Humorless Feminist Moment: No Rapey Jokes, Stephen Colbert

Nothing makes me sadder than to have to defend Donald Trump. Nevertheless, a blogger’s work is never done, particularly when Stephen Colbert keeps making jokes that upset me.

[Transcript of relevant bits: "Mr. Trump, I will write you a check for one million dollars from Colbert SuperPAC, you know I've got it, to the charity of your choice. Anything-- Save The Children, Feed The Children, Put The Children On Child Apprentice, whatever. One million actual dollars if you will let me dip my balls in your mouth. But this dipping-- and I hope you're listening, Mr. Trump-- this dipping has to be to my, and more importantly my balls', satisfaction... Nothing would make me happier than to write this check, and nothing would make America happier than to have something going into your mouth instead of coming out of it."]

Fun fact: it is not okay to make jokes that hinge on sex being the best possible way to humiliate someone and express your dominance over them. That is an integral part of rape culture and the motivation behind many rapists, who are often angry at their partners (for instance, for daring to reject them) and chose to express their dominance over their partner by raping them. It leads to rape survivors feeling humiliated, like someone has beaten them, when they think about their violation. Not to mention the integral role that idea plays in slut-shaming, misogyny, and really fucking awful sex.

The alleged joke also depends on gay sex and sex that one is paid for being shameful, which is incredibly homophobic and whorephobic. No sex act that one freely chooses to do with one’s own body is shameful, including selling sex and homosexuality. And there are these really nasty implications of sexual assault, which frankly make me feel creepy inside.

Second fun fact: it does not matter if you are a famous liberal comedian, and if your target is someone that everyone wishes would shut up and go away. It is still not okay to make whorephobic, homophobic, rape-culture-y jokes. The same standards apply to everyone. And frankly I am appalled to see this particular clip being passed around by feminists, by sex-positive people, by people whose politics and sense of empathy I respected.

Sex is not shameful, Stephen Colbert, but this joke is.

Photo– DonkeyHotey/Flickr. The donkey and elephant symbols of the US Democratic and Republican Parties. 

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Ozy Frantz is a student at a well-respected Hippie College in the United States. Zie bases most of zir life decisions on Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and identifies more closely with Pinkie Pie than is probably necessary. Ozy can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter as @ozyfrantz. Writing is presently Ozy's primary means of support, so to tip the blogger, click here.

Comments

  1. Ozy – I can’t actually tell if you are being Uber Ironic or Uber Touchy!

    In any case – the image of Donald O Trumpo being tea bagged for charity meant I had to clean two monitors, a key board and myself. Perrier and net Humour can be like that, and the Perrier can come out in more ways than one!

    … and as a Kinsey 6, Queer Advocate and Kick ass specialist when the phobe is around – I have squinted real hard at the joke, video and analysis, and I am unable to find any phobe that needs kicking!

  2. Joanna Schroeder says:

    Are we sure that someone exchanging sex for money is considered a rape joke, Ozy?

    To me this is a joke about selling out, and the most exploitive aspect of this joke is in saying that sex workers sell out.

    But this isn’t about non-consensual sex. If Colbert offers 1 million dollars to dip his balls in Trump’s mouth, that’s a form of prostitution, not rape.

    The difference here is consent. If Trump accepts the million bucks for the sex, it’s consensual.

    Beyond that, the joke isn’t funny because we’re hoping to see Trump take balls to the mouth. The joke is funny because the deep root of it is that Trump tried to BUY President Obama, even though Trump phrases the exchange as his attempt to help Obama give money to charity. This is an ad-absurdum joke. Not a rape joke.

    Also, I think we need to be super careful about saying for certain what revictimizes victims. There are a goodly number of survivors of sexual assault who are not offended by jokes like these, where the point of the joke is not the rape, but is an ad absurdum exploration of political morality (or some other important or profound subject). Not all rape jokes are created equal, and this joke is nowhere near Daniel Tosh’s outright threat to an audience member.

    Here’s a great comment that happened once in a post about Tosh, back when that whole shitstorm happened:

    Alright, let me try and respond to this without too much swearing. First off, I’m a rape victim, spent a little over a year getting sexually abused and abused for *that* when the news spread round school. Not to mention that I had to run away from a job because my boss kept groping me and the managers actually stating I was more expendable than he was.

    And d’you wanna know what I’ve learned over the past week? People aren’t interested in helping, they just want to pat themselves on the back. I’ve been told I’m not a real woman because rape jokes are my coping mechanism. I’ve been told I’m no better than my rapist. I’ve had hypocrites trying to speak for me when they should just shut the fuck up because they have no clue what they’re on about.

