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Hold the applause: why one topic is not fit for comedy

Comedian Courteney Hocking told a rape joke in her early days in stand-up. She regrets it now, explaining why rape jokes should be avoided — particularly by male comedians.

Empty stool stand up comedy

When I started stand-up comedy I was 18 and I told a lot of terrible, offensive jokes — about dead celebrities, Auschwitz and one especially bad set about the Paralympics, which was so unfunny that I had to run out of the venue for fear that the audience would actually hurt me. I have also told a r-pe joke.

And I regret it. An incident last week brought that joke to mind — and reminded me why, perhaps, it should never have been made.

Last week, a young s-xual assault victim was heckled when she spoke about her experience at a forum about r-pe jokes. A planned comedy debate titled “There’s Nothing Funny About R-pe” (featuring an all male line-up) at Melbourne pub Station 59 was cancelled after social media criticism. Instead, organiser Kieran Butler hosted a forum where people were invited to discuss the cancellation and r-pe jokes in general.

RMIT student Genevieve Stewart told her own story of being r-ped and explain why she finds such jokes offensive. Stewart was interrupted by hecklers, one even calling out aggressively “get to the jokes!”

The organisers of the debate saw the cancellation as an issue of censorship and political correctness; critics of the event saw the story as one of systemic misogyny and s-xism. But listening to the audio of a 20-year-old being jeered while talking about a man putting a knife to her throat and his fingers inside her is disturbing in a way that should give serious pause for thought.

Open mike comedy nights, such as the one at Station 59, are where new comedians learn (ideally) how to make people laugh. There are no barriers to getting into stand-up comedy, no courses or apprenticeships, no certificate or occupational health and safety and s-xual harassment training required. It’s just a desire to make people laugh and probably some sort of childhood or adolescent unpopularity that makes us want to prove ourselves.

Shock is part of the stock in trade for comedians, but between youthful arrogance and unfortunate delusions of “edginess”, it took me a couple of years to realise that shocking comedy is a lot like Kevin Rudd — fine in small, contextually relevant doses, but draining and tedious when you hear it too much.

Judging from the recording of the evening, Butler and the other comics involved in the debate felt that by banning the event, their freedom of speech was violated. While freedom of speech is obviously an entitlement that most comedians enjoy, in this instance there seemed to be a refusal to realise and admit that jokes about r-pe are different from other “edgy” topics.

Unlike jokes about shark attacks or Michael Jackson or Adelaide murderers, the likelihood of a r-pe victim being in the audience at a comedy gig is very high: one in every four women have been s-xually assaulted.

I think some of fierceness of the backlash was also due to the fact that all the comedians involved in the original debate were men. In the same way that comedy is dominated by men — look at the names on a poster for a comedy gig sometime, there’s usually only one or perhaps two woman to every eight or nine men — the figures on r-pe are almost the exact reverse: 91% of r-pes happen to women while 9% of victims are men.

While the under-representation of women in comedy is a War and Peace tome for another time, the fact that no women were even represented in a “debate” about something which almost exclusively affects them looks not just wilfully ignorant, but arrogant in the extreme.

However, while I’m certain that the fiasco at Station 59 could have been avoided by calling r-pe jokes off-limits all together, the stand up comedy industry is also unregulated, unorganised and mostly unpaid. So while a consensus combined with goodwill approach works for the majority of comedians (and this incident is definitely not representative of 95% of Melbourne’s comedy community), telling a comedian not to joke about something doesn’t generally work.

The subsequent “discussion” held about the debate is a prime example of the fact that it’s not about what the joke or subject is, it’s about how it is dealt with. It is possible to tell a funny r-pe joke — as long as the target of the joke is not the victim. But until comedians like Butler and co understand the importance of kicking up rather than down, it’s probably better than they avoid the subject altogether.

Just because people have the right to say anything, doesn’t mean we should. Just because you can do cartwheels in the middle of Punt Road at peak hour in your underwear doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It’s called living in a society. Stand up comedy will always skirt the line of good taste and challenging ideas: it’s a part of what makes it exciting.

But for all the talking involved in being a stand up comedian, one of the most important skills of all is learning to listen to your audience: what they’re laughing at and what they’re not. It’s all very well to use comedy as a platform for politics, ideals and your own feelings, but the real purpose of being there is to make the audience laugh. That’s your number one job.

And if you find your audience is not laughing, but fighting back tears as they try to tell you the story of getting r-ped at a train station when they were 15, you’d have to agree it’s time for some new material.

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  • 1
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Monday, 19 November 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I know only of the views of two of the comedians that were going to take part in the debate. One of them was going to talk about how his partner getting raped had affected him. The other was going to talk about his own experience of getting raped. I have no idea what the other six people were going to say but I do know how shattered the one that was going to talk about being raped now feels.
    That is what I find really sad about the whole episode. No one bothered to find out what the participants were going to talk about before they called for the debate to be cancelled. There seemed to be this assumption that as males none of the people involved could be sympathetic to the victims point of view and that rape happens only to females.
    I worked professionally as a comedian for 15 years. As a child I was sexually abused. I have talked about my own abuse on stage and used jokes to attack the power base of organizations such as the Catholic Church. I have been congratulated by survivors and threatened with violence by members of the church. I was proud of both responses. If anyone told me I was not allowed to use those jokes I would have told them where to go.
    It is up to people to deal with their own issues in the way that best suits them. But to ban a discussion before it happens because it may make you feel uncomfortable is wrong. That is censoring ideas and that is way worse than offending someone.
    What happened the following week is a separate issue and would seem to be badly handled by all concerned. I feel for the young woman concerned and I agree that not having women involved in the original debate was stupid. But this does not mean that rape shouldn’t or can’t be discussed by males.

  • 2
    Andrew McMillen
    Posted Monday, 19 November 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Great read Courteney, thanks.

  • 3
    Liz45
    Posted Monday, 19 November 2012 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    As a feminist and a woman who was sexually abused twice before I was 17, I’m often accused of not having a sense of humour because I refuse to laugh at racist, sexist, dumb blonde jokes etc let alone any involving this serious criminal offence. Those who jeer and criticise and not show compassion and respect are the reason/s why we’re about to have a Royal Commission into child r**e - because those are the crimes we’re talking about, not dressing it down with almost ‘sanitized’ titles!

    As we approach White Ribbon Day,(25 November) we need people, particularly men to ‘man up’ and call those bastards what they are - promoters of criminals! That they are part of the destructive problem, not the solution.

    As a mother of sons in their 40’s, I’d be horrified and ashamed of them if they engaged in this sort of stuff! I’d walk out after I’d given them the rebuke they deserved!

    Someone should ask how they’d feel if the women concerned were their wives, mothers, daughters, sisters etc!
    Today there were four news items involving the sexual assault of people from 9 years to a woman in her 80’s, suffering dementia and affects of a stroke where she could neither speak,let alone defend herself! The other two were young teenage women of 14 who were both sexually assaulted. The little boy was held captive for over a day and assaulted. There is nothing funny at all here! Nothing at all! Sometimes human beings disgust me!

  • 4
    Monash.edu
    Posted Monday, 19 November 2012 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Such is the new orthodoxy — don’t like something? Get it banned! — and it’s one that receives a worryingly small amount of criticism from the left. We may well be tired of hearing about freedom of speech from shock jocks and conservative columnists, but we must never forget that the principle that they (often disingenuously) cite is still very much a crucial cornerstone of a progressive society. That doesn’t mean we need to take a fundamentalist view — everyone agrees that some mitigation is necessary — but it does mean that we ought to treat any attempt to curb it with caution.

    This ‘rape joke’ thing is one such example. What happened at this event was unfortunate to say the least, but it would be a dreadful overreach to conclude that jokes about rape should not be permitted. On what grounds can we even begin to argue this? Clearly, a substantial proportion of topics in comedy relate to unpleasant phenomena — not just “shark attacks, Michael Jackson and Adelaide murderers”, but ALL murder, ALL warfare, ALL physical assault, injury and death. Rape is not worse or necessarily more traumatising than these, and the potential that an audience member might be upset by references to such topics is no less trivial. Clearly, when framed in this way, we see how problematic this argument is.

    There’s much to be said for the critical approach. We are rational, intelligent creatures; we are able to come to our own conclusions about the communication we digest. Tasteless, vulgar and stupid humour will always exist; we can’t legislate it out of existence, and neither should we. We should use our critical faculties and the feedback avenues available to us and express our disapproval.

    The critical approach may not instantly solve all of the world’s ills, but it’s certainly preferable to the alternative. The censor’s pen rarely, if ever, makes society a better place; more often than not it’s used to enforce taboo, which is essentially what’s happening here. That’s not progressive, it’s puritanism.

    David Heslin

  • 5
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Tuesday, 20 November 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    In my comment I stated that I only know the view points of 2 of the participants. One was raped. One had a partner who was raped. The author and Liz make the assumption that the participants were going to make fun of the victims. How do they know. They don’t. Neither of them have bothered to ask what was going to be said. They have assumed that the humor was going to be directed at the victims. Why do they assume this?
    There are no taboos in comedy. What there is are people who are not skilled enough to do the material they are trying to deliver. As the author found out the audience will not laugh at such comedians. But if she finds a way of doing a joke that ridicules the rapist she will find a different reaction.

  • 6
    Myriam Robin
    Posted Tuesday, 20 November 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Maybe the problem lies in that it the original event was framed as a ‘comedy debate’. The discussion on this piece shows you can have a decent debate about whether or not rape jokes are funny. But not if the winner of such a debate is judged by how many laughs they got.

    From Nick the Hippy’s comment, it seems to me like one side of this debate had intentions to speak from their heart about why such jokes aren’t ok. I hate to think what would have happened if the other side had just treated this as a chance for laughs, and then turned around and gone ‘we won because the audience finds us funny’.

    The all-male lineup is also concerning. Not saying men have nothing to say on the topic. Just that having no women seems, as the author of this piece pointed out, arrogant and hurtful.

  • 7
    Moloch
    Posted Tuesday, 20 November 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I’m with Nick the Hippy.

    What a shame that a bunch of sexist w*nkers decided that since the lineup was all male they couldn’t have any experience of rape.

    The bigots who tried to ban this debate are as wrong as the bigots who heckled the rape survivor.

    And since when does a deeply dodgy statistic (only 9% of men are raped) make to justify the assumption that any given man cannot have any experience of rape?

    If Ms Hocking had the slightest idea of how rape survivors behave she’d know that plenty of survivors internalise the blame and never report the crime. Now if she for a moment removed her blinkers she might begin to have an inkling that in a homophobic world any straight guy who gets raped is not going to be MORE likely than a woman to report it.

