Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Patricia Lockwood isn't Laughing

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

At some point, most of us have had a family member or acquaintance make a joke about sexual assault. The debate has been going on for ages – are those sorts of jokes inappropriate, or should feminists just lighten up about it? Personally, I think that we should do anything but lighten up. After all, according to the most recent statistics from RAINN, one in six American women are survivors of sexual assault.

If whether joking about this very serious matter was even a question, that question received an answer from poet Patricia Lockwood when she published her poem, “The Rape Joke,” on The Awl on July 25th and it quickly spread across the internet, both inside and outside of feminist spheres.

Lockwood's frankness, honesty and a large helping of irony bring the speaker in the poem to life, though the contents of the work are graphic and could be triggering for some readers. This is the most striking aspect of the poem, however. Lockwood takes a subject that many would rather keep at a distance – for example, by using crude and misogynist humor – and makes the issue very immediate and very personal. To anyone who's made an attempt to conflate humor and sexual assault – and honestly, to anyone who hasn't – read Lockwood's poem here.

I dare you to laugh at a rape joke ever again.

Kai Niezgoda
NOW Intern

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