Essay / Teagan Cook

Your Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny (No, Really)

tumblr_mp7rxcTHuI1rby04wo1_500

Ryan is a friend of mine. He’s allergic to peanuts.

If someone offers him homemade food, he asks them if it has peanuts in it. (Given the fact that he’s alive, I highly doubt that anyone has lied.) If he goes out to eat, he makes sure that the fries he’s ordered haven’t been deep-fried in peanut oil. People warn him if they’re about to start eating a PB&J. No one gives him any hassle; he’s just looking out for his own health. As far as I know, no one offers him a bite of their Reese’s Cup, because they know that he’ll go into anaphylaxis and fucking die. People take his allergy seriously. As they should, considering that he’s just an innocent dude trying to avoid a definite trip to the hospital and possible death.

From this, I think we can reasonably conclude that it is fairly standard to not hassle people about information they need to know for the sake of their health. Unless you are of the persuasion that gets off on causing unnecessary damage to people without their consent, we’re all in agreement here: people deserve the knowledge necessary for them to keep themselves from harm.

Now, can spiralling into a depressive episode, for example, or perhaps feeling the desire to self harm in various ways, or maybe having a flashback to a traumatic event affect one’s health in a negative way? According to literally every medical authority on the fucking planet, the answer is yes. This is not a point that can be argued upon.

Congratulations, everyone. You now understand how much of an asshole you are for looking down your nose at trigger warnings.

“But those are just for people who are trying to feel special!” you cry, wiping the Mountain Dew from your lips. “Those SJWs are trying to blame everyone else for their own issues!” you shout, perhaps pointing a Dorito-crusted finger in self-righteousness. With regard to that point, I direct you to the MPAA, the ESRB, and functionally every media rating system ever proposed. Those all function as trigger warnings.

You know many people, whether they’ve told you or not, who have what are known as functionally mental allergies. Be they to rape, to moths, to whatever, it isn’t your business why any of these people have these “allergies.” It isn’t your job to ask them for proof of their PTSD, of their phobia, of their anxiety disorder before you allow them the same privileges that I allow my peanut-allergic friend: time to prepare for exposure to their trigger, for example, or the ability to remove themselves from the situation prior to exposure. (By the way, this is why your rape joke probably isn’t funny–you’re statistically very likely to be telling it to a rape survivor.)

Do you honestly believe you know other people’s minds better than they do? Do you think you can adequately gauge someone else’s mental health, be they your best friend or a complete stranger? More than that, do you believe you have the right to? If you do, are you prepared for the consequences?  Do you understand what it’s like to have a panic attack, an anxiety attack, a flashback?

Here’s where the metaphor falls apart: there’s no epi-pen for mental illness.

Advertisements