    And any gay man who gets raped - like I did - isn’t going to go to a homophobic organisation like the police for exactly the same reason that many women don’t report rape. Fear of belittlement, I was ‘asking for it’ because I met the guy at a club etc etc. So there’s one rape that never got reported for you…

    Women at least get to talk to a female officer - are blokes, straight or gay, going to get a sympathetic hearing from the taser-obsessed homophobes that pass as police in Qld or NSW?

    Expect that 9% to go up a bit if people like the author can drop the unconscious bigotry and help men come forward in the same way we started to help women come forward a decade ago.

    I will continue to joke about the time I was raped, and the time I was abused as a 7 year old - because it helps me to cope with this kind of ill-informed nonsense from both the bigoted blokes AND the bigoted wimmin.

  • 8
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Tuesday, 20 November 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Miriam, why do assume the 2 people I have mentioned wanted to speak against making jokes about rape. Laughter is a coping method, until we laugh at something we haven’t coped with it.
    Everyone has just made assumptions in this whole matter. The end result is that an event was cancelled, a venue and its staff threatened and two victims of rape left feeling devastated because people thought they knew what was going to be said.
    The event may have been poorly thought out, badly promoted and had a lack of gender balance. But to stop it because someone may have been offended sets a dangerous precedent.
    Anyway, I can’t hang around here all day, I’m off to Bunnings to buy a pitchfork and a burning torch so I am prepared for the next internet outrage.

  • 9
    Monash.edu
    Posted Tuesday, 20 November 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Very well said, Moloch. Perhaps that’s the real story here; after all, the ‘forum’ that Butler hastily put together wouldn’t even have happened if it hadn’t been for this censorship-by-mob in the first place. The problem here is NOT that comedians wanted to do a show about the (highly topical) issue of censorship in comedy, the problem is that the clumsy event that replaced it resulted in the humiliation of a participant. It’s deeply ironic that this will probably only add further ammunition to the neo-puritanist/dinosaur-feminist campaign on this issue.

  • 10
    emma jones
    Posted Tuesday, 20 November 2012 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    If you actually read the article, Nick the Hippy, Moloch & Monash.edu, you’d see that it’s not actually saying that all rape jokes should be banned at all. But that doesn’t fit with the “wimmin are oppressing men” narrative, so I suppose it’s better to stick to the script just in case.

  • 11
    Liz45
    Posted Tuesday, 20 November 2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    @Nick the Hippy - The whole point is, that so called ‘rape jokes’ aren’t funny - full stop! If I’m a victim of such a horrific crime, and in time I make a joke at my expense or??that’s different, but I think at best it’s insensitive to even assume that anything to do with this warrants such a forum.

    There are instances where people can’t speak about sexual abuse for years, decades even. This type of making it out to be even a bit funny just drives those people back inside themselves.

    Also, I think it was pretty easy to assume, that at best, the whole thing was going to be ‘out there and tasteless’?

    Have you ever been assaulted in this way? If not, to try and justify the whole mess is NOT doing victims or survivors as I prefer to call these brave people, justice!

    I have a general rule about jokes that I may have a problem with, and it’s this.. I suggest to myself that the person on the receiving end is Jewish, or has a disability, or is blonde, or aged, and if I think such a joke would be hurtful and offensive, then I too reject it!

    This may make me a person with a questionable sense of humour (and I couldn’t care less about that) but having experienced several forms of abusive behaviour in my life, I have a sense of empathy with others!

    Years ago, domestic violence was belittled. It was referred to as ‘just a domestic’? Well, it has nothing that is just about it, and it’s anathema to any semblance of justice. To use your physical, financial power to dominate in any way against another is a crime - and in recent years financial and psychological abuse has been added to the Crime Legislation - about time too!

    Also, where do we draw the line? Where do you draw the line? You joke about young women as victims, but what about a woman in her 80’s (as shown this week when the perpetrator was arrested and charged with rape of this woman)? Is that OK to put in your ‘box of tricks’ as a comedian? I should hope not!

    There are women whose faces have been disfigured by their partners using a gun, petrol and acid? Are these things OK to be joked about! Would you make jokes about plastic surgery in these situations? I should hope not!

    Finally, it’s a pretty poor show when a so called comedian, who refers to themselves as a professional, gets down and dirty with human misery. I’d walk out, if only to show solidarity with anyone in the audience who has suffered via one of these hideous crimes!

    I’d have thought that to have empathy, or even respect for others is what contributes to a civilized society. IF we don’t think we should behave in that manner, than don’t boast of being a civilized society, and don’t criticise the behaviour of others - either in this country or others. My thoughts go immediately to those religious fanatics who use women as trash, and treat them accordingly!

  • 12
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Tuesday, 20 November 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Emma, the article is called, “Hold the applause, why one subject is not fit for comedy.” What I am objecting to is lines like, ” But until comedians like Butler and co understand the importance of kicking up rather than down, it’s probably better than they avoid the subject altogether.”
    Why does the author assume that that is what the comedians involved were going to do? I know that the comedian who was raped was not going to do this. The comedian whose partner was raped says he was not going to do do this. I have no idea what the other six comedians were going to say. Neither does the author. Neither do you. Why? Because nobody bothered to ask before they called for the banning of this show.
    I have not mentioned women oppressing men.
    Men are the rapists in almost all rape. Women are the victims in the majority of rape cases. But not all victims are women and not all men are rapists.
    I have said that the whole thing was badly handled. That does not mean the participants deserved to have the hatred that has been tipped upon them.

