I was on Twitter yesterday, when a row broke out over a joke that Richard Herring (who, you’ll recall, I saw live recently) made. The joke went something like (directed to a woman): “You’re the only person that a guy would use Rohypnol on and then leave you in the pub.” Now, the joke may seem to be in poor taste to you – but whether or not that “is” the case, a puritanical reaction of “You should NEVER make jokes like that” seems over-the-top hysteria to me.
Herring was immediately chided and scolded for making the joke, with the rationale that “it’s about rape and rape IS NEVER funny”. While I agree with that statement for the most part – why “is” that subject taboo for humour when others like cancer and racism ‘are’? Herring explained that it was about the woman talking too much, not about date-rape – but that didn’t satisfy the witch-hunters. To be fair, on the same day, a story broke about American stand-up Daniel Tosh joking about how it would be funny if some of the male audience members gang-raped a woman for heckling him. I don’t particularly like Tosh and find his comedy a bit lame and unfunny – however, calls for censoring his act and the witch-hunt mentality seem puritanical and moral-mongering of the worst sort.
Yes, the act of rape “is” not funny and the victim endures an astronomical physical and psychological trauma, even if the perpetrator does get convicted and jailed. Psychological authorities have often repeated that rape isn’t really about sex, but power and control. It seems to be about forcing your will (and physical being) onto another without consent.
Unfortunately, in the “dominator cultures”, as Terence McKenna called them (the ‘civilized’ cultures that sprang up thousands of years ago, continuing up to today) – rape has been an aspect. I do not intend that statement as an excuse for such behaviour, merely stating that “rape culture” “is” not a new thing in the U.S. or UK or any of the countries existing now. It didn’t spring up after 1960 or anything. It does inform the reality-tunnels of almost everyone in these societies, on some level.
Getting back to Herring – a fairly well-known UK ‘left-wing’ columnist had joined in on the chiding on Twitter. Another person I follow defended Herring, asking when it started becoming the job of “the left” to act in a censurious manner. I chimed in that most of those calling for jokes they didn’t like to be stopped, didn’t seem to be part of the left at all – but centre-rightists. Herring had quipped, in jest (as least that’s how it appeared to me), that it was O.K. because his wife “is” a feminist and that he himself “is” one as well.
Well, that set it off – the columnist scolded Herring for using “feminism” as a shield, to which Herring replied that it wasn’t. A few of us then got into a debate about some (but not all) feminists having fascistic tendencies. I argued that Andrea Dworkin, Robin Morgan and Catherine MacKinnon have shown misdandrist attitudes in their writing and quotes. The columinst seemed to get risible that I would even suggest that such cornerstones of the feminist movement could even have such thoughts in their brains. After all, they’re “Feminists” – they would never be fascistic in the slightest! They’d never lump all men into the same group of despised brutes. Never!
It seems to me that this person blindly follows ideology, without ever questioning some of their choice’s tenets. If feminism “is” good, to this person, then all of it “is” good, no matter what. It’s that lack of discerning that I can’t understand. I’m a supporter of feminism, but I won’t support androphobes or those who want to blanket-statement entire genders. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not in support of Sun readers who bang on about “the politically-correct brigade” all the time, either. I like some political-correctness – I prefer calling native Americans “Native Americans”, not “Indians”. I think “African-American” just sounds better than ‘negro’ or even ‘black’. However, I don’t care how un-p.c. I sound – Andrea Dworkin and Robin Morgan seem sexist and misandrist to me, so kick me out of your little ideological/p.c. club if you want. I’m not automatically inferior and a brute because I wasn’t born with a vagina.
To sum up – yes, what Tosh said seemed pretty vile and, maybe Herring’s joke wasn’t ‘appropriate’, depending on your own sensibilities. I’m for free speech, though and I’m not for censoring or calls for either to clean up their acts. Who gets to decide what “is” taboo for humour? I’m also guessing that none of these people ever chuckled at a “don’t drop the soap“/prison line in a film or comedy show, or chuckled at someone being called another’s ‘bitch’–with all that that line implies. Or chuckled at a priest/altar-boy joke. Of course, of course. They’ll probably say “Oh, well, rape in prison is different than rape in open society.” Really? How so? Still seems to be about power and control to me. Ah, ideological pretzel-twisting.
Anyway – peep this brill column from my teacher, the late Robert Anton Wilson. Says it all far better than I could.