    Read more at http://goodmenproject.com/good-feed-blog/lets-imagine-a-world-where-women-cut-mens-dks-off/comment-page-1/#YTwCimYYJBmkTABk.99

    I just don’t buy the “all rape jokes are bad” line. But I think we know that, here’s my post on the subject:

    http://goodmenproject.com/good-feed-blog/louis-ck-and-the-brilliantly-crafted-feminism-vs-comedy-joke/

    • On this, we are in complete agreement. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

    • I agree, Joanna! Without caveats, even!

    • Mark Neil says:

      Thank you Joanna. This only goes to show how easy it is for someone to find their offense of choice in anything even tangentially related (sex joke = Rape culture).

    • That comment is certainly a different point of view, but we mustn’t let it overpower the fact that some rape sufferers may be extremely triggered by rape jokes. I don’t know about you but not making them seems like the safer and easier option when we might severely disturb someone by making them. The rape survivor in the comment is not going to be triggered by someone around them NOT making a rape joke. She certainly should not have been told she’s not a real woman or no better than her rapist. That is a very wrong and disgusting thing for someone to have been told.

      People who have not been raped may have many reasons for finding rape jokes very offensive, and by standing up against them are not necessarily doing it to pat themselves on the back. Also, let’s not forget the normalising and potentially damaging effects of turning rape into a subject of humour when around people you don’t know are rapists, or may become rapists in the future. Who knows what someone else is thinking when you tell that joke?

      • Mark Neil says:

        “and by standing up against them are not necessarily doing it to pat themselves on the back.”

        But what they are trying to do, when they claim rape jokes are unacceptable and should not ever be spoken, is to force their will onto everyone else around them. Don’t anyone else do what makes ME feel uncomfortable. I can understand someone not liking it. I can understand someone boycotting those who use it. But I can not accept them controlling others for their own personal comfort.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FsfLPohZ_c

        “Also, let’s not forget the normalizing and potentially damaging effects of turning rape into a subject of humor when around people you don’t know are rapists, or may become rapists in the future.”

        I’d be interested in seeing evidence that this actually occurs… and I’d like to see efforts to have all crime removed from the purview of jokes, not just rape… or is rape uniquely horrible, above murder and vicious assaults in their unacceptableness?

      • Some rape victimes may be extremely triggered by the smell of a particular brand of aftershave or cologne, if their rapist was wearing it. That’s a good reason to avoid using it if you know the victim and are aware of the association. That’s compassion. It’s not a good reason to outlaw aftershaves and colognes, based on the false belief that it’s possible or desirable to eliminate things that some people enjoy, but which serve as triggers to people to have some traumatic association with them.

        How does an anti-rape joke – such as the Louie C.K. example cited by Joanna – normalize or increase the chances of future rape? I would never argue that all rape jokes are funny, thoughtful, and constructive, but the “never funny” argument is dependent on the premise that humor always *approves* of the thing being joked about, which it clearly doesn’t.

        • Also, for what it’s worth, the Colbert bit in question was not a rape joke, since there is never any hint that he would teabag Trump without his consent.

        • I have to wonder when the term “Triggered” became monopolised – and when other people were made less than someone who reports they have been raped?

          A hint to those who wish to monopolise upon PTSD and supposed triggers. The Triggers belong to the person who is triggered and as such they are the responsibility of the person to manage. I do wish that so many others would stop disenfranchising trigger owners in what is such a very abusive fashion.

          I work closely with people with PTSD – that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Not Post Traumatic Disorder. I wish some would do their homework and get past that exhausted meme of “Rape Trauma Syndrome” created circa 1974. The history is legion – the demands that PTSD and RTS had to be different have raged on and on …. and on …. and the demands that language had to differentiate the two until someone from the PTSD school coined the phrase Trigger – and it’s been getting used by those in the RTS camp ever since to Monopolise. They are so jealous they are not even happy to share!

          Depending upon who’s stats you use, the Incidence of PTSD in the general population ranges from 1% to over 10% – and of course if you define the effects of PTSD one way can can prove that all humans have it and are being triggered by Existence Itself.

          Then of course you have to deal with claimed figures of rape against women which are reported to be 1 in 6 or approximately 16.3%. So, if you accept the figures it is clear to see that the correlation between PTSD and rape is skewed and it shows that being raped is does not cause all raped women to have PTSD!

          So – if not all rape victims end up with PTSD then not all rape victims will find rape jokes – the subject of rape – or even the use of statistics triggering! It is therefore just plain silly and manipulative to deny those rape victims who have a lack of triggering to joke about their own experience as they see fit!

          What I do find fascinating is what will trigger people, such as those who have been subjected to on-line stalking and high level cyber abuse. There the incidence of PTSD is 50%, and even more interesting the sex demographics indicate men are at a higher risk and more often targeted – and the perp profile is Overwhelmingly female ( and you all know just how much I hate the Overwhelming Trope)!

