The incident between comedian Daniel Tosh and a female audience member that happened recently at the Hollywood Laugh Factory involving a rape joke has been all over the place lately. I’ve seen a lot of buildup making this incident into a feud between feminists and comedic freedom.
I came across Austin area comedian, Curtis Luciani’s response a few days ago and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. No matter what your feelings about the Tosh incident are, I think this is a must read. It goes beyond this particular rape joke and is the best response I have read in regard to this issue.
(Warning: Graphic. Includes language that may be offensive to some people. Also, may be triggering)
Let’s imagine a world in which women cut men’s dicks off. Like, frequently. To the extent that one in five men has had his dick cut off by a woman or had a woman attempt to cut his dick off.
(I apologize immediately if it sounds like I’m being flip. I am not being flip. Imagine the pain and shame and humiliation of someone cutting your dick off. Imagine it in earnest.)
Sometimes it’s a clear-cut case where a woman attacks you in the street, out of nowhere, and cuts your dick off. But more often it’s a situation where you actually know the woman, maybe you trust her, maybe you think everything’s okay, and then one day she cuts your dick off.
Still with me? This is going to take a while. I’ll tell you when I’m done. (And if you think I’m being insufferably self-righteous: Good news, you don’t have to read this!)
Okay, now let’s also say that the shame and guilt around having your dick cut off is so strong that many dick-cuttings go completely unreported. After all, someone is likely to raise the question of whether or not you were “asking for it” in one way or another. And if you do accuse a woman of cutting your dick off, you can expect to see people (quite naturally) rally to her defense and slander your character in response.
You can expect to see her friends… who are maybe also friends or yours… shrug their shoulders and say “Well, I don’t know, it’s complicated… it sounds like something was just happening between the two of them and maybe it got out of hand. I dunno. But I know that Sarah’s not a bad gal. I know she would never, like, MALICIOUSLY cut a dude’s dick off.”
So, a shitty state of affairs for the men-folk of our imaginary world, yes?
Now imagine that in this world, something like 90 percent of professional performing comedians are women. And they’ve accepted that there are certain codes of behavior when it comes to comedy. Most people who “like comedy” generally accept the premise that there are no subject areas that cannot be somehow given a comic treatment, but it is also accepted, as a practical rule, that as the subject gets more troubling, more intense, more painful, a more skilled approach is necessary to find the humor in it.
However, it is also accepted that people are people and they are going to have authentic responses to things. It is accepted, for example, that you probably should not go in front of an audience that contains several black people and start tossing around the n-word unless you have an EXCEPTIONALLY sophisticated and road-tested routine built around it, one that you are confident will overcome the very significant risk you are incurring. If a comedian did this and did NOT overcome the risk, no one would be shocked if the audience shouted her down and stormed her out of the club, nor would anyone be particularly eager to defend her.
HOWEVER, there’s this ONE thing. Many of the comediennes of this world have this ONE little sticking point. One little thing. It just IRKS the hell out of them that they can’t seem to make jokes about cutting dicks off without some whiny pussy male in the audience throwing a shit fit about it!
Now, sure, there’s a few comediennes at the top of their game who can pull it off. Their approach is skillful, and they somehow make the joke without minimalizing or trivializing the actual pain involved. But then the rest of them think, “Well, geez, if they can do it, why can’t I? It’s not fair, darn it! I should be able to work with the same material as someone much better than me and get the same result and not make anyone hate me or say mean things about me on the Internet! Waaaaahhh!
“I mean, after all, do that many men REALLY get their dicks cut off? I’ve heard the statistic, but that’s probably overblown. And I bet a lot of them were asking for it. I mean, in any case, there’s a lot of grey area. I know one thing for sure: none of the men I KNOW has ever had his dick cut off. If they had, they would tell me, right? I mean, right? And besides, there’s a principle at stake here. I AM AN ARTIST. I should be able to say whatever shitty thing I want, and people should be able to suppress their authentic response to it!
“And if they DON’T suppress their authentic response to it: why, that’s censorship or something! Besides, I know this and that example of a time where a comedienne I know made a joke that wasn’t even ABOUT dick-cutting, and some whiny pussy dude got upset about it anyway! It’s just these humorless masculinists! They can’t take a joke about anything anyway. So, since I can think of examples where a comedienne was unfairly criticized by someone without a sense of humor, this must be what happens in all cases.”
Okay, I think we see what I’m getting at here.
Fine, yes, WHAT-THE-FUCK-EVER. I will concede the following points that every comedian wants us all so badly to concede:
1) Theoretically, there is no subject that should be considered off-limits for humor.
2) There will always be some example where a performer of extremely high skill can take something very painful and make it work.
Here’s what YOU need to understand:
1) Rape is way, WAY more prevalent than you seem to think it is. Are there more than five women in your audience? You do the math, and then you run the little fantasy scenario that I just put together in your head, and you tell me how it feels.
2) I ain’t buying any of that “If I can make jokes about genocide, why can’t I make jokes about rape?” Horseshit, unless you made those genocide jokes during a gig at the Srebrenica Funny Bone. You got away with making a joke about genocide because your odds of having a holocaust survivor’s kid in the audience were pretty fucking low.
And if you did happen to have one in the audience, and he heckled you, walked out, and wrote something nasty on the internet… would you be more likely to be a human being and say “Wow. I can understand why that person’s authentic response to what I was doing was so emotional and negative. Maybe my genocide material just isn’t good enough to justify the pain that it inflicts. Maybe I need more skill in order to pull this off.” Or are you gonna be a lousy piece of shit and say, “Yeah, I apologize, I guess, IF YOU WERE OFFENDED.”
Offended hasn’t got anything to do with it, moron.
People have wounds, and those wounds are painful. That doesn’t have shit to do with the weak concept of “taking offense.” If someone talks about Texas being a shitty state, I might “take offense” at that. Fine, whatever. All of us who like comedy are generally in agreement with the idea that “taking offense” is lame, and a comedian should be willing to “offend” whenever he or she wants to.
But causing pain is quite a different fucking matter. Your job as a comedian is to take us through pain, transcend pain, transform pain. And if you don’t get that, you are a fucking bully, and I’ve got zero time for bullies.
The fact that someone abused me was not my fault. This is a reality that even on a good day I have to talk myself into; a reality that has taken me years to begin to accept. Years of fighting with myself and repeating the words over and over and over again. It was not my fault. It was not my fault. Years of listening to a string of therapists remind me again and again. Years of going over each event in my mind, analyzing it from every angle, replaying the hands gripping my wrists and wondering if maybe I could have twisted my body differently, could have screamed louder or tried a different collection of words that might have prevented it all from happening the way that it did.
Why didn’t you fight back harder? Why didn’t you yell? Why did you let him hurt you? Why did you stay? Why did you date someone like that? Why did you get yourself into that situation? Maybe you have a bad judge of character? Maybe you deserved what happened to you. Maybe he wouldn’t have acted like that if you weren’t for the way that you are. Maybe you made him crazy. Maybe you are over exaggerating. Over reacting. Overly picky. Too weak. Too quiet. Too soft. Too hard to please. Maybe it was your fault.
In the circumstance of domestic violence, self-blame is, in many ways, a natural response for a victim—the product of being hurt by someone you trust and love, and then being told that it is your fault again and again. For me personally, taking responsibility for what happened to me was my way of maintaining a sense of control and balance. It was somehow easier to accept that I was abused because I was a bad person, there was something wrong with me and I somehow deserved it, than it was to accept that sometimes terrible things happen in life that we have no control over.
It is shocking to me now, looking back over the years and watching the messages blur all around me, coming not only internally but externally as well. I remember people asking me these same questions. I can still hear my friends call my ex ‘crazy’ over and over as they saw him hiding behind the bleachers at our hockey practice, but then in a closed conversation late at night under the blanket of a sleepover they would get the courage to question whether maybe I encouraged his behavior, and if maybe I felt lucky sometimes to have someone that loved me so much.
And then recently, someone close to me questioned the “type of person I must be to have had a past like I do.”
Am I too trusting? Do I get myself into bad situations? Do I put myself at risk? I head a voice inside me chime in.
“Maybe,” this person said, “maybe you aren’t the best judge of character….Maybe, you are a liability.”
The result is traumatizing. A few years ago, a comment like this would have devastated me for a long time. My answer would have been yes. Yes, I am a bad person and what happened to me is a reflection of that simple fact. Yes, I should never have trusted or loved…I watch as everything falls in line: my abuser told me that it was my fault, I told myself that it was my fault, and my friends and people outside of the situation questioned whether it was my fault. So, yes, it seems like an easy question to answer: it must have been my fault.
Today, I know so much more than I did when I was fifteen. If I could go back, would I do things differently having this knowledge? Absolutely. Would I have been able to prevent it all from happening? Maybe parts of it, yes. But could I have changed his actions? No.
If I had known what my ex was going to be like, I never would have dated him. If I had known I had help available, I would have tried to use it.
But the reality is, I didn’t know what I now know about abusive relationships. I didn’t know the red flags, the warning signs, the definition of stalking or harassment or assault. I didn’t know that a person I knew for a long time could change into a complete stranger.
