The trouble with rape jokes
“Though she was initially upset following the brutal sexual assault last month that left her pregnant, victim Martha Byars told reporters she was relieved Sunday to learn from Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) that her ability to conceive her unwanted child proves she was not, in fact, legitimately raped.”
The above quote is not a news story or a new concept, but a headline from the popular satirical publication The Onion.
Rape jokes happen, and thanks to Republican representative Todd Akin from Missouri, they’re cropping up again in the news. He has since apologized for his ill-received and “misspoken” comments about the degrees of rape, which were given in an interview with the Jaco Report on Fox.
What he said: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”
That was not taken out of context. There was no strange language or jargon that may have confused the congressmen. He is a man known for harsh opinions that many would oppose, such as saying that “federal guarantees for student loans equivalent to a stage three cancer of socialism.” Usually, people just let him say what he will.
Akin’s recent comments have made headlines around the world, demanding responses from the Republican Party leader Mitt Romney and current U.S. President Barack Obama.
“Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we are talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me,” Obama said in a press conference, when asked about Akin’s comments.
“So what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making healthcare decisions on behalf of women.”
The shock has begun to wear down now, but again: this is not a new concept. Rape jokes, whether the jokers believe Akin’s philosophy or not, are daily fodder for some. But the question has come up for others: where is the line between an innocent joke and hurtful words?
There should be no line dividing funny and cruel. The media should not have to censor what people say because at this point, people should know when to keep their opinions to themselves and understand that a joke isn’t always funny to everyone.
To put it bluntly: rape is a terrible, horrible thing that can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. It is disgusting. No human being should be able to make another feel so powerless, and to make ignorant comments or snide jokes at a victim’s expense should not be acceptable in this day and age.
Just because I can speak, does not mean I necessarily have to. While Akin’s constituents care about his stance on abortion, I cannot imagine they wanted his professional medical opinion of the validity of rape.
Really, it’s the age-old adage: if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.