Vandalism was not funny

Joking about rape normalizes it at the expense of survivors


Dear Editor,

Over the past week I’ve spoken to a number of people regarding the pro-rape vandalism in the Student Centre’s male washroom. “Can you believe someone would do that?” I asked. And everyone I spoke to agreed it was despicable for someone to advocate for sexual violence, as if it isn’t a traumatic experience that deeply affects a person’s mental and physical state. Yet a number of people said something that didn’t sit quite right with me: “I like to hope that the vandal was merely joking.”

I get it: It brings a sense of comfort to believe that the person who wrote those words didn’t truly mean them; to believe that he was just making a horrible joke in horrible taste; to believe that we are not sitting in our lectures with a rapist beside us. So, for argument’s sake, let’s assume that the vandal was just joking. What’s so bad about a rape joke if it’s just a joke?

Well, for one, the fact that it normalizes rape. Let’s say in a group of five people, one person is a rapist. One of the non-rapists makes a rape joke and the others join him in laughter. What does this tell the rapist? It condones the rapist’s actions. It tells the rapist that their thoughts are normal, acceptable, and that others feel the same way. Why should a rapist feel bad when the people around him perpetuate his beliefs? The same logic applies to the vandalism—a rapist could enter the washroom, see the vandalism, and feel validated from believing that others think his actions are normal.

If the vandalism was just a joke, then let’s think about the emotional distress caused to a survivor of sexual assault that could have seen it. This mere joke could bring back haunting memories for a survivor, or serve as a message to a survivor that if they report the assault they faced, they’ll be treated just like a rape joke—with laughs. According to CFS Ontario, less than 10 percent of sexual assaults are reported to the police.

I don’t like to think that any of the people I walk past on campus are rapists. But I can’t help but recall a poster I saw in UTM’s Sexual Education Office. The poster stated that 97.25 percent of University of Toronto students claimed they would never force someone into having sex, though the poster then called attention to the remaining 2.75 percent. A small number, right?

There are 13,300 students at UTM. 2.75% of that number is 365.75, rounded up to 366.

I want to see that number diminish with every person that stands up against rape culture.

Zara Rizwan
3rd year
English, art and art history