Opinion: When rape jokes aren't funny
Daniel Tosh was free to say what he said about rape, but that doesn't mean it wasn't morally repugnant, the writers say.
July 16th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Opinion: When rape jokes aren't funny

Editor's note: Julie Burton is president of the Women's Media Center. Michelle Kinsey Bruns is online manager for the Women's Media Center. Both are longtime feminist activists and organizers.

By Julie Burton and Michelle Kinsey Bruns

(CNN) - When the comedian Daniel Tosh reportedly singled out a woman in his audience and suggested, according to a blog post that recounted the incident, it would be "funny" if she "got raped by, like, five guys, right now," the online reaction was swift, heated and often split down gender lines. Many men wanted to explain free speech or heckling etiquette. Many women (and virtually all feminists) said these topics were distractions, at best, from the sheer offensiveness of Tosh's attack.

As we at the Women's Media Center watched hundreds of users comment on our Facebook post about the incident, we saw the same disconnect.

Quite a few of the women who shared our post said they were doing so in hopes that a husband or boyfriend would "finally understand why I won't watch Tosh's show with him." Some even tagged their husbands or boyfriends, to be sure the message would reach its destination.

The problem isn't a failure of men to see rape as horrific. It's that many of them do not perceive that rape itself lies on the far end of a broad spectrum of ways in which the idea of rape, the invocation of rape or the threat of rape is used to intimidate women or to regulate their behavior.

When women are told that they shouldn't drink too much or walk alone at night or wear a revealing top, they are being given a guided tour of the boundaries of acceptable female conduct. Women are supposed to understand that these boundaries are policed by rapists. We cross the line at our own risk. And if we are caught, the brutal punishment is one we have earned.

Read Julie Burton and Michelle Kinsey Bruns' full column

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Filed under: Gender • Pop culture • What we think • Women
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Checkist

    Tosh is an idiot. Boycott his show. Punch his lights out if he insults your date. However the feminists are, living in LA LA land when they think people's actions don't have consequences.

    If I go to a poor black area at night, being white, I will probably be robbed. It isn't my fault, I have a right to be left alone while walking down the street. But I know the score and so does every rational woman. Don't get drunk and flash your breasts at strange men, then wonder why they get the wrong message from you.

    August 11, 2012 at 3:20 am | Report abuse |
  2. Headache

    What people don't understand about free speech is that it doesn't give you the right to say any damn thing you want. Particularly, there are laws against it. You can't cuss out a police officer, threaten someone, or say something against a person's character, without proof. Aside from that, just because someone can say or do something, doesn't mean they should. Have some decency and respect. After all, we are supposed to be a civilized society. How about we act like one?

    August 5, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. William Wilberforce

    Go tell those jokes to the thousands of innocent Americans who were abused and raped by Catholic priests like that animal Rev.Paul Shanley.

    July 18, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • William Wilberforce

      Or Jerry Sanduski and come back and tell me if they laughed .

      July 18, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jorge

    Tosh's rape joke did betray a dearth of taste, shallowness of personality and creative desperation. If it came off the top of his head, it was surely the product of his dandruff. I doubt there's a significant female in this guy's life, not even his mother.

    July 18, 2012 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mickey1313

    Tosh is hilarious, and he does a great disservice to himself and all comedians by apologizing. What do people not understand about free speech.

    July 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |