Miss Amy Schumer:
I don’t think rape is funny. I don’t like it in stand-up routines, I don’t like it in sketches, I don’t like when it’s an attempt at harmless humor shared between a couple of dudes at happy hour. I get why it’s brought up a lot though. Yes, some people are just trying to go for the shock value. But many others are trying to use humor in order to diffuse the tension, enough so that they can get people to think about and understand the underlying problems within rape culture.
But personally, I have never enjoyed a rape joke, even if the intentions were good. I just had never encountered anything that I felt spoke volumes in addition to being funny. And then I watched the season three premiere of your show and came across this sketch:
I thought it was just going to be another silly, lighthearted parody with some of your weird humor in there. I laughed as soon as your character was throwing her hands up in the air and accidentally sloshing around wine all over the yard. Ain’t it good to be the cayoach?
Then we followed your character’s husband into the locker room. Here we go, I thought, this’ll be clever. Some kind of sketch making fun of guys and how seriously they take football, even in small-town high schools.
And then, boom, there it was – unexpected, surprising, and yet totally fitting at the same time – an unapologetic, poignant rape bomb dropped right into the middle of the locker room.
It couldn’t have been more clear. The “NO RAPING!!!” rule written on the whiteboard was straightforward and specific and hard to miss. Our moral code in real life is the same way – rape is wrong, rape is not allowed, regardless of the situation. No questions asked. And yet, just like in real life, there were so many questions immediately asked in this scene that should never have even had to be asked.
Rape is wrong. Rape is evil. Rape is nonnegotiable. And yet the only thing these boys, these young, young boys, were trying to do was to negotiate. To find any kind of explanation or excuse that would make their circumstances not count. The questions and reactions the boys had were so ridiculous, so over-the-top, but sadly, at the same time, so true. “What if it’s Halloween and she’s dressed as a sexy cat?” “What if she thinks it’s rape but I don’t?” The answers they wanted to hear were the same ones people want to give in real life. She was asking for it. She should have dressed better. How was I supposed to know she didn’t want it? When you look at the circumstances, this wasn’t my fault.
The one that hit me the hardest was when someone said, “But Coach, we play football!” I laughed, both out of shock and because of the fact that this statement was so horrible but so true. All I could think about was the recent Vanderbilt rape case in which multiple football players appear to have been involved, two of whom have been convicted on multiple counts of sexual battery and aggravated rape.
When I watched the various football players in this sketch argue with the coach about their apparent right to rape whomever they pleased, and their lack of accountability in the situation, all I could think about was the defense’s case in the Vanderbilt trial: Vanderbilt has “a culture of sexual freedom, of sexual experimentation. It was a culture that encouraged sexual promiscuity…There was also a culture of alcohol and alcohol consumption.” That was what was to blame for the rape: Vanderbilt’s sexual promiscuity and extreme alcohol consumption, not these men and their penises.
In other words, “But Coach, we play football!” It’s not our fault. It’s the system. This is how things work and we’re just following the rules.
You get enough people together with the same passions and the same beliefs and it can turn into a dangerous groupthink. Accountability is lessened, because people are surrounded and cushioned on all sides by others like them, all of whom are thinking and even doing the same types of things. I say people, not men, because sometimes even women can get lost in the groupthink. One of the funniest and saddest parts of this sketch, for me, was when the older female joggers spit on Cayoach’s lawn, because they said he was ruining the nice little way of living that these people and their sons had gotten used to.
Morality gets lost. Respect gets lost. Dignity gets lost. Because excuses start to blur the lines. Rape becomes about the circumstances, not about the evil act in and of itself. It’s not Did a sexual encounter happen without sober, sound-minded consent? It’s Well how much did she drink? Or How were other cases like this handled in the past? Or Although she did change her mind, she did initially say yes. Or But the situation I was in made me feel like it was okay to do it.
Sometimes I wonder how we’ve gotten here. There are plenty of good coaches and role models out there, like this one, who teach men that rape is wrong. But then, after halftime, Cayoach enters the locker room and there it is: “Football is about violently dominating anyone that stands between you and what you want. Now you’ve got to get yourself into the mindset that you are gods, and you are ENTITLED to this! They ain’t just gonna lay down and give it to you! You gotta get out there and take it!”
Yes, he’s talking about football, but he’s also not, because Amy, you are just a genius and you wouldn’t let things end this easily. This well-intentioned coach is unconsciously feeding these moldable minds the very words and violent ways of thinking that are the building blocks upon which rape culture continues to grow. The idea of power, and domination, and an innate right to take whatever you want. Regardless of how good this coach’s intentions are, these words and beliefs and ways of thinking are the seeds that are being planted in young minds every single day.
Boom. So brilliant, so poignant, so simple and yet so powerful. And still so funny. Because there you are again at the end, with your humongous wine glass that I’m convinced you actually drink out of in real life, reminding us that you’ve been there all along. This wasn’t Cayoach’s story, it was yours. He was just your puppet, and you were running the show. You were an unapologetic woman, who was using your humor and wit and brilliance to show us how tired you are of the way things are. How ridiculous this rape culture is. How sick you are of the lack of accountability. You proved a point, and you did it with spark, class, and hilarity.
Ain’t it good to be the coach?