As I have gone through the recovery process, I have begun to realize and to accept that what happened to me was not my fault. I did not get myself into a bad situation, I got myself out. I didn’t fall in love with someone risky who I knew would hurt me, I fell in love with my best friend- someone I loved and my family loved and I thought that I could trust. I didn’t cause him to go crazy, I found a way to survive when it turned out that he had deep-rooted psychological problems. I wasn’t hurt because I was a bad person and I deserved it, I was hurt because someone else made poor decisions and intentionally tried to hurt me. I made the best decisions I could with the knowledge I had at the time, and unfortunately I was exposed to someone who’s unhealthy decisions led to devastating consequences in my life.
Think About This:
When I was eight years old, my grandmother was attacked while stopped at a red light as she was driving to the store. A man in black clothing forced her door open and dragged her from her car, leaving her on the side of the road as he stole her vehicle. Did people ask her why she didn’t fight harder against the man that attacked her? Did they question what kind of person she was that allowed her to be taken advantage of? Did they ask her if she had a problem of putting herself in bad situations? No. They told her that they were happy that she was alive and that they were sorry for what someone did to her and he deserved to be punished.
So why is it so different for things like domestic violence and sexual assault?
It’s not. And to anyone who has ever been a victim, keep remembering this. It isn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault. It will never be your fault. I am so sorry for the bad decisions someone else made, and the trauma is has caused you, but the reason for the abuse had nothing to do with you. The reason for the abuse was the abuser.
“Our first goal is prevention through education. Information is always the best way to combat sexual violence. Our larger goal is to raise awareness to an issue that should have no place in society and especially in our schools.”
Biden goes on to speak about the severity of our nation’s problem with sexual assault, and the distorted views that have led to a universal mentality of victim blaming. He speaks about our nation’s need to address sexual assault on college campuses, a place that rape and assault is so often covered up in an attempt to save-face and pretend like sexual violence is not a problem.
“Students across the country deserve the safest possible environment in which to learn,” said Vice President Biden. “That’s why we’re taking new steps to help our nation’s schools, universities and colleges end the cycle of sexual violence on campus.”
Biden’s speech is a long time coming, as sexual assault is the number one violennt crime on college campuses; for those who have been fighting for years to get our administration to pay attention, it is a small but significant step in the fight against sexual abuse. The letter, which addresses some of the widespread institutional downfalls, requires schools: to support victims of sexual assault by not punishing them for underage drinking and drugs (if involved) thereby recognizing rape and sexual assault as a far more serious crime than an alcohol-related misdemeanor; to inform survivors of their rights to a full investigation, providing advisement of the outcome should a review take place; and to investigate all reported sexual assaults in a timely manner.
He includes vivid stories of victims; victims that were brutally raped and assault that were later blamed for what happened to them because of the way they dressed or acted, the places they went, or the simple fact that they were hurt by someone they knew and loved. Passionately declaring that ”When it comes to sexual abuse, it’s quite simple: no means no. “No means no if you’re drunk or you’re sober; no means no if you’re in bed in a dorm or on a street… And it’s a crime to disregard no. The allocation of blame has been for too many centuries allocated in a way that’s totally irrelevant and inappropriate.”
“So much more needs to be done to empower younger women as well as empower and educate younger men,” he added, touching on a very important aspect of the battle against sexual assault.
“No matter what a girl does, no matter how she’s dressed, no matter how much she’s had to drink, it’s never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ok to touch her without her consent. This doesn’t make you a man. It makes you a coward. A flat-out coward.”
I couldn’t agree more, Vice President. Thank you.
I highly recommend watching the entire letter.
Debunking 17 Popular Myths About Sexual Assault
1. Men rape women because they are overly aroused sexually or have been sexually deprived.
MYTH. Rape is not about sex, it is about power and control. No matter what, sexual contact by force, or without consent, is against the law. No matter what.
2. It is not rape if the victim isn’t a virgin.
MYTH. Every person has the right to decide whether or not they want to have sex EVERY time they do it. A person’s past sex life does not matter and is not a factor in deciding whether or not it was rape. Even if two people have had sex before, if one person forces the other person to have sex, it is rape.
3. Acquaintance rapes are not as serious as stranger rapes.
MYTH. Any type of rape or sexual assault is serious and has serious effects on a person’s life. Despite the common belief that you can only be raped by a stranger, statistics show that over 80% of rape victims know their abuser. Acquaintance rape sometimes can be even more damaging to a victim’s life because of the betrayal of trust.
4. Women provoke rape by the way they dress.
MYTH. Women have a right to wear whatever they want. There is no correlation between what people wear and if they are raped. This is an example of victim blaming.
5. Men cannot be raped.
MYTH. Although it is less common, men can also be victims of sexual assault. In fact, 1 in 10 men will experience rape in their lifetime.
6. Women who do not fight back haven’t been raped.
MYTH. Everyone acts differently when faced with a traumatic situation. Some victims fight. Some freeze. Some are afraid that if they fight back they will be hurt worse, or possibly killed. No matter what, it is still rape.
7. Only gay men are sexually assaulted.
MYTH. There is no correlation between gay men and men that are victims of rape. Rape can happen to anyone.
8. Only gay men sexually assault other men.
MYTH. There is also no correlation between gay men and perpetrators of sexual assault. Straight men also assault other men.
9. Men cannot be sexually assaulted by women.
MYTH. Although this is rare, it does still happen and is just as traumatic for the victim.
10. Erection, ejaculation, or orgasm during a sexual assault means the victims “really wanted it” or consented.
MYTH. Our bodies react to things differently. Many victims experience sexual arousal, however, it does not mean that they secretely wanted to be raped. Even if it might feel good, the lasting and long term effects are just as devastating and can be confusing for victims.
11. Only young, attractive women, or women who engage in risky behavior are raped.
MYTH. Rape can happen to anyone. Every age, size, appearance. Rape is about power and control. It is not about sex.
12. Rapes are committed by strangers at night in dark allys.
MYTH. This is the popular image associated with rape, however, this situation is a very small percentage of the number of rapes that occurs. Rape can happen anywhere. It can happen by anyone, to anyone.
13. Most rapes are committed by black men against white women.
MYTH. This is also completely false. Rape happens to, and by, every race of the human population.
14. Men who rape are psychologically deranged individuals.
MYTH. There are examples of perpetrators who are doctors, lawyers, politicians, professional athletes, celebrities, etc. There is not one type of person who rapes.
15. Women secretly want to be raped.
MYTH. No woman wants to be raped. If a woman says no, she means no. She doesn’t mean yes. Role play is different. If a couple engages in role play, both parties are willing parcipiants. This is different.
16. Victims hide, downplay, or cover up their stories of rape because it didn’t really happen.
MYTH. It is extremely common for victims to keep rape a secret. This happens for many reasons, often due to shame, guilt and fear. Victims may blame themselves. They might not even associate what happened to them as rape for many years. They may try to pretend like it never happened or try to erase it from their lives. One of the most important things a victim can do in order to heal is to tell someone, or many people, about what has happened to them. This takes times and is difficult to do, but breaking the silence eliminates some of the power the rape has on their life.
17. If a victim has been sexually assaulted there will be physical/medical/emotional evidence to support it.
MYTH. Most victims never go to the hospital after being raped, so often times there is no evidence.
*Research courtesy of Porchlight Counseling Center
The goal of SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.
What can you do to help? For starters, educate yourself on the reality of sexual assault in our society today. Here’s a quick review to help:
Sexual assault: Forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.
Acquaintance assault: involves coercive sexual activities that occur against a person’s will by means of force, violence, duress, or fear of bodily injury. These sexual activities are imposed upon them by someone they know (a friend, date, acquaintance, etc.).
Incest: sexual contact between persons who are so closely related that their marriage is illegal (e.g., parents and children, uncles/aunts and nieces/nephews, etc.). This usually takes the form of an older family member sexually abusing a child or adolescent.
Consent: Consent occurs when both partners freely and willingly participate in sexual activities.
The legal definition of rape includes any sexual contact without consent. Consent cannot be legally given, in most states, if a person is:
- Under 17
- Mentally incapacitated
- Drunk or high
Additionally, the absence of “no” does not mean “yes.” So, even if a person does not fight back or explicitly say “no,” they still are not necessarily giving consent.
- •1 in 4 females will be the victim of sexual abuse by the time they graduate from college.
- •1 in 4 teenage girls who have been in relationships reveal they have been pressured to perform oral sex or engage in intercourse
- •According to the U.S. Department of Justice, somewhere in America, a woman is raped every 2 minutes.
- Victims of sexual assault and rape stretch across every age, race, class, gender and demographic.
- Sexual violence is the most common violent crime on American college campuses today.
- Young women, ages 16-24 are FOUR times more likely to be raped than other women.
- •84% of rape victims know their attacker
- •For every 1 rape reported, it is estimated that 6 are not
- •The most common reasons women give for why they did not report the crime is the belief that it is a private, personal matter or they are afraid their assailant will retaliate.
- •In 75% of college rapes, alcohol is involved. 55% of victims and 80% of perpetrators were intoxicated. Alcohol is the #1 date-rape drug.
