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Rape jokes and redactions (probably not comfortable reading)

This is simply filler for the teaser box with a warning that if you don't want to think about something kind of depressing, if it is a sunny day and you would like cuteness, you should go find them elsewhere. There are no puppies here. I hate it when I am in a good mellow mood and then I have to think.

So I posted a thing in which I said that I tell rape jokes when I am made uncomfortable by creepy men. I was unclear and a few people called it out as inappropriate. I said that maybe I used the wrong word, and joke was not the thing I meant to say. But then I had to leave the Internet and go to work, and after thinking about it I would like to publicly correct my correction. That is to say, I voted against the rape joke before I realized I had voted for it.

The guy I work with most nights is nice enough. I get along with him as well as two people who don't have much in common can. We'll call him Noel. On super slow nights, they pay a senior server to close the restaurant instead of paying a full managers' wage. We'll call her Andie. When I am scheduled to leave early, and Noel and Andie are closing, she always asks me to stay to close. I never understood why until she told me that she'd been sort of dating him until he nearly raped her a month ago and she had to punch him in the face to stop him. Even once he took her home he tried to come in with her. She has told everyone at work this story. I think perhaps our coworkers are unsure what to say to a woman who is vocal about her rape by a coworker but does not want to switch shifts to avoid him. She certainly dislikes him. I see her go out of her way not to cross paths with him. I always beg for hours on nights they close together, and she lets me stay until close as a "personal favor" to me. I am sorting out how to handle this situation that I am neither involved in or responsible for. I have spent less time with these people than I have watching Daria. I don't know anyone well enough to know what to do, and I think that there really isn't anything that I can do.


This is the backdrop of my rape jokes. I am used to crude sexual aggression from men who have not ever stopped to consider that there is another way to talk to women. I have learned to stop them quickly before they escalate into something that is seriously nerve-inducing, before they think that I might be responding positively. When my favorite boss calls a fork a faggot because he dropped it, I ask how he knows the fork is gay and how one determines a fork's sex. When someone makes a joke about black people I fail to get the point and demand they explain it until they have to admit at least to themselves that it's only funny if you're racist. When a man comments on my ass I tell him that it is like a goldfish and it expands to fit its environment, and agree that it is a rather large room we're in, isn't it? When a high school kid is showing off the topless pic of some poor local girl that he got from a friend of a friend of a friend, I ask him when he's planning on serving his time. I use the inevitable followup question of what I mean with a short lecture on the legal definition of child pornography.

And when a dishwasher is getting pushy and won't take a polite no from a teenage server for the sixth time that night, I start making rape jokes. I ask him whether he needs me to watch his stuff while he grabs his roofies. I tell him that last time a guy wouldn't take a no from me I would have been a lot happier if he'd had the courtesy to at least use some lube. I blithely carry on in normal coworker banter tone for however long it takes for him to be ashamed of his behavior and maybe more cognizant of it. I feel safer pointing to it and calling it what it is. I don't have that squeamish can-you-believe-this feeling. It is powerful to refuse to let it go without saying something.

I need my job. I can't complain to the boss every time some asshole says or does something that is beyond inappropriate and well into not-okay territory. And I have to keep working with them, but I can't listen to it and keep silent. So I tell jokes. And they are jokes, only they're not meant to be funny.

I feel like I have finally found the rape jokes that are always okay - the ones in which the butt of the joke are the bad actors. The ones that illuminate how scary it is to be a woman. The ones that flip the power dynamic and make aggressors uncomfortable. The ones that make men gauge their words before they speak. Those are the good ones.

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