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Rape jokes weren't funny. Until this feminist website made a bunch of them.

Rape jokes can be funny — when the target is rape culture.

Rape jokes weren't funny. Until this feminist website made a bunch of them.

Something truly unique happened recently on the internet: A comedy website made rape jokes that were actually funny.

Reductress is a hilarious, witty, and unapologetically feminist website where writers take on issues like body image, "lady" marketing, fashion, and important moments in culture.

In this case, Reductress was responding to this story: Basically, anonymous female NYC comedians who reported being sexual assaulted by a male comedian were met not with support. Instead, they were faced with doubt, insults, and even deeply offensive jokes at their expense.


For Reductress' all-female editorial board, enough was enough.

On Aug. 17, 2016, Reductress published article after article full of jokes about rape.

By the evening, they had filled the entire homepage.

Image from Aug. 17, 2016, via Reductress.

The stories weren't full of the typical and incredibly hurtful jokes that we often hear, though. Instead, the jokes pointed out common tropes and misconceptions about rape, hitting on all the issues that are oh-so-familiar to sexual assault survivors and their allies.

For example:

If you're tired of hearing that women are "lying about rape to get attention," reading "I Anonymously Reported My Rape for the Anonymous Attention" might feel pretty cathartic.

If you're sick of the reminder that most survivors of sexual assault know their attacker personally, "Man who sexually assaulted you likes your Facebook Post about assault" will ring agonizingly true.

If you're outraged by a justice system that can sometimes seem eager to find fault in sexual assault survivors, the first paragraph of "Fun Summer Cocktails When They Ask You 'Well, What Were You Drinking?'" will fill you up:

"Summer time and living’s easy! Unless you’re being questioned about a traumatic sexual assault. Luckily, there are refreshing and light cocktails in season, which you can throw back when police, detectives, doctors, friends, and acquaintances ask you, 'Well, what were you drinking that night?'"

Not surprisingly, people loved it.

Most rape jokes usually have two things in common: They're made at the expense of survivors (who are often female), and the jokes are almost exclusively made by men.

Those kind of rape jokes aren't funny to a lot of people, though. For survivors and allies, they can resurface buried trauma. For women, they can be a reminder that 1 in 3 of us will be sexually assaulted in our lifetimes.

And, let's be real: For comedy in general, they're pretty darn lazy. As Garry Trudeau ("Doonesbury") famously reminded us last year: The best jokes "punch up," never down. It's the difference between making fun of a kid who falls over and making fun of the grown man who tripped him.

Or, in this case, making fun of the culture surrounding rape instead of its victims.

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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