Daniel Tosh & The Rape Joke That Wasn’t

Daniel Tosh is a stand-up comedian who hosts Tosh 0 on Comedy Central. Recently, he was embroiled in controversy regarding a woman who went to one of his shows, was exposed to a number of rape jokes, didn’t find them funny, called him out on them, was labelled a heckler by Tosh, who proceeded to ask the audience “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…” and resulted in her and her friend leaving the room.

Do read this post by the woman in question for a first-hand narrative: http://breakfastcookie.tumblr.com/post/26879625651/so-a-girl-walks-into-a-comedy-club

And now I shall be adding my angry 2 cents.              

To those justifying Tosh’s behaviour saying “that’s just what he does” – well, murdering people is just what a psychopath does. Normalizing it doesn’t make it right.

To those justifying him saying that he used his freedom of speech – well, I’m using my freedom of speech to denounce his disgusting act.

And to those justifying him saying that she should have looked him & his humour up before going to one of his shows – was she also supposed to have known that she would be used as bait to instigate a gang-rape? Oh waiiit. It was supposed to be funny! Oh right… a person being intentionally and vehemently sexually, psychologically, emotionally, physically, and often socially demolished… Of course that’s funny! The crude factor attributes to its hilarity! I must be a complete moronic spoil-sport if I don’t find that funny! OF COURSE she should have known!

This was Tosh’s formal ‘apology’ to the ensuing uproar:

“The point i was making before i was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them. #deadbabies

Firstly, she did not ‘heckle’ you. She called you out on a joke that she thought wasn’t funny, and of all the ways you could’ve chosen to handle it, you chose to disrespect, humiliate and victimize her. That too, by asserting your (arguably) chauvinist power over her. And yes, although rape victims aren’t exclusively female, females are the large majority of victims, and rape is a crime of power.

Secondly, calling her a heckler is kinda sorta washing any remorse or irresponsibility off your own hands; so if that statement was meant to be any kind of apology, it didn’t leave a mark.

Thirdly, yes there are awful things in the world, and they can be funny, yes including rape, and I don’t mind Tosh or any comedian using black comedy in the least bit. It’s fine if a comedian jokes about something serious to make light of the situation for humour, but to blatantly tell someone it would be funny if they got raped is disgusting. Additionally, using rape as a shock tactic to garner laughs is just abysmal. He wasn’t ‘joking’, he was using humour to diminish her voice, to remind her of his power over her and to shut her up using her vulnerability as a cheap tool.

Finally, & funnily, I don’t actually see the word ‘sorry’ or ‘apologise’ once in this heartfelt apology. I guess I must be too old fashioned and out of the loop.

I’m all for making light of serious situations. When life and circumstances leave you stuck in a pit, sometimes all you can do is laugh at it, at yourself, at others. But sometimes, it isn’t external circumstances that put you in that pit, it’s people like Tosh, who can’t seem to distinguish the line between inappropriate/dark humour and personally victimizing someone and causing them distress.

I’m also all for dark humour. Many social issues are made light of; many ethnic, ableist and ageist stereotypes are laced with humour, and I really believe that making light of these stereotypes is a method of devaluing them in meaning, making them less valid and true, which is beneficial. And I’m not appalled when my friends say “Dude that test raped me”, but making light of issues like rape the way Tosh did takes it a step ahead by normalizing a serious, atrocious crime through the excuse of humour, far more than mocking mere stereotypes. Lastly, Tosh didn’t just attempt to normalize rape by making it ‘funny’, he essentially contributed to perpetuating a pseudo gang-rape by making it ‘funny’.

Tell me cracking jokes about the hilarity of the Twin Towers crumbling in front of a kid who lost his father to 9/11 is okay.

Tell me cracking jokes about gassing Jews in front of a Holocaust survivor is okay.

Apparently cracking jokes about rape in front of (possible) rape victims is okay.

This is a country where a woman spills coffee on herself and successfully sues McDonalds for it. Yet we see a famous comedian getting away with normalizing and encouraging a vindictive crime that leaves someone (and an entire half of the human race) reeling in discomfort, shame and humiliation.

Stay Bold,


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