I'm feeling nauseated as a write this. Last year I wrote this post about how a lot of modern chick lit seems to sensationalize, romanticize, or otherwise trivialize sexual violence against women. But movies and TV do something that seems worse when it comes to sexual violence against men.
When men get raped, it's a punchline. If you saw the movie The Wedding Crashers, you may remember a scene in which Vince Vaughn's character is raped by a female character. I got that I was supposed to be laughing, but something must have been going over my head. A scene in which the gender roles were reversed would never make it into a comedy, and if it did, feminists would take to the streets. Where were us feminists when The Wedding Crashers was released? Or 40 Days, 40 Nights, in which Josh Hartnett's character must beg forgiveness from his current girlfriend after having been raped by his former girlfriend, which she seemed to think constituted cheating on her. Where were the voices of opponents of sexual violence?
I think there's a temptation to say that it's only humor, that they're not actually condoning rape. And I can almost see it that way. Horrible Bosses is, after all, is a black comedy about murder. We joke about murder all the time; are we saying that rape is worse?
The thing is that everybody knows that murder is a serious crime. Everyone knows that if our loved one gets murdered, we can report that murder and the police will take us seriously, no one will mock us for it, and nobody will tell us we had it coming. Even if our loved one is a pretty bad person, most people will agree that they shouldn't have been murdered.
Rape victims, especially male rape victims, especially rape victims in custody (prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.), have no such assurances. To joke about the crime is to further trivialize an already trivialized crime. To joke about the crime is to reinforce, to any past or future rape victim, the idea that what happened to them is inconsequential and they shouldn't report it.
With every joke about rape we laugh at, we become more convinced of the notion that rape is trivial. With every prison rape joke we laugh at, we become more convinced of the notion that prison rape is a trivial inevitability, and that the victims, by virtue of having committed a crime, are just getting what's coming to them.
Maybe you could consider re-posting this, or writing your own blog post on the subject. I think it's worthwhile just to ask people to think about the subject, in the hope they'll maybe see stuff a different way. It's not about shaming people into not joking, or making them stop, but about asking people to think before they joke or think before they laugh about the mentality this joke perpetuates.
New Line contact info, for what it's worth:
New Line Cinema Corporation
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522
CA Tel. 818-954-6000
This is the part of the conversation where somebody always seems to bring up the First Amendment, and how the folks at New Line have the right to say whatever the hell they want. And they do. However, freedom of speech means you have the legal right to speak your mind without being penalized by the government. It doesn't mean I'm legally obligated not to disagree as loudly as I want to. It certainly doesn't mean that nobody else has the legal right to ask you to shut the hell up.
*I'm not linking to the trailer or info about the movie in question, because I don't want to give them publicity.