Rape is an act of savage violence. That’s what it is. It is brutal. It is not about sex, it is about violence.
There is, at least for me, no humor in the subject. Have I ever been raped? No. However, in the 1980s I had the privilege of being on a 16-member steering committee that formed the New York City Chapter of Victims for Victims, then a non-profit group founded in 1982 by Theresa Saldana, an actress and, by the way, remarkable person on all fronts. The large majority of the steering committee was comprised of women who had been raped. Two of us had been shot. We all had one thing in common. We had all survived acts of violence, acts that you do not know you will survive when you are going through them. Living through a moment of any length in which it is not up to you whether you live or die is brutal.
It seems comedian Daniel Tosh and many others (primarily men) don’t understand this when it comes to rape. Tosh recently began telling an audience that rape jokes are funny, it should’ve come as no surprise that a female audience member shouted out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!” Tosh responded by saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, five guys right now? Like right now?”
While Tosh’s response is sickening, it is, sadly, not surprising. Women are still on the receiving end of a great deal of bigotry in this country and, when it comes to rape, many men simply don’t get it. It is violence, not sex. And, truth be fully told, it is a form of violence that is inflicted on children and men, not just women.
In a well-written piece for CNN, Julie Burton and Michelle Kinsey Bruns, brilliantly capture a chilling slice of the culture’s all-too-common misogyny: “When women are told that they shouldn’t drink too much or walk alone at night or wear a revealing top, they are being given a guided tour of the boundaries of acceptable female conduct. Women are supposed to understand that these boundaries are policed by rapists. We cross the line at our own risk. And if we are caught, the brutal punishment is one we have earned.” Burton is president of the Women’s Media Center and Bruns its online manager.
Tosh’s apology on Twitter: “all the out of context misquotes aside, i’d like to sincerely apologize” is utterly lame. If Tosh is sincere in wanting to make amends, I would advise him to do at least two things: apologize in person to the woman he wounded with his remark, and reach out to the likes of Burton and Bruns so they can link him up to those who can really help him understand the savage act of violence called rape.