Consent is hot. So hot, it’s Burning teh Menz of Burning Man.

So, the epic hate-fest that many people who participated in after SOAK 2012 is still ongoing, and it has gotten to the point where some of those folks are defending the use of rape jokes. Owch.

In between numerous ad-hominem attacks, here’s my attempt at raising the level of discourse around the topic and simultaneously challenging people to rethink their defense of rape-normalizing language. It’s chock full of references, so I thought it would be worth sharing more widely:

@Jason ‘Honey-Badger’ Whitson, you wrote:

I see statistics that suggest people will admit to raping or trying to rape someone if the language is changed, beyond that, the article is full of speculation as to whether psychological rapists take partnership in other people joking about rape.

Bluntly, you’re just wrong. Earlier, you said, “There is no statistical data supporting the idea that the average person who “jokes” about a twisted topic is any more likely to commit the action than someone who doesn’t.”

[One person] pointed you towards one particularly useful reference that explained why rape jokes offer people what is termed in the extractive industries like mining and oil a “social license to operate,” normalizing rape by making light of the extremely harmful effects that action causes (much like, say, mountain top removal and strip mining causes extreme harm to the Earth).

This “making light of” is the foundation of the Pyramid of Hate.

Pyramid of Hate

Another way to think about it is that a rape joke gone unchallenged is just one of a death-by-a-thousand-cuts injury to a consent-positive culture. This same pattern is at play when, for instance, people are shamed or mocked for using assistive technologies to communicate their boundaries, or when men are expected to be sexually dominant, or any number of other examples prevalent in contemporary society that you and I are both being bombarded with on a daily basis.

That’s why defending rape jokes as “psychologically therapeutic” [as you have done] makes you sound worse than a rapist’s best friend, it makes you sound like a rapist’s excuse to rape. Who, exactly, are you referring to when you say these jokes are therapeutic? Are you referring to people who have survived rape, or are you referring to people who have made rape jokes? Even assuming that you’re correct (which, as you know, I think you’re not) then is the therapeutic benefit of telling rape jokes worth the harm it causes to the billions of people who were raped and are going to be raped by normalizing that behavior in the future? I choose to act in accordance with the belief that telling a rape joke or not challenging a rape joke when I hear it is not worth the harm it does. What will you choose?

I wish I could realistically urge you to be careful about being perceived as a rape-enabler, but the reality is that being perceived as a rape-enabler is actually not a very dangerous reputation to have for people who are perceived to be male, in part because it’s so widespread. I imagine this is what angers many people who have survived sexual assault of any kind.

I wouldn’t feel safe around you if I heard you make or defend a rape joke. And I’m privileged enough to be able to get in your face about that. And, for the record, I will.

But since you seem to need proof in the form of “statistical data,” and are saying that the post you were linked to was an opinion, not a fact—yes, both of those are derails, y’know—here are some more resources you can use to educate yourself that are chock full of statistical data:

These are just two of a slew of studies that replicate very similar findings among very different populations of self-reported male-identified people.

If you still feel the need to defend rape jokes after educating yourself on this topic, then…well, so help us all.


P.S. If you’d ever like to talk with me in person about these topics, you know where to reach me. I promise I won’t send you any external references, which I sense you find frustrating or otherwise difficult to respond to with grace. ;)

Got anything to add? Join the discussion on Facebook, or reblog and speak your mind. Perhaps it’s time conversations about consent-positivity spread like wildfire in the Burning Man community…. I wanna turn up the heat!