  • 13
    Monash.edu
    Posted Tuesday, 20 November 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Wimmin are oppressing men”? Give me a break, Emma. You accuse us of constructing a straw-person only to throw one right back at us! In any case, it’s actually a little ambiguous what Hocking is specifically arguing here, though I’m happy to give her the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, Stewart and her group actually ARE very much in favour of banning rape jokes and have demonstrated this by (successfully) getting the original event cancelled, and I can assure you that they’re far from alone on this. Rather than taking potshots, perhaps you could enlighten us as to your views on the topic?

  • 14
    tripper
    Posted Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    With all this talk about censorship running wild on this forum, I was wondering - didn’t the organisers decide to cancel the debate? I realise that there was a social media protetst, but essentially the organisers made the decision -no-one held a knife to their throat and forced them. I wonder why the change of heart? It seems as though if the men on this forum (who appear to be horribly oppressed) were part of the line up they would have had the intestinal fortitude to push ahead, because clearly, its a topic (rape comedy) that’s very very important to them. What a shame. You guys should contact the club and get it going again. Sounds like you would have a packed house as men talking about coping with the effects of rape and having a good ol laugh sounds like a great night. And you know, if you really believe in something, its worth fighting for.

  • 15
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Liz, I stated in my first post that I had been sexually abused as a child and that I had used this experience on stage. I have never done a rape joke on stage as my writing ability was not that good after 15 years. If the participants in the debate had got up on stage and made jokes at victims expense they should have been booed off stage and would deserve the abuse that came their way.
    My point is that I have heard the view points of two of the participants. One is a rape victim, the other had a partner who was raped. Neither of them was likely to make fun of the victim.
    Genevieve Stewart, the woman whose blog started this and who was cruelly booed from stage the following week, said in her original blog that some rape jokes can be funny and gave as an example Louis CK. It is possible to do a joke which empowers the victim. It takes immense skill to do so and very few comedians are good enough to do so.
    Comedy audiences are not stupid. As the author states in the article, they will let a comedian know when they have crossed the line. If an act continues to ignore what their audience is telling them then they won’t get work.

  • 16
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Tripper, the organizers cancelled the event after threats were made to the staff and the venue.
    I really thought that having been a victim of sexual abuse and then having used that abuse to make people laugh I had some valuable viewpoints. I really thought I raised some important issues but people haven’t addressed one of them. It is too easy to attack me for being a male. I have been discussing this on various comedians forums but this is the first forum where the discussion has broken into gender lines and that I find sad.
    I had nothing to do with this event. I have said it was poorly organized and that it was stupid to have the event without women. My only contact with any of the participants came afterwards. Having seen what I’d written on another forum he contacted me to thank me for the support. He also revealed he had been raped himself and that he was now feeling really awful about the whole thing. We caught up and talked for five hours.
    I am not a misogynist. I thought Julia Gillard’s speech was a ripper. Before comedy I was a centre of the city youth worker and was constantly dealing with the affects of sexual assault. I do not want to see bad comedian after bad comedian hop up on stage and do bad rape jokes. Nor do I want to see a world where brilliant comedians and survivors of rape can’t do material that makes an audience think about rape.
    It is not right to stop a discussion before it happens and without bothering to find out what people are going to say. The venue and its staff were threatened. That is a fundamental free speech issue.
    The end.

  • 17
    Damien Walker
    Posted Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Courtney, it’s not clear to me what axe it is you’re grinding here. Clearly, you disagree with the originally planned comedy debate, but as the event was cancelled some time ago I can’t see why you’re still being critical.

    You’re similarly critical of the “forum where people were invited to discuss the cancellation and rape jokes in general”. But it’s a forum, an opportunity to present a point of view, educate yourself or educate others. You may not agree with Kieran Butler’s view that his freedom of speech has been violated (what a dick, did he really say that??) but the point of a forum is to air your opinion and hear the opinions of others. Kind of like posting an article on a website and allowing comments…

    Presumably the forum was not an all male event as Genevieve Stewart took part. So what is “the fiasco at Station 59”? I guess this leaves the neanderthal hecklers in the audience. If we’re going to get our panties in a knot over hecklers then perhaps comedy isn’t our calling.

    Unless I’m missing something, the original debate shouldn’t have been scheduled, so it was cancelled. The forum was an opportunity for a panel to discuss the topic with an audience, and they did. Some hecklers dropped their pants and showed us their tiny little, er, intellects, and they shouldn’t have.

    Is there more to this than I’m seeing? It appears to me your problem is with the hecklers and the obvious hurt they caused. The rest, I’m not so sure.

  • 18
    Monash.edu
    Posted Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Tripper, the organisers didn’t cancel it, the owner of the venue did — and he did it because, he alleges, one of these reasonable-minded activists threatened his children with rape. If that’s not censorship by mob, what is?

