Featured Writer: Rosa Escandón

Rape Culture

ROSA ESCANDÓN shares a story about one particular experience while performing and how it has contributed to her understanding of rape culture.  

As I stood on a tiny bar stage in a Manhattan basement, a girl with perfect chunky 1990s highlights gave me the meanest look I have ever seen in my life. I was halfway through a rape joke. The closer I pressed the microphone to my lips, the meaner her face got.

“Dating sucks when you are a rape survivor,” I said over the seemingly laudable nature of her glare, “mostly because at some point you have to tell them. Or, you know, keep it a dark secret forever like a Shonda character.” She is having none of this. I am too crazy to care. “At some point, he’s going to wonder why you are always crying during sex… ladies.”

I was hoping for a “woo.” There was no “woo.”

I continued, “When I told my ex, I sat him down and said very carefully, ‘I need to tell you something. I am a rape survivor.’ and he tells me, ‘Oh like CSI?’” I pause for a second, for laughs. There are about 15 women in the audience, so, statistically, about three women should be vibing on this set. But, she is not one of them, “and I say, ‘No motherfucker, like SVU.” I am now screaming in this tiny bar backroom. “If Olivia Benson isn’t there I don’t want no motherfucking part of it!” The girl finally cracks her hard long island scowl, if only for a moment.

Here’s the thing: the joke isn’t 100% real. He wasn’t a boyfriend. He was a guy whom I really liked, but he never wanted to commit, so we weren’t really together. But, that didn’t stop us from falling in and out of each other’s lives every few months or weeks. Did he really say that?  No, he didn’t. He said, “Like SVU,” and I said nothing because I was trying to keep myself from breaking down and crying.  It was that moment that I realized he, as the first person with whom I had been intimate and shared my story, had failed. At that moment, I was worried that every man after would probably also fail. But, that is not funny. And this was a comedy show. The theme was dating, and I was the only female comic performing all night. I had to be funny.

Thinking about this now, maybe she could sense this. Maybe she was glaring at me because she knew I was crafting a joke.  It was not a true story; I was trying to shape a narrative to be funny, and when it hit her, it wasn’t. Maybe. But, she also laughed at a joke about some guy getting head on a train, “Cause you know how long the train is home and the drunk doesn’t last that long.” So, she probably just didn’t like me. Or, maybe she just doesn’t think rape belongs on a comedy show.  

Rape is never funny. Well, unless you are a white guy on Comedy Central.  Then, it’s freaking hilarious, and I am just trying to take something from Daniel Tosh. I mean, after all that’s been taken from me, I think I deserve it. Personally, I think just about anything can be made funny. It just has to come from the right place and the right perspective. I do a lot of rape jokes—because I was raped, and I joke about my life. And on all those stages, I have never had a survivor come up to me and say that they disliked a joke. I may have not made that all did up long island girl laugh, but I have never had any woman tell me to stop.

I have had a ton of men say they don’t like these jokes. Not men who are survivors or activists, just dudes really. And that is the very nature of rape culture. See, I got there. Yes, in an article about rape culture, I waited until almost the end to even use the word. It’s because as a survivor, rape culture is my culture. I haven’t had a day since 2011 where I haven’t thought about rape, and I don’t think I ever will again. But, some guy will say something to me at about 25 percent of my shows which feature rape jokes.

Most of the time, what they say isn’t even that bad (I mean sometimes it is … sometimes it really is).  It’s just like, “Wow that was some super uncomfortable,” and to them I say, “you have no idea.”

Rosa Escandón

Trish NelsonComment