Tuesday, May 3, 2011

You Shouldn't Laugh

As a fitting wrap-up to our discussion of rape myths for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and especially in the light of our last post discussing rapists in particular, we refer you to this excellent post at Shakesville.

Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape.

If one in twenty guys (or more) is a real and true rapist, and you have any amount of social activity with other guys like yourself, then it is almost a statistical certainty that one time hanging out with friends and their friends, playing Halo with a bunch of guys online, in a WoW guild, in a pick-up game of basketball, at a bar, or elsewhere, you were talking to a rapist. Not your fault. You can't tell a rapist apart any better than anyone else can. It's not like they announce themselves.

But, here's the thing. It's very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys, at some point or another, someone told a rape joke. You, decent guy that you are, understood that they didn't mean it, and it was just a joke. And so you laughed.

Or maybe you didn't laugh. Maybe it just wasn't a very funny joke. So maybe you just didn't say anything at all.

And, decent guy who would never condone rape, who would step in and stop rape if he saw it, who understands that rape is awful and wrong and bad, when you laughed? When you were silent?

That rapist who was in the group with you, that rapist thought that you were on his side. That rapist knew that you were a rapist like him. And he felt validated, and he felt he was among his comrades.

This can be true about any joke, really. It certainly applies to domestic violence. If you're hanging out with a man who batters, and he makes a joke about knocking some sense into his wife, and you laugh, you just reinforced his belief that hitting his wife is OK. It's as simple as that. So the next time you are confronted with a situation like this, and it might be awkward to speak up, think about this: who would you rather defend, the victim or the batter? The victim or the rapist? Whose side would you rather have people think you're on? As Shaker Time-Machine said in her post, "If you're doing something that is more likely to make rapists feel comfortable, then don't do it!"

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