  • 19
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    What really comes through to me about the whole debate is how little women trust men to be able to have reasonable discussion about rape. I am not claiming women are oppressing men, rather that women are underestimating men. Without any evidence, the people who have protested the event and the author have assumed that the whole discussion was going to make light of an important issue. I have repeatedly stated that one of the participants was raped and that one had a partner who was raped. Neither of them were going to laugh at the victims and nobody has produced a single bit of evidence that this is what the other participants were going to do.
    I retired from comedy five years ago and have attended very little comedy since then. I first became aware of the fact that there were concerns about male comedians doing rape jokes when I read an article in “The Guardian” at the time of this years Edinborough Comedy Festival. I don’t know if this is happening on the local comedy scene, but if it is then a debate about whether rape jokes should be told would seem important.
    Liz in her first post mentions white ribbon day. This was set up by men to speak out about violence and rape against women. Most comedians are intelligent, thoughtful people and I have no reason to believe that the participants in this debate would have reached a similar conclusion to that of the author, Genevieve Stewart and I have come to; rape jokes are ok if they are empathetic to the victim.
    Liz also stated that if her sons had been involved she would walk out after giving them a rebuke. I am sad that she has such a low opinion of her sons that she would not find out what their motivation for appearing was and what they were going to say.
    The vast majority of males are rightly horrified by rape. Why does the author think that the males taking part in this debate thought any differently?

  • 20
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, me again. The second last paragraph should read, I have no reason to think that participants of this debate wouldn’t have reached a similar conclusion….”

  • 21
    Liz45
    Posted Friday, 23 November 2012 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    @Nick the Hippy - Why would women want to speak to the ‘race’ who rape women? Haven’t you ever sat and thought about it? I haven’t told ‘strange’ men about being sexually abused? Why would I? It took me years to tell anyone about my husband’s abuse. Also, if you get an adverse response the first time, you get the message - shut up! I’m still being forced to keep quiet. I’m still being told that it’s my ‘dirty laundry’? I think you need to do some research about the horror and trauma women go through by having someone, usually much stronger violate them? Rape has NOTHING to do with sexual gratification - rape is all about power and control, and hatred! Hatred of women?

    I don’t know what state you live in, but several years ago, due to the ‘gang bangs’ which to me were gang rape, there was an educational program, run by a psychologist. The rugby league players showed more understanding when the scenario was turned around, and a male was dominated, humiliated, violated and raped! That just might answer your query!

    I said, that if my sons listened to a rape joke and did nothing, I’d be ashamed and angry and very disappointed. This is not a topic like who you vote for? There’s nothing about this that is even a weeney tweeny bit funny!

    If you chose to tell a joke on yourself, that’s your right, but to tell a joke about others, any others, is not right and you have a damned cheek, as well as showing gross tastelessness!

    Too many women are not believed when they report crimes of rape and/or DV. They are often told that it’s ‘not that bad’? Only a very small percentage of perpetrators are taken to court (about 10% of those reported, and that’s only about 10% also) and only a very small number are convicted. Too frequently, the women were treated as s***s and/or made to believe it was their fault for being out late; having too much to drink; wearing skinny jeans or short skirts or????

    One in 4 girls will be sexually abused by the time they’re either 16 or 18. That’s a huge number of young women you pass every day on the street. Most perpetrators are known to the victim - that just might give you another insight into why women don’t discuss their horrific crime with men - they don’t know who to trust!

    If I told you of my experiences of being violated twice before the age of 17, and you uttered just one word of dismissal or questioned me or???I’d probably not tell anyone else again - either ever, or for a very long time!

    If, as you say, most comedians are “intelligent, thoughtful people” then they wouldn’t make up jokes about rape! That is a contradiction! The more talent they have, the less ‘need’ for engaging in jokes about this awful crime. I don’t think you realise that this is a crime? Would you think the same way if they told jokes about child sexual abuse? No, why is that? Tasteless! Gross! or just actions of a bastard/s!

    I’m not questioning the truth of your assertions re being a victim of sexual abuse, I just think your response was unusual, to say the least. Most people I know of who were sexually abused as a child, are certainly NOT going to make jokes about it in public - even in the company of a couple of strangers? You are the exception to the rule! There is no way that they’ll risk upsetting another person out there! AND they know what it’s like NOT to be believed? Why sometimes, in the event of a father or step father, there own mother doesn’t believe them.

    Billy Connolly, for all his colourful language has never joked about any crimes of violence as far as I know! Why? He’s very intelligent and talented - he doesn’t need to resort to that sort of garbage to make people laugh!

    In the 80’s I organised two support groups for women with RSI. We had a strong commitment to believing other women sufferers, because we got enough shit from the media, employers, insurance companies, barristers for the employers etc. We would joke among ourselves, even send ourselves up, but we only did that in an atmosphere of trust and affection - because we knew that we all felt the same, and would NEVER joke about someone else’s pain, or being sacked or our experiences in court etc!

    Men lead a life of privilege in comparison to women. All Laws are made by men for men mostly. Their integrity etc is not questioned as much as women’s. They are not oppressed like women are, not just here, around the world!

    I don’t want to see ANY comedian ‘get up’ and tell any jokes about rape? I just don’t think it’s funny. All too often it wrecks peoples’ lives for ever. Many are never able to have loving sexual relationships? Many lose their relationships and families due to their trauma. Many suffer PTSD for a very long time! Why would a decent person run the risk of furthering this trauma. I don’t like to hurt people. I just wouldn’t be able to do this!

