Thereâ€™s a scene in â€œA Piece of Work,â€ a documentary about Joan Rivers, in which she makes a joke about Helen Keller.Â She basically says that Keller was the ideal child because she couldnâ€™t talk.Â A man in the audience heckles Rivers.Â He yells that if you have a deaf son, that joke isnâ€™t very funny.Â Rivers sends him a few screw-you variations from the stage and adds that her mother is deaf and she was married to a crippled man who committed suicide, but we have to learn to laugh about these things.
Rivers could have added, as some comedians would have, that you could beat Keller all day and never worry about her identifying you as the one who hit her, never hear her cry and never worry about knocking her any more senseless than she already was.Â When violence is added to a joke about a mom who just wants some peace and quiet, it may still be a joke, and to some, it may still be funny, but is it acceptable?Â And if itâ€™s acceptable during a performance, is it okay in a venue whose policy is to ban â€œdirect statements of hate against particular communities?â€
Thatâ€™s a debate swirling around as some Facebook patrons petition the social media giant to remove rape joke fan pages.Â At the moment a screen shot taken in July was captured, 197,351 people liked the page, â€œYou know sheâ€™s playing hard to get when youâ€™re chasing her down an alleyway.â€Â Comments on the page include, â€œI rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome,â€ â€œYou know youâ€™re are real stud when the girl youâ€™re raping cums before you do [sic],â€ â€œItâ€™s not rape if she screams, she musg be enjoying it ! [sic]â€ and â€œIf thereâ€™s no broken glass itâ€™s not a crime.Â I like to think of it as stealing sex not rape.â€Â Thereâ€™s also a link to the page, â€œThe awkward moment when you realize there is no candy in the van, a page 1,434 people like.
I like none of it, and I think Facebook should remove the pages.
Sexual assault is a crime.Â Its standard is the absence of consent, not the presence of broken glass, guns, knives, brute strength, alcohol or total strangers.Â Furthermore, as anyone trained in sexual assault prevention or emergency response will tell you, sexual assault is not about sex.Â Itâ€™s about power and aggression.Â Itâ€™s a violent crime.
And given that this page perpetuates violence against a particular group (there are a few â€œjokesâ€ about children and one about â€œsurprise sexâ€ in prison that is probably geared toward men), it violates Facebookâ€™s policies and should be removed.
I understand the argument that removing these pages would put us on a slippery slope towards banning free speech.Â If you canâ€™t make jokes about rape or about women, you canâ€™t make jokes about black people, white people, physically or intellectually disabled people, deaf people, obese people, skinny people, short people, tall people, foreign born people, elderly people, folks with big ears, country folks, people with southern accents, people from big cities â€¦ what next?
As with the Joan Rivers example, we have to learn the difference between jokes and the celebration and encouragement of hatred towards and violence against particular groups of people.Â No one has commented or created the page, â€œLetâ€™s all go out and rape some bitches tonight!â€ or â€œRapists Seeking Victims.â€Â (At least, not to my knowledge.Â I only have access to the screenshots on rapeneverfunny.wordpress.com because I wonâ€™t like the page to see the rest of the comments, so maybe someone has said this since the screenshots were taken.)Â Those would be direct calls for violence, and I would hope they would be removed, much like groups and fan pages advocating the assassination of President Obama were/would be.
Picture the page, â€œThat awkward moment when you realize the white sheet isnâ€™t a ghost costume,â€ or â€œYou know youâ€™re surrounded by white supremacists when your nuts are gone and your flesh is burning.â€ It might have comments like, â€œDrag racing win = when the second nigger you dragged behind your pickup truck dies faster than the first one.â€Â Funny?
Rape isnâ€™t either.Â If you agree, let Facebook know.