a first order approximation I tend to think it is. The only people banning things these days are on the Left. And the libertarian left is tiny.”

Sigh. First, right-wingers do try to ban things – ask any gay person who fancies a bit of equal treatment under the law. Second, if there’s more leftist banning going on, it’s because the right got many of their bans in years ago (drugs, for example). Third, the left have recently been fighting the good fight against oppression by UNbanning things, like gay weddings – did you factor that into your equation? Finally, even if all authoritarians were leftists, that would not make all leftists authoritarian. Your “first-order approximations” would benefit from some basic logic of the “all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares” variety.

The problem is that you define “left” in at least two different ways:

a) people with a generally left-wing outlook.
b) people who are easily offended, tend to demand legislation to support their preferences, and (unlike many people of this type) don’t count as right wing.

…And then blur the two, actively SAYING they’re synonymous, to make a point, which obviously gets lost in equivocation.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Nell Epona Bridges

    RT @alanmills405: “I was only joking!” Freedom of speech and rape jokes: http://t.co/2giGJDoT via @libcon > well explained

  2. Hamish Gibson

    "I was only joking!" Freedom of speech and rape jokes – thoughtful piece by @jeflew – http://t.co/ACG0sRZA

  3. Stephie Weet

    "I was only joking!" Freedom of speech and rape jokes – thoughtful piece by @jeflew – http://t.co/ACG0sRZA

  4. Lori

    "I was only joking!" Freedom of speech and rape jokes – thoughtful piece by @jeflew – http://t.co/ACG0sRZA

  5. Jonathan Taylor

    "I was only joking!" Freedom of speech and rape jokes http://t.co/GqXhMCp3

  6. Simon

    "I was only joking!" Freedom of speech and rape jokes – thoughtful piece by @jeflew – http://t.co/ACG0sRZA

  7. Linnéa Sandström

    "I was only joking!" Freedom of speech and rape jokes http://t.co/GqXhMCp3

  8. Marwa Arafa

    “I was only joking!” Freedom of speech and rape jokes | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/rOlFu8n6 via @libcon

  9. czol

    "I was only joking!" Freedom of speech and rape jokes http://t.co/GqXhMCp3

  10. RepublycanParty

    “I was only joking!” Freedom of speech and rape jokes | Liberal …: contribution by Jennifer. Defining what we … http://t.co/sDNxdqps

  11. comedian stick show

    “I was only joking!” Freedom of speech and rape jokes | Liberal …: Certainly, it could be argued that there is… http://t.co/AKtJeOy6

  12. Rebecca

    “I was only joking!” Freedom of speech and rape jokes | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/MtN17Blc via @libcon

  13. jef

    I'm sure you've had enough of me posting this, but if you still don't see why people 'make a fuss' over rape jokes: http://t.co/Hr4itXiM

  14. sea weaves

    I'm sure you've had enough of me posting this, but if you still don't see why people 'make a fuss' over rape jokes: http://t.co/Hr4itXiM





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.