  • 22
    Monash.edu
    Posted Friday, 23 November 2012 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Hey Nick, Just wanted to post to say that was an excellent post. Many great points made by Damien too, although I disagree with his conclusion that the event should never have happened in the first place. It was totally legitimate, just a little unfortunate (but not fatally so) that no women were on the panel.

  • 23
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Friday, 23 November 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    The lesson we learn from all this is if you see something you don’t like the title of, without bothering to find out what is happening, we organize a social media campaign, wait for threats to be made against staff and innocent children until the event is cancelled and we are the good guys.
    Why aren’t more people upset about this.

  • 24
    emma jones
    Posted Friday, 23 November 2012 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    So the two guys talking over everyone else and patting each other on the back don’t understand how it could be a big deal

    Once again - read the article. It’s not saying that oppression of your “freedom of speech” (freedom to be a selfish, entitled loudmouth whose opinions are more important than anyone elses, mind) is the answer at all. But why let the facts get in the way of a good mansplainy whine, eh.

  • 25
    Liz45
    Posted Friday, 23 November 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    @Nick? What’s the real history of WRD? Do you know? Are you going to Take the Oath? If not, why not?

  • 26
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Friday, 23 November 2012 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Liz. Yes I know the history. Yes I have taken the pledge. Have you condemned the threats of rape against the venue owners children. I have said repeatedly that I too am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I have said that making fun of people who have been raped is wrong.
    I an still waiting for a single one of the points I have raised to be addressed.

  • 27
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Friday, 23 November 2012 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Liz, sorry about the last post but you post from 12-03 has just appeared, things are just getting so confused with moderation. Two years ago I was forced to leave a house I had built, a job I enjoyed and lifestyle I love when a sociopath used the fact I had been abused as a child to continually hurt me. I have not had a day since then when I have not felt anger at what happened to me.
    While this whole episode was happening there was always a voice in the back of my head saying, “This is an amazing story.”, and I have started to write the funnest book I can about sociopaths. Humor is how I cope with things, sexual abuse included.
    One of the things that has amazed me about this whole event when discussing this on comedian forums is how many male comedians have talked about their own experience of being raped or sexually abused.
    This was not an event where people were going to get up and the winner was whoever told the funniest rape joke. It was a debate on whether or not rape jokes should be told on stage. The author of this article, the woman whose blog started the whole protest and I agree that it is possible to tell a good rape joke. That is one that shows empathy with the victim or laughs at the rapist.
    In my experience this is what bullies, rapists and pedophiles like least. Being laughed at removes their power. The sociopath that targeted me did so after I used humor to prick his bubble after he was appallingly rude to someone else.
    I am sorry that males have caused you so much pain in your life. They have also done their bit to destroy my life too. Just as whites have destroyed our indigenous peoples lives. That doesn’t make all whites bad or all men bad.
    Yes, Billy Connelly is a comedy genius. His comedy is innocent. However many people find him offensive because of his language. Louis CK is also comedy genius and his comedy is darker. It was his rape joke that Genevieve Stewart cited as an acceptable rape joke. His joke worked because he said that raping someone was worse than killing them.
    I belong to Destroy the Joint. I am removing my membership of NRMA because of their continued support of Alan Jones. I do so on the basis of what he had said in the past. What happened with the debate was that something was forced to be cancelled because of what people assumed was going to be said. As I have said in previous posts the fact that one of the people was a survivor of rape shows that some of these assumptions were wrong.
    If we as a society are going to start banning things because people might get offended then you can’t watch Billy because some people might get offended by his language.
    Sorry, free speech is difficult. I don’t want to listen to Andrew Bolt but I don’t want to live in a place that bans him. And please don’t lose faith in men, for every Tony Abbott there is a Bob Brown.

  • 28
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Friday, 23 November 2012 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    Liz, I believe the figure for sexual abuse of females under 18 is closer to one in three. The figure for males is one in six. This includes Billy Connelly. I don’t know if he ever talked about it on stage but it would be something I would love to hear.

  • 29
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Emma, At 6-26pm on Wednesday Monash Edu posted that the reason the debate was cancelled was that a threat to r*pe the owner’s children was made. It is now 9-40 on Saturday and not one person has written to deplore the action. So let me get this straight; r*pe is such a terrible crime that a group of comedians can’t have a debate on, “There is nothing funny about r*pe” but it is OK to threaten children with the same crime to stop the debate. The threat was worse than the debate or is my male brain missing something.

  • 30
    Liz45
    Posted Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    @Nick the Hippy! I’m always concerned with quoting the wrong figure and then being challenged on it! I know it’s disgracefully high! Of course,we may have to look at those stats again after the Royal Commission etc. Like the crimes of DV and rape of adults, only a small number are reported. I never told anyone when I was a child, or even a young adult. I DID tell my ex husband, which makes his violence, controlled behaviour so reprehensible. Like predators of children, sociopaths like my ex carefully pick their ‘targets’ and also ‘manipulate/groom’ them to meet their ‘needs’? Their need to control and dominate, coupled with the fear of being left alone. The sick thing is, that they create the ‘need’ of their victims to leave - when they get the courage/support, or the self esteem or feel safe enough etc. They lack empathy and remorse, and usually chose another one pretty soon - and so the cycle continues. It’s only AFTER they realize the enormity of their controlled/violent behaviour, apologize, show remorse and seek counselling that they change.

