(This was originally a response to a post in which a friend called someone out for making rape jokes on facebook. Once the joker and the joker’s friend got involved and defensive, I was rather glad I simply decided to play rape joke bingo rather than make it a drinking game, because ow, my liver. I had bingo within two of the joker’s posts. Went to bed and woke up to find I had it another six times over with the joker’s friend’s replies.
Many times, the joker-and-friend defended their right to tell the jokes,* and I wrote up this analogy to try getting through to them about why people were reacting the way they were.
As these things tend to go, it either went right over their heads, or was willfully ignored. But I thought it might be useful to repost what I wrote here in case it could be of help to someone else who finds themselves trying to explain why rape isn’t hilarious. Edited a bit for typos and clarity.)
Say two people are smokers. That’s not illegal. They take smoke breaks together and bum cigarettes off one another and enjoy the smoking. Not a problem, when it’s just the two of them together, puffing away where no one else is affected by the smoke.
Say they go to a party, one that has non-smokers present, too. They light up their cigarettes. Now the non-smokers are breathing in the second-hand smoke.
Some non-smokers aren’t bothered by it. They’ll go home, wash their clothes and the smell of smoke from their hair and think nothing of it.
Some non-smokers will walk away, out of the smoke, and therefore probably not interact with the smokers at the party again, because they don’t want to be around the smoke. (Note this: it’s the SMOKE they don’t want to be around, not necessarily the smokers.)
Some non-smokers are bothered by it, but they don’t want to make a fuss, so they stand there with their eyes watering and the smoke cloying around them, and say nothing.
Some non-smokers are really bothered by it. Like, say, my asthmatic husband, who will spend the rest of the party not only with itchy, watery eyes, but willl probably also need to excuse himself to go hack up a lung every now and then. For him, this party is several hours’ of misery if he stays, and he will spend the next several days feeling like crap as the smoke works itself out of his system.
Some non-smokers see that previous group being uncomfortable, or notice that Greg’s wandered off to see about that whole breathing thing again, and they’ll say, “Hey, could you maybe put those out? The smoke’s getting to some people.”
The smokers can say, “Oh, sure thing, sorry about that.”
Or they can finish their cigarettes outside, away from non-smokers, and come back in afterwards.
Or they can say “Fuck you, I can smoke if I want to, it’s a free country. They’re my lungs, not yours, and by the way that guy over there has a beer and alcohol is bad for you, why aren’t you asking people not to drink.”
Guess which ones people want to invite back to future parties, and which ones are the first dropped from the guest list.
*The reason I came up with this particular analogy, by the by, is because both joker and defensive friend said they were also survivors of sexual assault, and they found rape jokes funny. They use them as a coping mechanism. It’s a valid way to deal, when your audience consists of people who also share that outlook. Thus, smokers want to smoke around other smokers? Go for it. Survivors want to tell rape jokes around others who they know aren’t triggered by them? Okee doke.
But once you add new people to that group — either those standing in the same circle conversing with you, or others within earshot (meatspace or virtual), it’s time to rein that shit in because you don’t know who you might be hurting.
Everyone has choices in their day-to-day lives: To make other peoples’ lives a little brighter; to sit by and do nothing; or to make other peoples’ lives a little worse.
Something to keep in mind.