Crime Culture Education

We interviewed 5 Malaysian guys on their thoughts about rape jokes. Here’s what they told us.

By now quite a few of us would have heard of the case involving a local university student making rape jokes about another student, and that incident pretty much becoming huge news over the past week.

For those of you who have not heard about this, what happened was that a female student, from IACT College, recently posted up a series of tweets about how she had come to know of a WhatsApp chat group which was created to discuss the girls from the new intake of students. But what made this such a big issue wasn’t the WhatsApp chat group, but the things that were being said in it.

rape joke university

Image from nextshark.com

The male student who made the comment above wasn’t actually from IACT, but its parent company, Brickfields Asia College (BAC), but the two share the same building. Since then, many other news sites have covered the story, but here’s what happened in a nutshell:

  • She tweeted about the incident.
  • Both IACT and BAC said they would handle it.
  • A few days later she tweeted again that the university had not done enough to punish the student.
  • The student was eventually suspended and given 100 hours of community service.
  • The female student left the university for fear of her safety.

We can all agree that this whole case was a really unpleasant one. But perhaps one question that does arise from this is what would lead a guy to even say such a thing? Is it a common thing among Malaysian guys? Or is what he said something out of the ordinary? It was reported that some people were even defending the guy for saying such things.

So what we did was speak to a few other guys and ask them what they actually thought about rape jokes, and they had some pretty interesting comments. Please bear in mind, when we spoke to these guys, we told them they can be as honest as they wanted to (and we’re very grateful that they were), so names have been changed to allow them to do so, and some of the language may be quite offensive and vulgar.

 

Yes, the word rape is thrown around quite regularly among guys

So many of the guys have said that their group of friends do use the word RAPE quite lightly sometimes.

“Not that I joke about these kinda stuff but, if other people do it I’m fine with it. Like in games like DOTA people get rekt and just say like “I just got raped” or something like that.” – Randy, university student

“For me rape jokes can be figurative. Like how in high school when you’re playing Counter-Strike or Call Of Duty in the cyber cafe and you shout to your friends you’re gonna rape their t*ts.” – Kamal, social entrepreneur

cs go chatroom2

So it can get quite vulgar. This writer himself has heard his friends say some really outrageous things when gaming with friends, and admittedly has participated in them. Interestingly enough, many of them do believe in some sort of limit to these kind of jokes.

“Kalau lelaki dengan lelaki okay lagi sebab kita tahu bergurau. Tetapi kalau lelaki dengan perempuan mesti ada masalah.” – Farhan, columnist

“I think it is not okay to make those jokes in public.” – David, IT guy

But here’s the thing, the limit is different for each person. Even among the guys in CILISOS, some people admit to saying some things that others consider taboo.

So how in the world can guys draw the line between what is the limit and what isn’t? As we can see from the two comments above, they seem to have different definitions of what the limit is, so that itself could be a problem right?

Well, aside from limits, these guys also brought up a different element when it comes to rape jokes, or jokes in general which is….

 

When a person makes a joke, maybe we need to look at the context as well

baby laughter home-alone

“Lawak itu bergantung kepada siapa yang kita cakap dengan. Itu penting. Tengok pada siapa kita cakap.” – Farhan

“I think to me it depends on the context and whom they are joking with including surrounding people who’d hear it. From that group chat it sounded like deprived boys fueled by testosterone that are sexually frustrated because they aren’t getting any so they vent among each other.” – Kamal

One of the guys we spoke to, Leslie, mentions that when it comes to context, jokes, even rape jokes, may actually be beneficial to society because it can be used to critique what is wrong with society. Comedian George Carlin has spoken about rape jokes before, and in his segment he actually makes a long elaborate joke involving a rapist and an 81-year old woman only to address something at the end: about how ridiculous victim shaming is. So the joke is more on society than the actual rape scenario.

“Comedy does not have the right to further victimise victims, or give further power to oppressors. Good comedy has a point, is intelligent and understands what it is talking about. It should teach us something new, or show us a new perspective.” – Columnist Mia Doring, on The Huffington Post

victim blaming

Image from definedlines.org

So we know that there are jokes that use rape somewhat figuratively, and jokes that actually are used to criticise rape.

The thing is, the BAC student was actually making a joke that victimised the victim, and gave further power to the oppressors. It was actually offensive to the female student, and judging from what we see from social media, we cannot deny that it was something that offended many other people as well. 