    The issue re the shameful act of threatening such a diabolical act as rape is a disgrace, but don’t lump all people with such a view? It was only ONE person/event? You don’t water down a strong stand against joking in any way about this horrific crime, just because a tiny minority act like potential criminals themselves? Our justice system, while not perfect would be a sham if we did that!

    I don’t move one bit about my stand. Rape is not funny, not even a little bit, and any clever comedian would NOT have to rely on this scourge for ‘laughs’? If they want to joke about their own experience that’s their prerogative, but even then there would be the chance of upsetting people still recovering/living with this horror! This response does NOT imply that they have no sense of humour? It’s due to the PTSD or Complex Trauma Disorder that sadly often travels with victims for life. Surely, a professional performer would hate to think, that a person in the audience may even think of self harm, let alone suicide after listening to the performer and/or audience make light of this horror! I think that performer is cruel and thoughtless - not funny!

    Would you think it OK to joke about losing a family member through cancer or a car accident? I’d be upset by this as I’ve lost people I love in both scenarios? Not funny at all! For the same line of reasoning, nor are rape jokes! Clever comedians make people laugh from just the ordinary stupid things we all do every day! They’re clever, do their research, practice their lines, and work on the shows all the time. These people don’t need to cause injury or awful emotional pain to one section of the audience in order to make the others laugh! Such people who do are lazy, not professional, and not very smart in my view, and definitely NOT funny!

    Yes, Billy Connolly had an awful life as a young person. But, he’s a kind man with strong views on ‘ordinary people’s rights etc’ and wouldn’t use crimes of rape in his lengthy one man shows? Now, that’s real talent! I love him and always enjoy his TV shows! His swearing with his broad accent is also funny to listen to! Almost sounds ‘nice’ if you know what I mean! However, I won’t be watching him with my great-grand daughter though!!!!!I’ll adopt the ‘record now watch later’ philosophy! His shows are only for adults, not impressionable children!

  • 31
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Liz, I do remember you fondly from the much missed Pure Poison. Have you found any alternative site? Billy is a once in a generation comedian and to expect anybody else to be like him is like having a go at a band for not being as good as the Beatles.
    Comedy is like any other art form. Some movie makers make Gone with the wind, some make Psycho. Both are classic movies. It is your choice what you want to watch.
    I found that fellow survivors enjoyed my childhood abuse jokes more than the rest of the audience and often came up after shows to thank me. Sue Ann Post was a female comic that talked about her own abuse experiences on stage.

  • 32
    emma jones
    Posted Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I don’t in any way condone threats being made on the owners or their children, Nick. I don’t condone threats being made on anyone.

  • 33
    Liz45
    Posted Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    @Nick the Hippy - That is just awful beyond words. It’s bad enough being abused, but to have some d******d lump more grief on you just goes to show, that some people were just behind the door when any decency was being handed out - let alone sensitivity.

    I think a person could tell a joke IN private about their own experiences, but I don’t believe it should go public. Too much of a risk of doing to others what that person did to you! I’d hate to make someone’s pain worse! I’m all for people sharing their experiences though. It has great healing powers as it lets others know that they’re not alone. I’d love $100 for every story I’ve heard over the years, even when I didn’t tell anyone about my life as a ‘punching bag’? I’ve only started doing that since 2009? A wonderful counsellor who also read out a bit of my experiences at a Reclaim the Night rally - using an assumed name of course. Wow! Wasn’t that a huge event in my life? It was also read out on ABC radio the same year on WRD! Very emotional for me, but the positive affect was simply amazing! The turning pointre ‘going public’ even when I still don’t use my proper ID!

    Billy Connolly’s language? More damage has been done by using ‘proper English’ than swear words? Wars have been declared; people been wrongly accused or found guilty of crimes they didn’t commit and the list goes on. I think his broad accent takes the harshness out of his f bombs? One of my sisters would freak as if she’d been shot! she hit another sister once who said a similar word? She’d have a go at me frequently if she lived with me?She doesn’t engage in reality much at all! Life is only sweetness and light!!!sigh!

    I think that Pamela’s book was in place of Billy telling his own story on stage or anywhere else. On the few occasions that he’s been questioned (gently, thank goodness) it’s easy to see how much he suffered. I wonder that he’s able to be a comedian to be honest. What a strong and lovely human being he is! And so are you….

    On a lighter note. I remember when Billy was awarded an Honourary Doctorate in ??? and it really p****d her off! She had to study and work damned hard for hers! Even though she laughed, I think she was a bit serious all the same. she’s a great person too! They seem to have the perfect relationship! Different but the same, if you know what I mean. They support each others need to follow their own skills etc? Nothing jealous or possessive in their relationship! Refreshing!

    I couldn’t tell jokes about the psychological/verbal abuse that my husband dished up to me. Humiliating and derisive comments in front of my growing kids. Even bad news re a possible serious illness about one of the children wasn’t off limits? Joked about my white face and how ‘awful’ it must be to be a mother when my (his also)youngest could hardly breathe from asthma/croup type illness. I remained calm, loving and supportive with him, but once he went off to sleep, while I watched his little body, reaction set in, and when I went outside with my cup of tea, he started making fun of my pain - nice b*****d eh?

    This precious little bloke started having asthma attacks at 2 WEEKS of age! I often went to sleep with my head in the bottom of the bassinet, and would wake up stiff, sore and freezing! He never even took his turn! Just a complete ‘deficit’ of humanity!

