After multiple viewings of the now-infamous "date rape monologue" that was delivered at the the Upright Citizen Brigade's Del Close Marathon on Aug. 14, in which an audience member publicly shared a story that many have interpreted as a public admission of sexual assault, I thought to myself: "I wonder how Kyle and Zach would tell it. They were funny guys."
When I say "it," I refer to my own rape. It was carried out by two boys -- Kyle and Zach -- at a party 10 years ago when I was 15. Please, don't apologize -- after all, I'm anonymous. But, alright: don't feel too unapologetic. Even as someone who merrily subsists in the comedy world, I admit that no passage of time will allow me to leisurely reflect on the experience. I can't really go to parties anymore (mostly because I'm boring, but partly because I'm terrified). And, though it's been a while since the ordeal happened, trauma-induced flashbacks have their special way of keeping the incident's relevance at a constant.
My most frequent flashback starts in that cliché dim hallway beside a wooden shelf displaying a mother's collection of trinkets. My toes are curling into the carpet and the house is sonically adorned with the faint squawking of an MTV reality show.
I wince at how such an account could preface a "funny" story told by the monologue guy. But even in imagining it fresh on his lips, I somehow don't hate him -- I don't even really know how anyone can put all the blame on him. Don't get me wrong: the overall reaction and response (namely, that Internet attention resulted in a call to authorities) has created an unprecedented cause for celebration. I mean, really -- thank fucking god. I mean, really -- wow. But I have to meekly raise a question before the dust settles: Is it over?
Somehow, that guy had the idea that his story was funny. Where did that idea come from, and is it over? Did its tendency to spread end with our reaction, or is it still breeding, prone to explosions caused by the spontaneous collision of sociological influences? Or worse, is it breeding somewhere, prone to multiply effect through subtle (or major) hints of guidance and patronage?
Comedians act as strong authorities on contemporary culture. Their messages are designed to be welcomed, embraced, and contagious. That is powerful shit; comedians are powerful people. And so are rapists. Obviously, the two operate in very different power scopes, but lines can cross.
Power lines cross when comedians, capitalizing on the element of surprise, may insinuate that forced sex is surprise sex; power lines cross when comedians, capitalizing on the element of truth, imply that rape starts and ends. Rape only starts.
I am referring to, and finally addressing, the widespread, alt-room occurrence of "rape jokes." Most comedians are not guilty of authoring the horrid things. However, rape joke advocates still lurk, coddling the same idea our monologist pal had with greater power. Each time these types of jokes or stories are told, people are forced to listen, forced to deal, forced to flash back. They are forced, again.
I have no doubt that almost every woman who listened to the monologist's story immediately imagined herself in the situation. I have no doubt those who have been assaulted and listened to that monologist's story wondered what I wondered: "Was my story funny?" And, unfortunately, I have an equal amount of doubt and hope that it's over.
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