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All the guys we spoke to at the very least indicated that they disagreed with what this BAC male student said. But some of the guys we spoke to know that these jokes would actually offend many people, and that’s why if they ever make these jokes, they say them in private, rather than in public. 

“It doesn’t make what they did right, but does this mean that we can’t have private conversations anymore without worrying about people posting it on social media to be judged by the court of public opinion?” – Leslie, editor

“Of course you can discuss anything in a private group. Else we are bordering towards thought policing. (But) Institutions like universities should have a clear policy on things like this.” – David

“They didnt say it to her face so… it wasn’t directed to her, meaning they didn’t have the balls to say it to her face la.” – Kamal

But does all this mean that rape jokes, even when directed to a person, are okay as long as it’s not said directly to the person? To be honest we really don’t know, but then we spoke to one last person which really brought a different perspective to the whole situation.

 

We spoke to a dad about how he saw rape jokes. And yes, it’s quite different

Aaron is a father of a really young girl, and also a lecturer at a university. And being a lecturer he gives a pretty interesting perspective on how he would handle it if the guy was his student.

“I would tell them off, stop the conversation, and help them realise. I think the best I can do is to make them realise that there are people who are not okay with such things.” – Aaron, lecturer and father of one

But he also added that now that he is a father, the experience has changed the way he looks at rape.

“Before becoming a father I wasn’t able to identify with rape. But now with a daughter, news about rape hits me a lot differently.” – Aaron

He also tells us that even though he’s always had his mom and sister around, it was still difficult to fully understand rape because felt his mom and sister were really tough women, and the thought never crossed his mind that something like that could happen to them. It was almost as if he had a Barney Stinson moment, where the character completely changed from his playboy ways after having a daughter.

barney stinson daughter

We’re sure Aaron was legend-ary even before having a daughter. Image from Tumblr.

Of course we don’t want to wait for guys to become fathers before they understand the pain rape can cause, but it does go to show that maybe guys are unable to see the gravity of using the word rape because they cannot emphathise. (In fact, this article takes a look at how many Malaysian guy students still don’t fully know what is sexual harassment and what isn’t.) And throughout the course of human history, hasn’t it always been a struggle for men and women to understand each other?

With that in mind, perhaps it’s best for us to ask this question….

 

And what does the rest of society think about rape?

When we Wiki’d the word RAPE, we stumbled upon something quite interesting.

What we realised was that the perception of rape changes as society changes as well. So yes, since Roman times, we have made some progress 😉 HOWEVER, how we deal with situations like this are important. Rape jokes are dangerous not because it will lead a man to rape a woman, but because of how it affects public perceptions to rape culture.

The term was coined by US feminists in the 1970’s, and it doesn’t mean a culture where people promote rape, but rather it refers to how a society views rape as a whole.

“When we talk about rape culture, we’re discussing something more implicit than that. We’re talking about cultural practices (that, yes, we commonly engage in together as a society) that excuse or otherwise tolerate sexual violence.

More often than not, it’s situations in which sexual assault, rape, and general violence are ignored, trivialized, normalized, or made into jokes.” – Columnist Shannon Ridgway, on everydayfeminism.com

society teaches about rape

Some of us guys may not notice it, but it rears its ugly head through stories of famous people getting support even when accused of rape because they are famousvictim-shaming, and even songs (even in Malaysia we’ve seen instances of rape culture). Of course rape does happen to men as well, but it generally happens to women. In Malaysia alone, statistics show a woman is raped every 35 minutes! So it is fair to say that women face the fear of rape more often than men.

Towards the end of writing our article, one woman offered to give her own perspective on why it hurts them so much.

“Being a woman, I can tell you that we’ve lived our lives in completely different realities than men. Even something as simple as walking to our cars in a parking lot… for guys they may not even think too much about it. But for women, every one of our senses is heightened because we’ve been bound by so much fear. And this fear has never left us.” – Amy, friend of writer

It still may not be something that guys can understand right away (this writer himself has trouble understanding the fear women face), but if anything, this university case has shown us that perhaps it’s time we start trying.

“It’s not easy for men to empathize because they live in such realities, but if they could just understand, and instead of using their power to attack, use it to protect us.” – Amy

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