We say them all the time. “This class is raping me in the ass,” “I just raped that test,” “I’m going to rape you when I see you next, I’m so excited!” etc.
It is nothing new to find that people say or hear rape jokes all the time. But what is interesting is that we are all aware how they are wrong and insensitive. We get it—rape jokes are not funny. Just like using the terms “retard” or “gay” to describe something is not funny either. We don’t use these jokes not only because they are politically incorrect, but because they are offensive to people who are retarded, gay, or have been sexually assaulted.
Then why do we still use rape jokes despite being aware of this? Why is it that even I use rape jokes or laugh along with them, knowing how awful and offensive they are?
The answer that people say rape jokes simply because they do not understand what it feels like to be raped isn’t enough for me. Another way of looking at it is that we laugh about it in order to trivialize it in our minds and cope with how terrible we know it is. But this explanation is still not good enough because in situations where rape jokes are most commonly used, the subject of the conversation is not rape itself, but a test, a class, etc.
Whatever answer we can agree on is a complicated one and perhaps even unreachable. The best I can come up with is that people say rape jokes for the shock value. If I say a rape joke, I do it in situations to describe something terrible and be extreme. And, in our society today, many people would use them for the same reasons. Rape jokes have become socially accepted phrases of exaggeration that are perpetuated through the normalization of the use of them and the feeling of social awkwardness if one were to call another person out and be met with, “Dude, it’s just a saying, relax.”
So maybe to fix this problem and help end the normalization of rape in our present culture, we need to find alternative ways of expressing shocking extremes. Let’s open up those dictionaries, be they physical or digital, and expand our vocabularies people! And let’s also stop giving a flying f*** about what others think and just call people out when we hear a rape joke. What’s the worst they can do? Try and argue that rape isn’t bad?