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i have done the impossible. that's right: i managed to get a self-identified geek guy to understand why rape jokes are not okay. (forewarned is forearmed: i describe what being triggered feels like, fairly mildly.)

fascinated? keep reading.


here is a typical list from 11points.com. funny, right? i think so! except that when he published it originally, the one about the airplane mentioned the "how to rape the passengers" handbook. two people (one of them secretly me) pointed out that that isn't actually funny in the comments and got harassed for it.

i had a bad night last night, so i decided i was going to blow off some steam by emailing sam, the guy who runs 11points, in his own style. here's what i sent:

"1. I don't usually bother trying to contact bloggers, because what does one reader more or less really matter? But you make a point of saying 11points.com relies on word of mouth and repeat readers, so I thought it might be worthwhile in this case.

2. I really enjoy 11points. I like lists, I like learning weird bits of trivia - when I found your site, I stayed up way too late reading almost every single list you had written to that point (I skipped most of the sports ones, though).

3. I link my friends to 11points all the time, especially when someone is having trouble sleeping late at night and needs something interesting to keep her busy until tiredness takes over.

4. A lot of my friends have trouble sleeping on a regular basis because, like me, they are rape victims trying to avoid nightmares.

5. When I run into a rape joke, I don't get offended - that isn't the right word. It's more like a punch in the gut. It reminds me of how many friends I lost when I told people who raped me, how many people told me I must have done something to deserve it or secretly wanted it, and - oh, right - how it felt when someone I thought was my friend held me down and used me like a blow-up doll.

6. It sucks to run into rape jokes no matter what the context is, but it's worse when it's from someone you thought was pretty cool. I'm not saying reading your site made me think we were actually friends or anything, but if I'd run into you on the street (and by some miracle recognized you), I probably would have given you a high five.

7. So, as I'm sure you've guessed, I wasn't exactly happy when your list of predictions the Simpsons got wrong about 2010 included a rape joke.

8. But hey, a lot of people make rape jokes, and sometimes when people point out that they're hurtful rather than funny, they respond thoughtfully and change things. I decided to check the comments.

9. Oh. Two comments expressing displeasure with the rape joke; ten comments insulting, belittling, and threatening those commenters. That wasn't exactly the ratio I was hoping for.

10. For the record: airlines suck, and they're inconvenient, and they treat customers badly. You know what that's not like? Raping them.

11. So that's why I'm going to stop reading your site and recommending it to people - not only did you make the joke in the first place, you let your commenters harass people for pointing out its tastelessness. There you go."

i felt much better after writing this email, and i went to sleep. so imagine my surprise when i woke up this morning to find this in my inbox:

"Hi Abby,

I want to really thank you for writing. Honestly, I had no idea the “rape” comment I’d made was so hurtful. It’s my own ignorance — apparently I use rape far too casually and colloquially without really thinking about what it can mean to others. Definitely something I need to work on. Anyway, I’ve changed it on the website. There’s no reason for me to fight for it at all, everything you said is accurate.

As for the comments, I guess this is when it becomes a problem that I don’t really read them (occasionally I do, or a friend points one out, but it’s rare). It’s terrible and obnoxious and disrespectful and spoiled of me, I know, and I hate it — but many months ago, I had to make a few choices on time management (and frustration management) and I decided that moderating comments was something I just couldn’t do if I wanted to keep my sanity. It’s not the most responsible way to manage a site but it’s a growing pain that had come from a hobby inadvertently transforming into something much more involved than that. I guess I need to watch them more carefully in the future — this entire controversy developed and I had no idea.

Thanks for reading and I’m sorry I’ve lost you, you definitely seem like a good one. I’m going to be much more careful in the future.


i'm going to email him back at some point, and maybe i'll even start reading his site again. that was pretty damn classy.
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September 2011

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