(trigger warning: rape.)
By now I'm sure most people have heard about the Daniel Tosh incident. Quick run down: Daniel Tosh asserts rape jokes are always funny, female audience member speaks up and says she doesn't find rape jokes funny, Daniel Tosh replies: “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys
right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”
This is a horrible thing to say. I think everyone can agree on that. (Except apparently not everyone can agree on that.) The answer to that, Daniel Tosh, is NO. No it would not be funny. In what world would that be funny? Oh, right, yeah, Opposite World. That one. Of course, it's got everyone rehashing the same old tired arguments. Can people joke about rape? Are there no-go areas in comedy? Here are my views: rape jokes aren't funny. Rape is never funny. It's an inherently unfunny, painful subject. This is particularly true if you are a male joking about women being raped. Rape is a threat women are up against every single day of their life, and oddly enough it's just not a subject I find hysterically funny, which according to some people makes me boring, uptight, and lacking a sense of humour. (I have an excellent sense of humour, thank you. I am hilarious, or at least, I'm very aware of it when I'm not.)
Of course, I'm not the Supreme Queen of Things That Are Funny. We live in a world of freedom of speech, as people are so on the ball about reminding us. If someone wants to walk around making light of someone else's trauma, I can't stop them. I can tell them they're not funny, though. I can stop supporting them. I can make my views known and suggest that I don't think it's too terrible at all, actually, if people pause in their never ending quest for edginess to consider the mental health of their potential audience. I can't enforce this, but I can say it all I like.
And why? Oh, yeah! Because we live in a world of freedom of speech! I can't define what is and isn't funny to the world and I can't put a ban on any topic being the subject of comedy. I'm not trying to do that. What I'm trying to address is a defence I've seen going around of Daniel Tosh, one that's possibly even more annoying than "don't take things so seriously!" and "it's just a joke!" and "lighten up!" - the idea that this female audience member heckled him, and so he was entitled to respond in the way he did.
Firstly, I wouldn't say that this audience member heckled him at all. Heckling tends to insult the comedian on stage, or show them up, or make the rest of the audience laugh at the comedian rather than with them. But whatever, even if you think it was heckling, the standard response is to make a joke back. Perhaps you mock the audience member for their poor attempt at comedy. Perhaps you riff back and forth with them. Perhaps you just knock their joke right out the water. Jokes are involved. Humour is still present.
The thing is, whether or not you think rape jokes are a no-go topic or the most hilarious things in the world, Daniel Tosh did not respond to this so called 'heckler' with a joke. He responded with "What if a bunch of guys just raped her." I'll repeat that. "WHAT IF A BUNCH OF GUYS JUST RAPED HER." I can't even see an attempt at comedy there. Sure, Tosh used the phrase "wouldn't it be funny", but all that does it tell us that he apparently thinks the real, visceral idea of a girl being gang raped at a comedy show is a funny one. Ha, ha, wouldn't it be funny if that threat women face on a daily basis in a documented rape culture became a real attack?
Again: NO. No it would not. Debate all you want about the sanctity of free speech and how comedy is all about expression and not censorship or whatever buzzwords you're using to defend the way you offend people these days. Daniel Tosh did not engage in comedy banter with a heckler. Daniel Tosh talked graphically about a female audience member being raped in response to one single, valid point. He made her feel she had to leave. He made her feel intimidated and uncomfortable. He was, in short, awful.
I don't think rape jokes are funny. I can point out how they can cause real pain and damage to people, and I can point out how their prominence signifies misogyny and rape culture, but I can't stop the people who do find them funny supporting them - I can hope they see it from a more empathetic point of view, but I can't enforce anything. Whatever you think, though, in this situation, Daniel Tosh was wrong. He does not deserve support and he does not deserve people defending him. Your "he was just responding to a heckler!" defence doesn't stand up.
Take a second to think. Just think about it.
Wouldn't it be funny?