The Rise of the Rape Joke

A recent report made by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, ‘How Fair is Britain’, contained some positive statistics regarding the equality of homosexuals and ethnic minorities. But it also contained an extremely worrying feature for women. Over the last five years the prevalence of rape, and the low rate of conviction, has not seen a significant fall over the past five years. Whilst the report hails our society for its largely tolerant and open-minded attitude, why is this attitude not being reflected in the sphere of women’s rights?

Sexist jokes can be funny, used in the right place, at the right time – with irony. But the decision of Langwith’s JCRC to make an insensitive ‘joke’ about the Newcastle policeman who raped women he met on duty – including vulnerable women, such as heroin addicts – goes beyond political incorrectness. Such comments break boundaries between controversial comedy and the tolerance of violent crime against women.

the rape joke is cosmopolitan misogny

In some situations, the fact that it was intended as simple ‘controversial comedy’ is perhaps acceptable. If you are amongst friends having a laugh, then fair enough (if that’s what you find funny) – just don’t let everybody know. By repositioning jokes best kept in private to the public sphere, especially by using them in a bar quiz for freshers, the Langwith JCRC has not only shown a lack of respect for their students, but have also made them complicit in the ‘joke’ by including it in a quiz that they were competing in. The Langwith JCRC had no idea whether contestants had experienced sexual assault before, or if they had been affected by people close to them who have been abused.

The rape joke is undoubtedly on the rise. American standup Scott Capurro says that “talk about raping women [is] like the new black on the comedy circuit”.

The rise of the rape joke is cosmopolitan misogyny that has replaced the old ubiquity of anti-women gags with what Jo Brand sees as a desire to make comedy even more “unpalatable than it was before”. The presence of such an attitude at the University of York demonstrates our certain need for a Women’s Committee which can ensure that women’s equality and sexism on campus is not a passive force, but something that needs to be proactively dealt with on an everyday basis.

What a waste for Langwith, implanting this impression of their freshers. The ‘joke’ wasn’t even funny.


  1. Bad taste? Yes. A concern? No.

    It’s a joke, a poor one at that, but it’s not something that people should be concerned over. It’s ridiculous that this is even classed as news.

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  2. 31 Oct ’10 at 12:43 pm

    Niall Haviland

    This is a comment article, Jeremy. Laura has earned the right to voice her opinion in a publicly accessible format by contribution to other sections of the paper.

    The fact of the matter is that people are concerned about it, and that is a fundamental part of the constitutional definition of ‘news’.

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