Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony is the context of every rape joke

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Today, Christine Blasey Ford testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Ford alleges that during the summer of 1982, Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, pushed her into a room at a small house party, sexually assaulted her, tried to tear her clothes off, and covered her mouth when she tried to scream.

Judge went on to write a memoir of having been a teenage alcoholic. He spent this week hiding in a Delaware beach house, and hasn’t been called in for questioning by the committee majority.

The news in the US has been about almost nothing else for a week, and it has been wrenching for many women to watch social dynamics so many of us are too familiar with, through our own experiences, playing out on the national stage.

What Ford said she remembered most from the assault, was her two alleged assailants laughing together, with each other, at this hilarious thing they were doing — these good friends, living the good life.

This was their own live action summer buddy movie that they were making together, about a year after teen movie Porky’s, a story about sexually aggressive boys trying to lose their virginity, came out. This was the party life so many women have begun to say they remember very differently.

Because it’s funny and entertaining when a girl or woman thinks she’s a person, but a boy or man casually tortures her, terrorizes her, and then goes on about his business like it was nothing. Like she was nothing.

Ford’s experience, like that of the many other women subjected to male sexual violence, is the “boys will be boys” punchline of every rape joke. That’s what they tell us, right? It’s no big deal. It just happens. Many of us don’t bother to question, or we don’t for a long time, anyway.

Don’t make a fuss, it will all be over soon enough. This is the guys’ good life — a good laugh.

Not all boys act like this, of course. Only about one in 10 is a rapist:

“Across samples, 178 of 1642 participants (10.8 per cent) reported having perpetrated at least one rape from 14 years of age through the end of college.”

So when someone tells a rape joke, we try not to remember. Maybe we remember anyway. The laughing men probably look something like this:

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We know what they will say if we say it isn’t funny.

If we say something, men might ask if we were drinking. As if that were a reason — as if a man caught with a stolen wallet would say to a police officer, “Sorry officer, I guess I didn’t know it was wrong to steal a wallet from a drunk man.” As if the female consumption of alcohol, even once, creates a zone of impunity for male behavior.

When women say anything critical to men, we usually try to put those men immediately at ease. Maybe by trying to point out that we’re only trying to help.

Most women are used to asking men, demurely, deferentially — as though we are not walking on broken glass, when we most certainly are — not to hurt us. We know they can hurt us. It’s allowed. So we try to remember to ask politely. We all know what happens to girls who aren’t nice and it’s never good.

So we can’t usually be direct.

Women have to be nice. The correct kind of nice. It’s so easy to get it wrong, or to simply be the wrong kind of woman from the start.

You have to be careful not to specifically ask him not to hurt you — it would be undiplomatic, it would insult his honour and imply unsavory motivations on his part. He would probably be offended if she pointed out the context for the fear she has lived under for her entire life.

Honour is a thing that men get to have. How nice for them.

“When Grassley asked Ford if she would like to take a break, she replied, ‘Does that work for you? I’m used to being collegial.’”

Of course she’s collegial. No one wants to be the punchline of a joke about men abusing women more times than they have to be. He says, “Come on, it’s funny, right?” “Have a laugh, have a chuckle,” he says. “Don’t take it so seriously. Don’t be a bitch,” he says.

We suspect, but don’t want to find out, how men like that act when they think we’re being bitches.

It was just a joke, right?

Natasha Chart

Natasha Chart is an online organizer and feminist living in the United States. She does not recant her heresy.