Comedian Patton Oswalt Changes His Mind About Rape Jokes
5:30 pm, June 17th | by Grace Rasmus
Last year Daniel Tosh told a female comedy fan to “get raped” after she interrupted his open mic set. Within hours, the Internet floodgates opened and an (often vitriolic) debate about rape culture broke out. Thousands of commenters, Twitter users, feminists and comedians shouted at each other and over each other, attempting to figure out how joking about sexual assault fits into the daunting monolith of rape culture.
Hearts were broken when the beloved and notably articulate comedian Patton Oswalt came out on Tosh’s side of the debate. In response to the controversy, he tweeted: “Wow, @danieltosh had to apologize to a self-aggrandizing, idiotic blogger. Hope I never have to do that (again).”
However, after a year of reflection and a smart Salon piece that pointed out his and fellow comedians’ “double standard” of actively condemning violence (like the Boston bombing) but not rape, Oswalt has officially changed his mind.
In a long essay posted to his personal blog over the weekend, Oswalt tackles the seemingly unrelated (at first glance, anyway) topics of rape jokes, joke thievery, and heckling. He writes about how he never really believed in rape culture and scoffed at the idea of comedians participating in it. He saw the rape joke backlash and Tosh’s subsequent apology as a form of comedy censorship, something he would never support. And while he still doesn’t support censorship, other beliefs have changed: “I had my viewpoint, and it was based on solid experience, and it … was … fucking … wrong.”
As Oswalt writes, no one — not even the “feminazis” — is trying to censor rape jokes, per say, but rather restructure them. “In fact, every viewpoint I’ve read on this, especially from feminists, is simply asking to kick upward, to think twice about who is the target of the punchline, and make sure it isn’t the victim,” he reasons.
He notes that just because he isn’t personally affected by rape jokes doesn’t mean that everyone experiences or perceives culture in the same way:
Just because I find rape disgusting, and have never had that impulse, doesn’t mean I can make a leap into the minds of women and dismiss how they feel day to day, moment to moment, in ways both blatant and subtle, from other men, and the way the media represents the world they live in, and from what they hear in songs, see in movies, and witness on stage in a comedy club.
To read the rest of Oswalt’s brilliant essay, click here.