Why We Should Stop Making Rape Jokes

(Disclaimer: We at WhenInManila.com write about what’s trending, and try to get the pulse of what Pinoys online are talking about, which will of course at some point delve into the presidential elections, given its timeliness and importance. What we will never do, however, is try to use our influence to sway voters to vote for or against a particular candidate, given that even the team holds different political views, and for ethical reasons as well.
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So let’s address the elephant in the room: a staunch presidential candidate made a joke about a rape victim. The trivialization of the crime that is rape has raised a considerable amount of alarm — several groups and netizens are condemning the act and calling for an apology. To which he did (eventually after lots of hemming and hawing, I might add), but that’s beside the point.

The crux of the matter is that this certain candidate is not the first, and certainly won’t be the last, to make a joke of this kind. Comedians have been turning rape and sexual objectification into comedy fodder at clubs since time immemorial, and we hear it slip in everyday conversations with people we know as some sort of meaningless interaction.


Does this excuse said presidential candidate from his action? Heavens, no. But the point that we’re trying to make, is that the discussion of why rape jokes are inexcusable is not of politics. It’s addressing a systemic problem that is rooted in local culture — why some keyboard warriors think it’s okay to threaten those who disagree with them on the other side of the monitor with rape, why women being cat-called on the streets is an everyday occurrence, and why we continue to ask victims of rape and harassment “what she was wearing” when clothing (or the lack thereof) is not a license for ANYONE to harass.

It’s not just a case of a bad joke or the lack of political correctness, really: it’s a manifestation of a societal problem that has always been existent in the first place. It’s a matter of how we have allowed society to believe that objectification of women is acceptable, and why we can get away with joking about an animalistic criminal act.

So no, it’s not “just a joke” and we can’t “just get over it”. Here are some reasons why rape jokes are more harmful than they really are, and why we should stop making them.

4. We insult the memory and traumatic experiences of living and dead rape victims.

Rape is a crime that tramples on one’s freedom. When someone survives rape, it is a traumatizing event that can scar them for a long time and can leave them unhealed without the proper support. When a rape victim is dead, making fun of the incident bastardizes the horrific ordeal they have gone through and shows insensitivity towards the victim.

3. We let this crime not be taken seriously.

Rape is a crime. Period. As said by lawyer Paolo Tamase in his Facebook post, “Every time we make a ‘harmless’ joke about it [rape], we repackage something that is rotten from within.” The laws on rape are already problematic in itself — in having to prove that rape did occur, when evidence is tricky to retrieve. No one jokes about murder, yet we always provide for that shred of doubt when we hear about someone being raped (“Baka naman ginusto niya ‘yan”, “Eh malandi naman talaga ‘yan, dapat lang ‘yan sa kanya.”), as if any type of woman or person “deserves” to be violated against their will.

2. We consent to the degradation of women.

Several will argue that women are now equal to men: we’ve had female presidents, we’re allowed to work, we can now vote, we can own land, etcetera. But as a female college professor once told my class years ago: “I earned a Ph.D and have received several awards for my work. Yet all of those became immaterial when one day I was walking on the street and a stranger whistled and called out, ‘Hoy, sexy’.” Women are belittled, reduced to their physical appearances and made to feel unsafe simply because of how they look, as if fully covered women are not prone to rape or harassment. Rape is not just about sex, it’s about power. And to throw around a rape-themed remark and follow it up with “joke lang ‘yun” does not save one’s ass.

1. We allow rape culture to persist.

It’s one of those “buzzwords” you hear so-called “feminazis” throwing around. But rape culture is real, and simply means that rape becomes normal and acceptable in society because of how we view women in general.

This is exactly why we blame the victims for “allowing rape to happen to them”, as if the trauma is not already enough. This is why we are so easy to judge women who wear light clothing and skimpy shorts (try wearing pants in this hot and humid weather, I dare you). This is why we call certain women “sluts” or “pokpok” and why the first thing we ask when we hear stories of rape is what she was wearing, or whether she was out drinking. This is also why we let men joke about raping women or make sexual references to their bodies, saying “boys will be boys” and when they do rape, they’re simply slapped on the wrists.

We believe no one deserves to be murdered, or stolen from. And so no one, whether a Maria Clara or a “Maria Ozawa” (god, I hate that expression), deserves to be raped.

Got anything else to add?

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