Joking about sexual assault is never funny argues Elin Box, in Durham University’s Palatinate :
One cannot help but notice that lately there has been a plethora of jokes about one particularly sensitive subject matter: rape. Whether the offending content lies in films such as “The Dictator” or in internet forums, recently including our very own popular “Overheard at Durham Uni” Facebook group, there have been many ferocious arguments over whether rape jokes are acceptable or whether they are one taboo that should remain untouched.
On one hand, the joke-tellers claim that the jokes are harmless banter. It is true that no one is being physically hurt by the mere telling of such jokes, although the jokers seem to be overlooking the less tangible, yet just as genuine, emotional hurt that such jokes can and do inevitably provoke.
Furthermore, those in favour of rape jokes insist that they have the sensitivity and human decency not to tell rape jokes to victims of rape. To do so would be the height of viciousness and distaste, and supporters of rape jokes acknowledge this and claim that they would never be so tactless.
However, a major flaw with this argument is that it is very difficult to know who has been a victim of rape. Whilst it is easy to avoid telling a racist joke to a black person for example, there is no easy way to identify a rape victim. It is not something that most victims publicise, nor is it something that they should have to. With the shocking statistic that 25% of women will admit under the cover of anonymity to being the victim of rape or attempted rape, it seems ludicrous that a person can crack jokes about rape and not expect a victim to overhear. It is also possible to argue, using a somewhat counter-intuitive logic, that the very fact that those in favour of rape jokes admit that they would not tell such jokes to rape victims shows that on some level they admit that the jokes go too far and are unacceptable.
Full story here.