I was having a tough time finding inspiration for my weekly post here at Ms. Behaved. I started a column about how I recently shaved my legs for the first time in over a decade, getting about 100 words in before I gave up, and then I did the same with another installment of Sex Shop Stories. And then I ate some pickled eggs and quoted Paris is Burning out loud for a while before hitting up one of my favorite gossip blogs, Dlisted.com, where I found this link describing a very disturbing scene at a recent Daniel Tosh stand-up comedy show.
The entire entry was originally posted at the Cookies For Breakfast tumblr and can be found there in it’s entirety, but I’ll pull out bit I intend to address:
So Tosh then starts making some very generalizing, declarative statements about rape jokes always being funny, how can a rape joke not be funny, rape is hilarious, etc. I don’t know why he was so repetitive about it but I felt provoked because I, for one, DON’T find them funny and never have. So I didn’t appreciate Daniel Tosh (or anyone!) telling me I should find them funny. So I yelled out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”
I did it because, even though being “disruptive” is against my nature, I felt that sitting there and saying nothing, or leaving quietly, would have been against my values as a person and as a woman. I don’t sit there while someone tells me how I should feel about something as profound and damaging as rape.
After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, “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 I, completely stunned and finding it hard to process what was happening but knowing i needed to get out of there, immediately nudged my friend, who was also completely stunned, and we high-tailed it out of there. It was humiliating, of course, especially as the audience guffawed in response to Tosh, their eyes following us as we made our way out of there. I didn’t hear the rest of what he said about me.
I should probably add that having to basically flee while Tosh was enthusing about how hilarious it would be if I was gang-raped in that small, [claustrophobic] room was pretty viscerally terrifying and threatening all the same, even if the actual scenario was unlikely to take place. The suggestion of it is violent enough and was meant to “put me in my place.”
Now, I’m about to admit something that I’m really ashamed of, and I hope my friends and all feminists out there will forgive me: as of about an hour before I was clued in to this, I considered myself to be a huge fan of Daniel Tosh. I started watching his show because I got annoyed with the Internet and Tosh.0 is basically the Internet on TV –a shitload of weird viral videos and “where are they now”-style updates with the most notorious of internet celebrities. His comedy styling seemed to be in the tradition of Sascha Baron Cohen, who uses his frightfully foreign and anti-Semitic character Borat to expose xenophobes and hatemongers by baiting them with Borat’s childlike enthusiasm for throwing Jews down wells. Tosh would make racist and sexist jokes on national tv with an all-too-knowing smirk that seemed to say, “who would believe that?!” while also taking time to lampoon Middle America and the Caucasian stereotype. And sadly, that was enough for me. I read somewhere that Daniel Tosh had social anxiety and this made me feel sorry for him, poor guy’s all famous now and it must be sooo scary, which also made me much more forgiving of occasional faux pas out of him.
I’m ashamed to have ever called myself a fan because now I realize how simple I was being, thinking to myself, “Well, he makes fun of white guys so it’s okay if he jokes about child prostitution and domestic violence!” I did what so many people are doing nowadays, especially with how popular social apathy has become – I ignored it. I told myself it was okay to laugh at rape jokes, even though I’m an assault survivor myself, and that I was somehow being unfair if I didn’t at least feel that rape jokes could be found funny.
Daniel Tosh’s awkward frat boy humor is a symptom of America’s rape culture, which is defined in several ways in this blog entry at Shakesville, but the most concise definition is given in a quote from the book Transforming a Rape Culture, and it reads:
A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.
The fact that Daniel Tosh can make rape jokes during a stand-up event and then attempt to incite his audience to gang-rape a female patron who voices her displeasure is evidence of rape culture in America. The fact that the offended patron couldn’t even get her money back and instead was comped tickets to a venue that allows it’s male workers to emotionally terrorize their female patrons is evidence of rape culture in America. The fact that I knew that Daniel Tosh is basically just another misogynistic and marginally talented member of the status quo with a corporate soapbox, and yet still I chose to listen to and sort of even adore this asshole, is evidence of rape culture in America.
Rape culture in America is the reason that people immediately accuse assault victims of being liars, and it’s also the reason that men assaulting their girlfriends and wives in their sleep is considered funny or even touching, like it’s a compliment that he violated your body and your space because you’re just sooo sexy and he can’t keep his hands off of you! Rape culture in America is the reason that people are going to think that anyone who has a problem with Daniel Tosh is an oversensitive hippie that should be ignored.
Reading and writing about this been a triggering experience for me, and now I want to see something done about Daniel Tosh. The Laugh Factory and Comedy Central are just as much to blame for giving this asshole a soapbox as he is for using it so irresponsibly, and I want to see them suffer consequences. I don’t want the blogosphere to forget about this. I don’t want Tosh fanboys to leave so many hateful comments that feminist blogs just give up on outing Tosh and holding him accountable for spreading hate and fear. I want feminists and bloggers to crucify him the same way they did Tracy Morgan, who is also “just” a comedian and was “just” making jokes when he said he’d kill his hypothetical gay son. I want anyone with a Nielsen box to boycott Tosh as well as his new adult cartoon, Brickleberry. I want everyone in Hermosa Beach, California, to look for Daniel Tosh on the streets, and when you see him I want you to ask him why he thinks rape jokes are funny. If he’s with his lad-mag model of a girlfriend, ask him if it would be funny if five guys gangraped her right there. Or his mother. And he should agree, because rape jokes are always funny, and there’s no way that a question like that could ever be out of line. Right?