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Sex + Relationships

The Ethical Issue of Inappropriate Jokes About Sexual Abuse

Rape is never okay. Sexual assault is never okay. Sexual harassment is never okay. Any form of sexual abuse is never okay and will never be okay. In “An Open Letter to the Guy Who Made That Rape Joke,” the writer discusses an inappropriate joke shared by a fellow classmate. This classmate made an analogy between rape and a difficult exam; he precisely said, “Damn, that exam just raped me hard.”

Let’s first dissect this obviously inappropriate joke. Rape is a form of sexual abuse in which the rapist forces sexual intercourse upon a nonconsenting individual. Rape victims lose control and are ultimately dominated by the presence of the rapist. In most rape cases, the victim feels a sense of guilt, shame and loss of power. By saying that an exam “raped” you hard is essentially attempting to assert that this exam robbed you of your ability to score well. It’s clear that this classmate was attempting to explain the difficulty of that exam, but the way in which he did was completely inappropriate. Who else can we blame but the rape culture we’re in right now?

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time for me to hear an inappropriate sexual abuse joke. One guy once said to me, “What’s the difference between a fridge and a child? The child screams once I put it in.” This is clearly a molestation joke. The ethical problem is that society has normalized inappropriate sexual abuse jokes like this; they call it dark humor (this is part of the reason why I can’t stand South Park).

Never once have I heard a person being called out in public for stating jokes like this. This symbolizes societal acceptance upon jokes like these. Sexual abuse is a serious crime, and the aftermath of living through sexual abuse is only experienced by survivors of such and can literally last till the rest of a survivor’s life. Making inappropriate sexual abuse jokes fundamentally lightens the issue at hand and dehumanizes such victims. Sexual abuse jokes imply that sexual abuse is okay and that victims are just “overreacting.”

As a society, we need to work collectively towards this ethical issue; so the next time we hear an inappropriate sexual abuse joke, we should educate the joker and let them feel that their joke was inappropriate, instead of lightly brushing it off as we’ve been conditioned to do so.


Lamina Reja

Geneseo '22

I am undergraduate student at SUNY Geneseo. I love writing, reading, and trying new things!
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