A flier posted in a freshman dorm at Miami University listed the “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape.”
Miami University is getting national press coverage after officials discovered a flier titled “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” in a men’s bathroom.
The document, which was found in a co-ed residence hall Oct. 8, provided tasteless pointers for how to force women to have sex. Suggestions include using roofies, disregarding the victim’s state of consciousness and slitting her throat so she can’t identify her attacker.
University officials took down the flier, reported it to the authorities and filed a police report, according to the school’s statement. The school’s Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution (OESCR) is also investigating the incident.
Because the creator of the flier has not been identified, it is unknown what his or her true intentions were. But the possibility that the list was meant as a joke brings up a controversial question: Is rape laughable?
University of Florida junior Cynthia Ruiz doesn’t think so.
“A lot of people choose to doubt (sexual assault) is a problem,” she said. “Jokes make it that much easier for students to believe that as well.”
The 19-year-old was sexually assaulted in March and said that’s when she realized how blind she had been to the issue. In an attempt to make other students more aware about the perils of sexual violence, domestic violence and child abuse, Ruiz founded Campus Awareness Raises Expectations. CARE’s slogan is “Turning scars into stars.”
“We want to empower survivors … tell them they don’t have to listen to people who blame them for what happened,” Ruiz said. “Although we live in a victim-blame society, it shouldn’t be that way.”
She added that jokes like the ones comedian Daniel Tosh told in July fail to show the realities of sexual crimes.
“He [Tosh] not only jokes about rape but undermines the physical and emotional pain [that] rape causes the victim,” she said. “Dealing with the repercussions of rape isn’t a one-day fix. Many victims live with the pain and suffering for the rest of their lives.”
While these jokes might seem insensitive to some, other students find them quite entertaining.
Alex Navarro, 21, said despite thinking that jokes about 9/11 and the Holocaust are wrong he doesn’t think topics like rape should be banned from comedy.
“Comedians try to make light of any situation and make anything funny,” the Santa Fe College pre-medical student said. “That’s their thing.”
Rape jokes among his peers are also OK because he said it’s not like he’s actually committing the act.
His rationale seems prominent among college campuses, and it’s not just supported by male students.
Chelsea Diana, former editor of Boston University’s independent student newspaper, published an April Fool’s edition of The Daily Free Press that mocked date rape.
The edition included a crime story about the arrest of “seven frat dwarves” who allegedly drugged and raped “the fairest of them all.” Diana received so much criticism that she resigned days after the paper was published.
Kate Harding, a feminist blogger, author and survivor of rape, said it’s important not to let people get away with comedy where victims are the butt of the joke.
“Sometime jokes are a way to deflate social tension,” the 37-year-old said. “The problem is so many of those jokes are really sexist at the core.”
According to a 2009 study by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, exposure to sexist humor raises males’ inclination to rape.
The results show this type of humor may also contribute to propagating and maintaining gender-based inequality and discrimination — two factors that back up societal approval of rape jokes.
Harding said these could be funny as long as they mock the messed-up rape culture and not the victims.
Following the Tosh joke controversy, she decided to create a list of 15 rape jokes that work. By focusing on comedians who reversed the punch line and mocked the system, she hoped to show feminists and rape survivors do have a sense of humor.
“I think it’s about laughing so you don’t cry of outrage … sometimes it’s all that’s left for us,” she said.
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