In the last week, I have encountered two separate posts on social media regarding men’s single status as being due to the fact that “she keeps chewing through the duct tape” or she keeps “escaping.” The first being a comment on a post, the latter being a separate post that pictures a woman sitting next to her male counterpart with her hands and feet bound and duct tape over her mouth. In each instance, both men and women commented on the hilarity of the “joke.”
Representations such as this bother me for two reasons: one, it bothers me that others find violent scenarios of women as funny; and two, that others do not consider how these ‘harmless’ jokes contribute to a rape culture in our society that perpetuates the blaming of the victim. It is disturbing that the very real issue of violence against women can be made into internet memes for entertainment value, or that lighthearted comments about domestic violence can be used for comedic responses and no one is offended. What world are we living in that objectifying women is not just about sexualizing her in every possible way, but also about placing her in bound and gagged scenarios as common chattel, and this is perfectly acceptable? And this is entertainment. This is funny stuff. Women even find this funny. Is our culture so good at masking these issues and blaming women for their own violent attacks that both men and women do not see the harm in these “jokes?”
Typically, the person who speaks up and denounces the objectification of women, in all of its forms, is subjected to ridicule and mocking. That is what becomes unacceptable.That becomes the real issue. One should simply ‘lighten up’ and gain a sense of humor. The issue then becomes a lack in understanding of the “just joking” defense, this commonly overused attempt to veil an insult that we are all too familiar with (and guilty of at some point in our life). Suddenly the woman bound and gagged in the picture next to the goodhearted, yet lonely guy is buried under the larger issue of one’s lacking in any amount of humor. The debate becomes a defense over humor, and any attempt at a lager conversation as to why this should not be used as humor gets lost in the humorless persons lack of reason. One can only assume that the goodhearted, lonely guy is the real victim and we should all sympathize with the poor destitute bloke. Everyone deserves companionship, right?
The problem with this jovial play on entrapment is the very real issue of domestic violence and the many people suffering, even dying over one’s need to control with fear and violence. This scenario should never be transferred into joke material. Once it is taken lightly, the seriousness of the matter is consistently overlooked and the pleas of the victim go unheard. And that is exactly what happens in our culture. From the moment a woman is attacked, be it a stranger or a loved one, not only does she immediately search for what she did to cause it, but any person she reaches out to will instinctively question her involvement in her own attack. Why didn’t you run, scream, hit, bite, punch…why did you put yourself in harms way….what were you wearing…what did you say to provoke….this list can go on and on. Somehow, the perpetrator is instantaneously absolved of all wrong doing until it has been determined that provoke was not a factor. Just as the lonely guy in the “humorous” meme with the tied and taped female companion. For this to be seen as humor, I can only assume that this being his only way to gain companionship is due to the fault of all women and their unwillingness to be with him. In other words, his violent behavior is excused, she is to blame, and this meme is really funny. Perhaps we should stop looking at violence against women as a joking matter and start taking it a bit more seriously. Then, and only then, can we begin to hold perpetrators responsible for their own behavior and give women the strength know that she is not to blame and she will not be blamed.