In the past few days, the topic of Rape Culture has come up in the media quite consistently. I already wrote a post a few weeks ago about the sexual abuse going on in the Youtube Community due to Celebrity Culture (click here for that), as I personally feel this is a topic that needs to be openly discussed, as that is the only way to eradicate it. However, what occured this week actually is related to the comedian Dapper Laughs.

Dapper Laughs created an online storm by making a joke saying a woman was “gagging for a rape”. The fact that this is even considered a joke in the first place is thoroughly disgusting. Let’s dissect that statement for a moment here. You cannot be “gagging” for a rape, because rape is when a non-consensual sexual act is performed upon you; if you were “gagging” to be raped, then it is arguable it is not rape, as if you genuinely wanted it, it would surely be consensual. Rape is not, and never will be, something acceptable to make a joke about. Many people say that they would rather be murdered than raped – I am sorry to be so blunt there, but if you look at statistics, the fact is there. Rape is one of the most horrific things that can happen to you, a vile form of abuse, and is not even remotely a joking matter. Therefore the internet quite rightfully went mad. Dapper Laughs lost an upcoming TV Show, and made a makeshift apology for his actions.

The reason this caught my attention though was because of the response within people who I went to school with – and it was the first time I’ve become fully aware of how rape culture has comfortably nestled its way into our society without us really noticing. If people find a joke funny then it’s OK, right? Well, frankly, no. If it’s at the expense of somebody else in a serious way, it’s never going to be OK.

A friend of mine shared an article about how it was good that Dapper Laughs was being called out for what he said, as it showed that society is finally beginning to take note of rape culture, and trying to eradicate it. The backlash was something I could never have anticipated happening. A group of boys from my old school who, frankly, had always hated my group of friends because we were not in the slightest bit intimidated by them, began to rip into my friend, saying how Dapper Laughs was hilarious and his jokes weren’t meant seriously so why should we take them seriously? Other friends, both male and female (and genderqueer too, to be precise) got involved, pointing out to them that any joke made that has foundations in abuse of some kind (be it physical, mental, homophobic, xenophobic, racist, etc) is intrinsically not funny, and that this was the problem with rape culture – that because it is disguised with jokes and ‘banter’ it goes unnoticed. Because it then goes unnoticed, people who heard the jokes and banter make similar ones, and so the cycle goes on. These people refused to listen to us, ending up calling the friend who posted the link an ‘ugly slag’ and trying to bring us down by calling us geeks and feminist sheep.

I watched this unfold right in front of my eyes, utterly shocked that people I had gone to school with for 7 years were defending the rape jokes, and throwing insults at us for calling him out (although I question why it’s an insult to call somebody a feminist, considering feminists stand for equality, and a geek considering working hard is an important part of life). Just because someone is funny does not automatically make what they say acceptable. Today on Twitter the argument continued again, re-opened by one of the boys telling another friend to “go and cut [her] arms before this gets more weird” after she tweeted about rape culture, reducing her to a shaking mess. I was beyond furious, but also absolutely terrified.

To clarify – I wasn’t terrified of those people who decided to try and devalue everything we said. Frankly, I find it hilarious that they think they have any sort of authority or hold over me now that we have all left school, and they are people I long since decided I would have nothing to do with once I left school. What terrified me was their attitude towards rape culture. Just because they found the guy funny and we did not, they thought it was acceptable to call us slags, insult us, and tell us to go and cut ourselves? They would much rather jokes were being made which they found funny, but also made people uncomfortable and distressed, than those jokes were not made and people would not be distressed. I am aware that at times the idea of ‘protecting’ others from things said can go too far (such as blackboards being renamed chalkboards so as not to cause insult, when blackboards are named that because the colour they are is black) but there are some things, such as abuse, that are just completely unacceptable to make jokes about. You do not know what a person has gone through in their personal life and how much a comment like that could shake them up. It’s your job as a decent human to appreciate that not everybody has had a perfect life, and therefore topics such as rape and abuse will affect them negatively.

The issue is that it is people like this that mean rape culture is a continual circle. By not calling it out and appreciating when a joke goes too far, we blindly let it continue. This is not an issue that is acceptable to be ignored – it is our duty, as humans, to recognise when things cross a line, and to call them out when they do.