          A Guy who gets triggered gets told Man Up – a Perp bats some eye lashes and gets a slap on the wrist! Aint it odd how some have become hard wired to react and they really don’t grasp just how triggering it is for people to be dismissed because they don’t fit someone else’s political agenda!

      • Also, let’s not forget the normalising and potentially damaging effects of turning rape into a subject of humour when around people you don’t know are rapists, or may become rapists in the future. Who knows what someone else is thinking when you tell that joke?

        Have you heard the one about The Hamburger, Tax Dodger and Rabbi that walking into a bar?

        I hear that joking about food causes people to suddenly become obese too!

        … and one should never mention taxes in polite company as it leads to conspiracy to commit and grand larceny!

        Oddest of all – it seems that you can joke about Religion as much as you like and it just don’t convert folks!

  3. Agree as well with Joanna’s take on the matter.

    Tea bagging for money can be funny.

  4. I one hundred percent agree with Joanna as well. I was winding up to rant something similar but i’m glad someone else got there before me and so eloquently stated the problem with this article.

  5. I thought Colbert’s teabagging bit was hilarious and had everything to do with mocking the absurdity of Trump’s offer by pretending he was serious (in his signature satirical style) and nothing to do with any subtext about shaming gays or sex workers. I seriously can’t believe that any victim of sexual violence would be “revictimized” by seeing this bit, but if they are, the reasonable way to address that is more therapy and perhaps avoiding comedians. It isn’t anywhere close to reasonable to expect comedians to avoid any jokes or innuendos involving sex on the off chance it may offend someone who *chose* to watch them. Finally, whether you think it somehow stigmatized teabagging or sex workers, there was *nothing* rapey about it, since there was not hint of the joke involving doing anything to Trump without his consent.

  6. Tom Riddle says:

    I have to agree with Ozy that in this case, sex is meant to be humiliating and degrading. It is meant as punishment. If you think the joke is funny, I posit it is because you consider Donald Trump an acceptable target, i.e. deserving of punishment in the form of humiliating sex.

    I usually cringe at the term ‘rape culture’, but this is about as clear a case of it as it gets.

    Imagine it was directed at someone else, someone ‘on your team’, someone you don’t hate. Imagine the “offer” was issued by someone you don’t think is funny. Let’s say that Mitt Romney offered to donate one million dollars to charity if he gets to teabag, say, Michelle Obama. With the intention to humiliate her. Funny?

    • Imagine the “offer” was issued by someone you don’t think is funny.

      So, imagine it’s said as a non-joke by a non-comedian. In that case, I’d have to agree it wouldn’t be funny. In a similar vein, if Mitt Romney suggested eating children as a serious solution to overpopulation and chronic hunger in impoverished areas, I would be horrified. But when Jonathan Swift does it — still funny.

      Your Romney / M. Obama analogy almost swayed me a little, but I had to deduct some points. One, because he’s not a comedian, so it’s not apples to apples. Romney delivering that joke would be more like Biden delivering that joke, and I don’t think Biden would have pulled it off, either. Colbert is a master of satire. The closest I could come, trying to think of a comparable conservative comedian is if Dennis Miller were to make the joke. Two, the target of the joke has to be someone who made an absurd offer, not just any old public figure liberals might like. No one comes to mind as having done that recently, but let’s say maybe Michael Moore could make himself a suitable target. Three, the joke isn’t “a million dollars to charity if I get to teabag” someone; it’s about seeking consent to do so, in exchange for the million. Obviously, it’s not a real offer, but even in the absurd reality the joke depends on, consent is sought. That’s not rapey. Put all that together, and if it was Dennis Miller offering a million dollars to Michael Moore’s charity of choice if he’d let him teabag him – and Michael Moore had made some absurd offer like 5 million to Bush if he’d show his National Guard records – then I have to say yes, I’d still find it funny, even though all the politics line up opposite my usual side.

      But if you take all of the humor out of it, it’s just plain rude. As is most satire.

      • Tom Riddle says:

        You make good arguments, but you are missing my point.

        Let’s say a liberal figure was holding a donation to charity hostage in exchange for potentially scandalous documents being made public. Let’s also say a conservative comedian, jokingly, held another, larger donation hostage, its release being dependent on the liberal… i dunno, picketing (no harrassment, just picketing) an abortion clinic, while wearing a clown suit and riding a unicycle. Or working in a gun factory. Something absurd-ish that a liberal would hate to do, but doesn’t cause immediate harm to anyone. That would be kinda funny.

