Rape jokes and comedy: The debate rages on

Lindy West and Jim Norton trade perspectives on when rape jokes can work, and when they can't VIDEO

Topics: Video, Comedy, Rape, W. Kamau Bell, humor, Television, Debates,

Rape jokes and comedy: The debate rages on

On Thursday night’s “W. Kamau Bell Show,” Jezebel writer Lindy West and comedian Jim Norton debated the appropriateness of rape jokes in comedy. The subject has received significant attention lately, as women’s issues receive greater attention thanks to “leaning in,” and comedians like Daniel Tosh and outlets like The Onion have received criticism for trivializing violence against women.

As West pointed out in her piece “How to Make A Rape Joke,” feminists have argued that rape jokes are never funny, while comics argue that anything can be funny in the right light — though West’s stance is that neither is quite true. In her piece, she wrote: “The world is full of terrible things, including rape, and it is okay to joke about them. But the best comics use their art to call bullshit on those terrible parts of life and make them better, not worse.”

You Might Also Like

During the debate, she explained that comedians have a responsibility to handle jokes about offensive topics carefully. Referring to the Tosh incident, in which the comedian told a heckler that it would be funny is she was gang-raped “right now,” West said:

“There’s a dude on the stage saying ‘wouldn’t it be hilarious if everyone raped that girl?’ And everyone laughs and then, by the way, sometimes everyone does rape that girl, and that’s a thing that really happens in the world. Like I don’t mean the people in that club then rally and they’re like, ‘eh, I’m not doing anything,’ but in the broader scheme of the world, this is a thing that happens, and it’s actually really trivializing to say that mocking and exploiting a rape victim’s trauma to her face…is making fun of ‘a thing.’ It’s not the same.”

“It’s about contributing to a culture that perpetuates” the trivialization of rape, she explained.

“I understand the emotion behind wanting people to not mock certain things,” said Norton. “But nobody ever just comes out and says ‘You can’t say that ’cause I don’t like it,’ because there’s something kind of self-centered and self-serving about that.”

“As long as your intention is to be funny,” he said, “we all go into a comedy club knowing that. And there is a big difference between even a harsh rape joke and saying, ‘all kidding aside folks, rape is good.’ We all know the difference between that.”

Watch the full debate below:

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 10
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Michael Ohl/Museum fur Naturkunde

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Soul-Sucking Dementor Wasp

    Latin name: Ampulex dementor

    Truong Ngyuen

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    10,000th reptile species

    Latin name: Cyrtodactylus vilaphongi

    Jodi Rowley/Australian Museum

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Colour-changing thorny frogs

    Latin name: Gracixalus lumarius

    Judith L. Eger

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Long-fanged bat

    Latin name: Hypsugo dolichodon

    Neang Thy Moe/FFI

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Stealthy wolf snake

    Latin name: Lycodon zoosvictoriae

    Michael Janes

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Feathered coral

    Latin name: Ovabunda andamanensis

    Jerome Constant

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    World's second-longest insect

    Phryganistria heusii yentuensis

    Nantasak Pinkaew

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Slide 8

    Latin name: Sirindhornia spp

    Tim Johnson

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Slide 9

    Tylototriton shanorum

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>