    I could never use even gentle humiliation on others. I know how painful and demeaning it can be. Even during the last days of my father’s life ex never let up running me down - I was running the home, going out to work, seeing to my kids, cooking etc as usual, looking after my little mother (with siblings) had lost weight and was almost a nervous wreck! No matter! Just a turd!

    He even threatened me about 6 years ago! Threatened to ‘talk to others’? I didn’t ask about what? I haven’t murdered anyone or robbed a bank? See how narcissistic these people are. The mongrel who forced you out of your home was also one - no recognition of their crimes, no empathy, no remorse, no apology, nothing! They’re to be pitied I suppose, but I don’t. He knows exactly what he did! When I challenged him for not telling our sons the truth about his violent behaviour, he said, ‘why would I want to do that’ and then he threatened me? So he lets them think it was my fault. One day….. Truth will out!

    What goes around comes around’? I hope!

  • 34
    Liz45
    Posted Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    @emma jones - I’m with you! Children are off limits, period! To threaten someone’s children is too disgusting for words. Everyone’s children are too precious! sometimes I feel very sad about human beings cruelty. Just goes to show how disgusting human beings can be! As I often joke, ‘would a whale do that’? Of course not! No wonder I love whales! More than lots of human beings - except kids! I was going to have 6? (I was very young at the time?) I had 3 and they almost ‘took me out’ (Lol). 3 are enough to raise and educate etc!

  • 35
    Nick the Hippy
    Posted Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Liz, I don’t think we will ever agree about offensive comedy. I can’t think of anything more boring than watching people on stage not saying things on the off chance they may offend anyone.
    I would encourage you to write down your experiences with abuse. It is amazing how liberating it is. You really do regain power. That is why I joke about being abused.
    Peace, love and respect,
    Nick

  • 36
    Liz45
    Posted Thursday, 29 November 2012 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Hi Nick - Been really sick with the flu or??Just lousy! On the mend now.

    I’m writing a book about DV and my experience/s of same. Hit a brick wall a couple of months ago, not sure why? Bit confronting to relive some things, but am fired up again now!

    Went to a Forum on Monday re Dv. Two women speakers, one about the affects on the developing foetus re exposure to DV to the Mum - most informative and sobering as well.

    Then, a Speaker on ‘Gaslighting’? You may have heard of this. It’s the behaviour that people use in order to reduce and invalidate a person’s account of events in order to either drive them insane, or at least make them lose self esteem etc and question everything they think/say etc. Usually done by men against women, either in the workplace or at home (relationships).

    The term was born out of a 1940 movie called ‘Gaslight’ which was remade in 1944 with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer as her husband. His goal was to drive her nuts so he could get his hands on her jewellery/wealth. He did things like telling her he was going out, went upstairs and turned the gas lights on, thus diminishing them in the rooms his wife was in. There was nobody else in the house except a maid/s and when she questioned her husband he told her she’d imagined it! He was on a campaign of convincing her that black was indeed white!

    This struck a chord with me. I went up and spoke to the presenter afterwards, and was slightly emotional. It was my reality for most of my marriage! It’s a cruel and vicious thing to do to somebody. It works so well due to the perpetrator isolating the victim first! Drive away family, friends etc so the victim’s self esteem and support networks are either diminished or non existent! I’ve waited for almost 50 years for a name to be put to this callous form of abuse.

    Some women experience it at work by their boss or co-workers! An early example in my case: my ex and I were babysitting his parent’s house while they were on holidays. I was almost ready to give birth. He threw a lamp at me, which fortunately missed said belly and landed on the floor and broke. He was fixing it when his parents came home. He told them that I did it! I denied it of course, but his ‘explanation’ put me in a poor light and only reinforced his earlier assertion that I did it! I realised that if I insisted it wasn’t me, I’d look like a real liar! I just let them assume it was me! Nowhere to go. No witnesses? I was furious as well as really scared. I realised what he was capable of! That’s ‘gaslighting’? That event happened 49 years ago! Scary aren’t they?

    In the workplace, an example - a meeting could be arranged, the worker not told, then ‘evidence’ appears to ‘prove’ she was told, and then she’s in trouble, ridiculed etc in front of other workers! When they complain, they’re told they’re nuts, defensive, crazy, mistaken etc? When this happens a few times she loses self esteem, confidence in her own abilities etc even in minor things. She’s either fired or leaves when position becomes impossible!

    I can remember feeling that I was losing my
    grip’? That I couldn’t have heard it the way I thought etc? Sometimes he showed disinterest in something the first or second time I mentioned it, only to complain later about an action/s that he wanted nothing to do with! You go nuts! Truly! I only wish I had access to today’s technology, I would’ve taped everything he said! They are sociopaths and/or narcissists or both! The argument/s, cold shoulder, no speakies etc can go on for days and days! Punishment for ‘displeasing’ him/her! Another is to accuse victim of being overly sensitive; deliberately mis-hearing/misunderstanding due to lack of intelligence etc? Stupid! Not fit to look after self let alone kids etc? On and on it goes! Most destructive to say the least!

    Of course, the perpetrators have already found out enough about you to know your vulnerabilities/weaknesses, what upsets you etc? Nice eh? In the community they’re calm, rational, competent, capable people with a ‘social conscience’ etc? All a front!

    Sometimes it’s associated with sexual harassment even assault! Scary!

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