        Does Trump deserve to be ridiculed for holding a donation to charity hostage? Yes. Does he deserve humiliation and punishment? Quite possibly. Must it be by means of a sexual act? Surely there are many other things that would be humiliating to a man like Donald Trump.

        You’re right, it’s not about rape. It’s an offer. Consent is sought, so it’s technically not a rape joke. But I never said it was one. That’s not my point. (Although I dare say that most feminists would argue that an offer like “Hey, I got some money lying around that’s marked for children in need, but I won’t donate it unless you let me do a sex act to you that you’d be uncomfortable with” is at the very least borderline coercive.)

        My point is this: Sex, of all things, is used as a weapon here. Sex as a tool to humiliate, sex as a tool to degrade, sex as a tool to punish. Again, I think the term ‘rape culture’ is way, way overused, but this is a text book example.

        • Rape culture is a concept of unknown origin and of uncertain definition; yet it has made its way into everyday vocabulary and is assumed to be commonly understood. The award-winning documentary film Rape Culture made by Margaret Lazarus in 1975 takes credit for first defining the concept. Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology

          My point is this: Sex, of all things, is used as a weapon here. Sex as a tool to humiliate, sex as a tool to degrade, sex as a tool to punish. Again, I think the term ‘rape culture’ is way, way overused, but this is a text book example.

          So much for the text books! Have You Seen The Film?

          • Tom Riddle says:

            No, I haven’t. Is it available on BluRay?

            • Blue Ray? Don’t make me LOLOLOLOLOL – It was VHS only but recently It has become available on DVD (Link)

              There is a taster session – Rape Culture over on the Cambridge Documentary Films Website. It’s on You Tube too – here

              Further details on content and back ground can be found via the web. I would not normally recommend Wikipedia as a valid source, but since I am the person who has done the work and written the entry – and provided the links – you may find the wikipedia page on Rape Culture (film) of some value.

              What I do find fascinating is how the pioneering work of people of colour – people such as Loretta Ross, Yulanda Ward, Nkenge Toure, William Fuller and Larry Cannon has just been air brushed out of history. Has that by any chance been a racial issue and indicative of Race Culture?

              It’s shocking how many supposed educated people keep bandying crap about and calling it fact! They even go so far as to state that certain people Coined the Phrase and Concept and state it was in certain books published on specific dates …. and when you read the books you find that the term “Rape Culture” never even appears! It is Bizarre and odd – or maybe some have just swallowed bad net content that they then just regurgitate Ad nauseam – or even Ad nauseus – and are very unhappy when basic reality is highlighted. I did find being called an Anally Retentive Scholar very amusing when facts and reality were presented and others saw their own arses! P^)

              I do strongly recommend the Loretta Ross interviews (2004/5) – and I hope some day to gain access to the full tapes (some of what she said has been redacted from the published interviews) so that I can gain a far fuller picture of who was doing what and when ….. and just who was doing the originating work around Rape Culture, and who was playing games around the subject, subject matter and worse of all the subjects.

              …. and given the source materials, I’m still rather bemused as to how this Joke by Stephen Colbert is supposed to be Text Book …. and I’m still wondering when someone will actually write the supposed text book some 37 years after the subject was first raised!

              As I said, I have looked and squinted very hard at the claims made about this joke and I can’t see the Phobe issues or the rape culture Issues that are being raised. It must be either me failing eye sight – or I have lost the capacity to read, study, research and draw rational conclusions.

  7. Yeah I wouldn’t call this a rape joke but only barely.

    Colbert, unlike Tosh’s threat to the audience member or even Conan’s so called joke about the weightlifter, offered a choice rather than just say he was going to do it or that Trump needed to have it done to him.

    Here is how I’d see it differently to put it in another setting.

    1. Someone in the office says something about getting a raise and their manager says, “You’ll get a raise, if you know what I mean.”

    OR

    2. A gamer says that the person they just beat in (insert online game) just got raped.

    I’m sure we’ll agree that the second is a rape joke but I’m not sure about the first. Definitely tasteless, offensive, sexual in nature and needs to be reported. But is there anything about that that says rape? That remark could very legitimately have been that person expressing sexual interest and would not even think about doing something to the person they said it to against their consent.

    Again totally tasteless and offensive, but not a rape joke.

    And I say the same about what Colbert said. I wouldn’t call it a rape joke but what he said was certainly offensive and tasteless. (But I wonder how much more of an uproar this would have cause if he had said this to well, any woman in existence, or better yet if a woman had made the same offer Trump did do you think he would have even responded in the same way?)

  8. I think the critique of the joke is wrong because what it hinges on is Trump having to do something that he wouldn’t want to do (and since all available evidence points to straight) as Stephan is showing how stupid and insulting it is for Trump to say a similar thing to the president. 

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