Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Two Republicans Walk Into a Bar and Other Wrong Jokes

Humor is the brain processing incongruent thoughts and realizing they don’t fit together. Why the human body responds with laughter, I do not know. It is more practical than responding with hiccups.

Maybe humans used to respond by either laughing or striking out violently against the person who made the non-compatible statements, and over time those who laughed out-survived those who attacked. I have no idea.

Harrisburg has a Comedy Club. We attract nationally known comics. Although I fear, within the comedy industry, the new standard is “you know your career is in trouble if you’re performing in Harrisburg.”

I have been to this club several times. It also gives a forum to local as well as lesser known comics. This is good. It may also be one of the few comedy clubs without a drink minimum, which is also good for those who don’t wish to drink.

Jokes have been told at this club. Which is sort of the point. People joke about relationships, current events, celebrities, rape, etc.

 Except, rape jokes are not funny. The reason they are not funny is it not incompatible ideas that could never happen. Some surveys have found approximately one sixth of the females in the audience, on average, have been sexually assaulted. It is not funny to them. It can bring back traumatic memories.

Still the debate about rape jokes rages within the comedic world. I have read some humorists argue that all jokes are protected by freedom of speech. It is fair to joke about anything.

I have read others describe there are some rape jokes that are alright. They argue there is a critical difference between making the rape victim the brunt of the joke or making the attacker the joke’s target. Perhaps making fun of the system that makes reporting and prosecuting rape is fine.

Some argue that any rape joke is wrong. It upsets too many people who had to live through or live with someone who was raped.

One key to any performance is you have to appeal to the audience that is paying money to watch and listen the show. If there is no audience, there is no show.

I believe that one has to be sensitive to the reality that a number of people, men and women, have been raped or faced an attempted assault. They did not pay to be needlessly emotionally hurt by a performance with others around them laughing at the cause of their pains.

This discussion explodes in magnitude when one considers data from the Institutional Betrayal Questionnaire that was completed by 345 college females. This found that almost half of those surveyed had been sexually assaulted.

Almost half is much higher than one sixth. One half of young females is dramatically higher than one sixth over lifetimes.

Is this Institutional Betrayal Questionnaire an outlier whose results are not consistent with other studies? Or is this telling us something important? Perhaps young people are experiencing more attacks. Perhaps young people are more aware and more willing to step forward and identify attacks that people older than them used to ignore.

Over one third of the assaults reported by these college students were institutional assaults. This mean they were forced against their will to have sex with someone who was their boss, teacher, religious figure, judicial system officer, military commander, etc.

Perhaps in the past we chose to be blind to such assaults. We are now more aware and open about this. We have seen locally where several teachers, male and female, have been arrested for seducing students. We have witnessed the sex scandals at universities and places of worship.

Are these recent arrests just a few among many? This also leads to the next discussion: If there are so many attacks, how are so many attackers getting away with it?

Jennifer Freyd, a former social issues activist in Pennsylvania, left our state and now teaches Psychology at the University of Washington. She was involved in this Institutional Betray Questionnaire and has written about how we tend to be blind to various kinds of assaults and betrayal.

We are blind to the betrayal of assault for numerous reasons. The brain protects itself from trauma by subsiding the disturbing memory. When the perpetrator is someone one respects or has some dependency upon, such as an employer or partner, one often puts more importance on the positive aspects of continuing the relationship than one puts on the negative, abusive points.

We need to learn to recognize abuse and betrayals and to speak up. There are dangers to doing this. People often disbelieve accusers. Because the mind subjugates traumatic experiences, accusers may not recall all the facts. Complacency and failure to speak before is after turned around and claimed to have been consent.

If abuse is increasing, or even if we are recognizing it more, there are some trends we need to reverse We need more school counselors who are trained in handling abuse cases.If these problems are so prevalently reported by college students, many of their problems happened before college. By catching problems earlier in life, so many longer terms problems can be prevented and minimized,

It is hard to advocate for increased counseling in a time when our schools are barely able to provide basic educational programs. We need to join in making state government aware that counselors are necessary. They also need to realize this will save them money down the road as abused children as more apt to be causes of expensive future social services.

We also need to listen. It is true that not every accusation is true. Yet we need to stop hiding from these problems. By letting people know that if they voice the knowledge of their betrays, there are people who will listen and not judge.

It is also important that abusers and potential abusers hear these messages. They need to realize these actions and wrong. They must know that people will speak out if they abuse.

We as a society need to do all this. We have been blind to betrayals on many level. We need to speak out, listen, and act against many types of abuses. Many have looked the other way when horrific crimes such as genocide occurred. Many do not get involved when they see local corruption. We need to learn to speak out more.

It is good people are talking about this. When it is pointed out how many famous comedians in the past told rape jokes, we must remember that was back in a time when people did not talk about this. So it was seldom discussed, and thus struck people as incongruent thoughts back then to talk about it. Yet, the fact we are talking about it is raising awareness of rape and assaults to new levels. We are realizing that assaults, even if not successfully completed or become consensual, are especially wrong when those with power of someone else abuses that power. That, people are opening up about.

This is serious. It is not a joke.


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