Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Greatest Rape Joke Ever Told

No, really.

No, ok, look. I know there's been a lot of talk about rape, and rape jokes, and certain comic who (point of personal preference) has never actually been funny, this week. And all the rest of it. And then Jezebel, of all places, actually published a really great article that sums up the issues around rape, and jokes, and rape jokes, really well. If you haven't read it, go do that. I'll wait. (If you're lazy, the Cliff Notes: Yes, you can joke about rape, because most anything, in the right light, can be funny. It is extraordinarily difficult to joke about rape when you are making rape survivors the butt of the joke. Victim-blaming? In this situation, probably actually never funny. Moving on.)

Which brings us to: This past weekend, when my friend S accidentally spit out what might be the greatest rape joke I've ever heard.

Walking up the street to a bar that is hosting a rather hipster-centric dance night, S and Q and I notice a construction crew on the street we need to cross. They're resurfacing the crosswalk, laying down new crosswalk "paint" - actually strips of white asphalt-like substance that are more wear-resistant than paint. They do this by scrubbing/airblasting the old crosswalk off, then cleaning the space with a flammable cleanser, which they burn off with FLAMETHROWERS. These FLAMETHROWERS are single barreled, duel-nosed contraptions that send off an incredible burst of flame that flares out in a K-shape, with comically perfect flames, about 30 inches in whatever direction it's being pointed. Somehow, the flames always manage to extinguish just short of the operator's toes. This heats the street asphalt and gives the crosswalk asphalt something to adhere to. They lay the strips of crosswalk asphalt down, then go over them with the same flamethrower to melt the asphalts together. Another worker follows behind the flamethrower operator, spreading glass beads over the new surface. These give a tiny bit of traction to the crosswalk, as well as making it more reflective to drivers.

While this is all happening, the flames are spewing from the dueling flamethrowers (two dudes wielding a flamthrower each), a handful of hipsters, S + I included, are staring, fascinated, by SCIENCE happening. The construction crew, in neon yellow construction vests, glances up once or twice (especially at S and I, as we're standing on the same side of the street that they're working on, not 4 feet from their workspace) and glares. Clearly, giggling twenty-somethings are not the usual sort of nuisance they run in to while on these projects.

As I'm slackjawed at SCIENCE, two of the older, more bearded members of the crew look up at me staring like I've never seen a flamethrower before - and in turn, look at me like I'm some sort of fantastic buffoon, S turns to me and states, very matter of factly: "Well, if they didn't want anyone staring at them, they shouldn't be dressed like that."

And then I lose it and die laughing. Because THAT, universe, is what a funny rape joke looks like. You're not trivializing the victim. Heck, S didn't even need to say "rape." But by taking a well known trope of rape prevention/avoidance (even though, as most women know, how you dress has very little to do with whether or not you will be raped), and flipping it around at at a bunch of fully clothed burly men WIELDING FLAMETHROWERS (who are, in fact, attracting attention by wearing neon yellow clothes. Also, FLAMETHROWERS), you reach that glorious intersection of the Benign Violation Theory where humor takes place.

No one is hurt. No one is threatened. And we all got to see some really cool flamethrowers.

Comedians of the world, take note.

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