- •1 in 12 college men admitted that they have performed acts that could be defined as rape.
- •30% of men admitted they would force someone to have sex with them if they knew they would not get in trouble.
- •On average, it takes a victim of sexual assault/abuse 5 years to tell anyone about the incident.
- •70% of women with eating disorders have been sexually assaulted or abused in their lifetime
- •99% of rape victims are female (10% male)
- •99% of rapes are perpetrated by men (1% are perpetrated by women)
- •Approximately 28% of victims are raped by husbands or boyfriends, 35% by acquaintances, and 5% by other relatives.
- •The FBI estimates that less than 37% of all rapes are reported to the police. U.S. Justice Department statistics are even lower, with only 26% of all rapes or attempted rapes being reported to law enforcement officials.
- •In a national survey 27.7% of college women reported a sexual experience since the age of fourteen that met the legal definition of rape or attempted rape, and 7.7% of college men reported perpetrating aggressive behavior which met the legal definition of rape.
- •The National Crime Victimization Survey indicates that for 1992-1993, 92% of rapes were committed by known assailants. About half of all rapes and sexual assaults against women are committed by friends and acquaintances, and 26% are by intimate partners.
- •Victims of rape often manifest long-term symptoms of chronic headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbance, recurrent nausea, decreased appetite, eating disorders, menstrual pain, sexual dysfunction, and suicide attempts. In a longitudinal study, sexual assault was found to increase the odds of substance abuse by a factor of 2.5.
- •Victims of marital or date rape are 11 times more likely to be clinically depressed, and 6 times more likely to experience social phobia than are non-victims. Psychological problems are still evident in cases as long as 15 years after the assault.
**Statistics compiled through Violence against Women, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Justice, RAINN, and Porchlight Counseling Center.
My mother cut out clippings from the newspaper with a pair of silver scissors,
gliding them along the marble countertop with a swoosh as I cut my French toast
into trapezoids with my fork. I never drank my orange juice. It left a bad
taste in my mouth when I brushed my teeth and besides, orange juice
did not belong to me anymore. It belonged on the list, ‘no longer innocent,’
and I hardly paid attention to the articles in the newspaper anyway but there
was still no convincing him of that. There was no convincing him
of most things that I tried and there was no way I knew of to drown
out the tone of his voice over my mother’s cheerful ring. There’s a nice
picture of you. [Ugly! Stupid! Fake!] My mother said. A nice picture
of a girl that looked like me, running with one hand in the air and a white
soccer ball in the net behind her. Blurry. The article below it takes up
half a page and continues on C5 but I flip to C6 by mistake and I read
about an unnamed woman who was r d two nights ago in her own house
by a man she (thought she) knew. And if you hold up the page, staring now
at C5 and looking at the letters of my name in the light from the kitchen window,
you’ll find the articles run together. The same black ink on the same dull
white paper and that’s as far as I’ll ever get to reading the article today.
Years later, I will flip through one of the three ring binders my grandmother
used to press each clipping into and I will notice the article I never read
and I will sit on my bedroom floor in my new house in my new city in my
new life and it would read like a fairy tale I wish could have been real.
‘Did I really do all that?’ I’ll ask my mom when she walks past my room and she
will pause in the doorway and take a minute to put it all together and she will
say ‘yes. Yes you did. Yes.’ And I will try to believe her only because my name
is written in the ink and the picture of the girl looks something like me
and I will wonder if the man was ever caught or put in jail or if he even stepped
foot into a courthouse but I will wait until my mother walks away before
slipping the paper from its plastic covering. I can feel the stabbing in my lower
back, see the world from in between a pair of fingers on my face and I wish I knew
what happened to that woman because it never says, if she survived or if she
walked around in another person’s body all these years. If she woke up
sweating at two am, if she forgot her favorite song or how to speak
out loud or how to look in to a mirror and I wish I knew what it felt like
to be the girl that was smiling, and not the one unnamed.
The things he says
as etching in my skin the fingers circling
my arms around the wrist
they sink somehow, without me hearing
anything else. I have forgotten
this girl, lying on this bed, was at one point
me. I have forgotten that I know
her at all, that there is a world
outside this room, that speaking
is to be heard. And I bleed. Silently. Into
the sheets. but I know this only after
seeing the dark spots left on the bright
cloth in the morning when I am alone and I fold
them under and over themselves ripping
the corners free until they wrap
into a ball I run through three cycles before
my mom can find the evidence. None of this
Love, he says, is a compromise. It is a force
he cannot fight any longer. Love is my
fault. It is the reason. His excuse
to climb across. Love is what he does
to me. Is what he’s doing to me. Is what he says
this is. But love, love is nowhere
in this room.