rape jokes

Class Year


Access Type

Archival Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department or Program

Media Studies Program

First Advisor

Peter Antelyes

Second Advisor

Anne Brancky


Through a close analysis of rape jokes from mainstream American comedy, my thesis focuses on the ways women comedians utilize humor as a possible tool to challenge rape culture. To ground my inquiry, I look closely at the content, the performance, and the reception of rape jokes made by comedians like Amy Schumer, Hannibal Buress, Daniel Tosh, Louis C.K., and Margaret Cho. My thesis does not just look at the context of the debate–the nature of the jokes–but also at the emergence of a certain kind of entanglement of critique. Rather than focusing on what makes a “good” or “bad” joke, I highlight the ways in which performances and the receptions to performances reveal hegemonic constructions within comedy. The jokes become representative of a larger silence and emerging discourse surrounding rape culture. They explore deep-seated cultural anxieties about why women comedians are making the news today. The jokes reveal the discomfort around women comedians, rape culture, and anxiety about what it means when a woman comedian starts telling jokes at the expense of the patriarchy.

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