Whatever Happened to Consensual Sex?

I’m very picky about reading or watching serialised media such as tv shows, blogs, and any type of comic in order from start to finish. Obviously, this can be rather time-consuming, so for blogs and comics I usually read a few of the more recent ones to see if I think starting from the beginning will be worth it. This was the case with the blog Hyperbole and a Half. A facebook friend occasionally linked to entries from it, and these entries made me happy. I particularly liked the one about the Alot. So the next time I was bored, I went back to the first entry so that I could read it all. Unfortunately, this decision has made me very mad at the author of Hyperbole and a Half.

I didn’t have a problem for a while with the entries in the beginning. They weren’t great, but I am well aware that it takes people a while to get into the swing of things. Then I became aware that somehow rape jokes were creeping into the entries. Number 6 on her list of awesome things in life involves a fantasy where her boyfriend leaves her for a centaur, and she confronts the centaur to tell it that she is going to rape her boyfriend because he is “rightfully [hers].” No. Just no. Your boyfriend is rightfully his own, and the last thing that’s going to make him want to be yours is committing a horribly violent and traumatising act on him. This is not funny. This is where I got pissed off enough to stop reading, though I had started to get uncomfortable around the time of her “mandatory sex party” meme, which was essentially, “what if there were parties that pretended to be birthday parties or whatnot, but once you arrived, you were told you had to have sex?” Although the initial mention of this read more as a description of panic of her arrested teenager self, the followup had the definite feel of “wouldn’t it be hilarious to spread this and be the authorities on mandatory sex parties?” Again, no. Just because you’re not using the word rape does not make this any less of a rape joke. We are talking about people being tricked into a situation and being forced to have sex.

For both of these subjects, I perused the comments sections carefully, hoping for even one person to call her on it and make me less depressed about the world, but no. The comment sections were full of the usual adoration, telling her that these things are hilarious, and in some cases, building on these “jokes.” I don’t feel at all comfortable reading her blog anymore, even with my fond memories of the Alot.

4 minutes left.

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9 responses to “Whatever Happened to Consensual Sex?

  • sincere bob

    the “raping the boyfriend” thing probably has to do more with the unintended innocence that is required to enjoy toys as much as children; raping someone you love is probably just a questionable metaphor for possessiveness.

    possessiveness is fuckin dum’.

  • Nicothodes

    I can’t really see this as a metaphor based on her usage. It’s really her replacing any verbs indicating consensual sex with rape to be edgy or shocking or funny or whatever, and failing. If you go into any high school you will hear the same sort of thing. Clearly, I can’t go invading high schools and yelling at the students, but I can rant about the author of Hyperbole and a Half trying to get laughs this way.

  • sincere bob

    I suppose. She doesn’t seem to regularly use toilet humor (at least not sincerely), and the rest of the article was written whimsically; and she’s generally more intelligent and self-critical than most high schoolers… I dunno. It’s not my place to know how these words are used.

  • Nicothodes

    She’s not a high schooler, she’s an adult. I mentioned high school because I feel that that’s the place that rape jokes really start being prevalent, the same as cursing. It’s something taboo, so it’s appealing to use it, except rape is not something that should be joked about, or used interchangeably with the word sex.

  • sincere bob

    i don’t really buy it. i mean, what ten year old *isn’t* told that they’re just doing shit for “shock value?” a society that deals with sophomoric content by polite repression frankly deserves to die and will never earn my respect. the idea that rape shouldn’t be “joked about” is a flat and uninteresting suggestion. while some topics obviously deserve care, it’s also true that this topic is too immensely important to *not* be approached. i will note a few things about ms. hyperbole:
    1. her rape joke took place in the context of frivolity; we are encouraged to not take the point seriously
    2. her rape joke used rape as a metaphor that illustrated the point she was making about possessiveness
    i am aware that rape is often belittled by those who perpetrate it. however, that simply means that we should hate rape jokes that reinforce male power uncritically.

    i mean, do you REALLY not see the rippling humor in rape culture? the deep, perverse irony? the troglodytish denial? rape isn’t just awful–it’s fucking ridiculous! if we can’t laugh at tragedy, then we’ll do something stupid and destructive like community workshops or activism.

  • Nicothodes

    The issue isn’t that we should never be able to joke about anything. The issue is that she is perpetuating the idea that raping someone is funny. Saying that doing that “isn’t serious” and is “frivolous” is taking part in rape culture.

  • sincere bob

    but my point is that she’s not actually talking about literal rape, because her style and the story make this pretty obvious. she seems to be talking more about insecure, emotional possessiveness more than literal rape; although, i think that makes the rape metaphor appropriate, since rape seems defined by insecure, emotional possessiveness too.

    now, i’ve heard plenty of rape “jokes” in which the context was absolutely clear: “rape is funny and women love my genitals even when they say no and all american men enjoy these thoughts.” i just don’t think that’s the sort of “rape joke” we’re dealing with here.

  • Nicothodes

    Yes, I understand that this is a fantasy sort of thing, but her decision to go and rape her boyfriend isn’t a sign of her emotional insecurity, it is portrayed as a sign over her insecurity. Notice that she says this after she takes control over over her situation. In addition to showing her decision to rape(and it doesn’t matter that it’s not actually happening, which is one of the main defenses of rape jokes) as a positive thing in a humorous light, she is contributing to rape culture.

  • Katelyn Amateur

    Learn to say before you sing.

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