Sexual Assault: Jokes and Desensitisation

Ultimately, a joke is not merely a joke – it reflects dangerous attitudes.

by Delia Toh, Change Maker

AssaultJust a few weeks ago, popular American Youtuber Sam Pepper uploaded a video of himself pinching the bottoms of women on the streets as a prank. Most women in the video expressed discomfort, but he laughed it off and insisted it was “just a prank”. Closer to home, at a social event I attended, two men enacted a rape scene on stage in an attempt to amuse the audience. Last year, men were up in arms about Ministry of Defence’s ban of a verse about a soldier threatening to gang rape his girlfriend.

As a 22 year old woman, I can attest to the fact that the fear of sexual assault is very real. From a young age, we have been told never to dress provocatively or walk home alone at night. I am fortunate to have never experienced sexual assault, but I have heard many harrowing accounts from my friends, some of whom are victims of sexual assault. The issue of sexual assault is and will always be a part of my life – when it happens to loved ones, when women subconsciously fear for our safety, when women accept taking added precautions to prevent sexual assault as part and parcel of our daily lives.

Sexual assault is a serious matter. Rapists are most likely someone the victims know and trust. Contrary to popular belief, the rapist who leaps out of bushes to rape women passing by at 2 o’clock in the morning is the rarest kind of rapist. As such, when people make light of sexual assault among friends or on social media, it normalises the idea of sexual assault. Someone who already has the intention to violate another person will only receive further validation from these jokes.

Victims of sexual assault rarely seek the help they need because of the stigma and victim blaming they have to endure if they choose to speak out about their experiences. Without a supportive environment, they would only suffer further, especially if people, even their loved ones and peers, treat their experiences as a source of entertainment. I believe people generally refrain from joking about murder victims – it is time we extended that basic respect to victims of sexual assault.

Ultimately, a joke is not merely a joke – it can reflect dangerous attitudes. It is not about whether or not the person making the joke would act on it; it is about the kind of environment we’d like our future generations to grow up in. It is time we treated sexual assault as the grave and inhumane crime that it is.

deliaAbout the author: Delia is a second year Chemical Engineering undergraduate at University College London. She has enjoyed blogging since her secondary school days. She would now like to move on from raving about school work to raising awareness through her writing. She strongly believes people are more different than similar, and that individuals ought to be valued for who they are inside.