Local Zine Makes Rape Jokes. Hilarity Ensues.

On Sunday while perusing the shelves of Humboldt Healthy Foods, I noticed a stack of Savage Henry magazines sitting beside the counter.  I’ve tried to find one before but have always been too late.  I figured it must be really great to be snapped up like it is, so I excitedly grabbed one and took it home to read over a lazy rainy afternoon coffee.

I must say, there’s some funny stuff.  A little hip, a little edgy – I was thoroughly enjoying myself as I snorted over “What Your College Degree Really Means in the 2010s” and “Places in Arcata That Need a Bar.”

Then I got to the article, “Savage Romance with Dr. Love, ” an advice column for, as SH puts it, the lovelorn, curious or just plain confused.  For the record, and for those who are about to say I’m taking the whole thing too seriously, I do realize these letters are fake.

The first letter to Dr. Love is from a woman who goes to HSU, looks like Anna Kournikova, takes a shot of Jager at a party and blacks out.  She wakes up the next morning in the room of an Australian exchange student named Josh, sore “down there” and sees a prescription bottle in the garbage with the letters “Rohypn” on it.  Dr. Love’s advice:

HOW DARE YOU go digging through someone’s garbage!  Don’t you know anything about privacy rights?  Furthermore, by snooping through Josh’s PRESCRIPTION medicine, you’ve just set yourself up for a lawsuit, sweetheart.

As for what was written on the label of medicine you pilfered, I’m surprised you’ve actually made it through two years of college.  Everybody knows that Australian is a foreign language.  “Rohypn” most likely means “take every two hours” in Josh’s native tongue.  Here’s hoping Josh has the good sense to steer clear of the likes of you.  Ditz.

Funny, right?  The next one’s even better.

A man writes to Dr. Love complaining that he has bought his girlfriend a car and paid her rent, but she still won’t let him “enter her back door.”  Here’s Dr. Love’s advice:

My advice is to force your way into her back door, but do it gradually.  Start with a finger, then your arm, and then finally, after she’s warmed up to the idea, walk right through her cottage’s back door.  You’re paying the rent, after all – thus, you, more than anyone, deserve to walk inside her place however you please.

Now, if you’re truly too large to enter her back door, you may need to lubricate.  I recommend Crisco.

Sooooo funny!  See how they did that….made it seem like maybe Dr. Love’s not even euphemistically talking about rape?  Absolutely hysterical.  It’s not like this kind of shit doesn’t happen to women (and sometimes men) in real life every minute of every day all over the world.

Yes, for all of you rape apologists, I know, I know.  I’m just a big ole ugly feminazi with no sense of humor.  It’s funny, dammit.  I just don’t get it.

Every once in awhile, I am able to forget that we are part of a society that accepts sexual violence as a norm, but things like this Savage Henry column serve as a sick reminder.

We live in a culture of rape.

Don't believe in rape culture? This shirt comes in Toddler sizes.

Later in the day, I was checking out Eric Kirk’s blog.  He’s had some great discussions lately about the North Coast Journal Human Suspension article. I also read Jen’s thoughtful post on the matter. There’s a lot of talk and concern about this article, more even about the photo that was chosen for the cover.  People worry about what to tell their children.  How will they explain it?  Will it encourage their children to participate in self-destructive behaviors?

I don’t have my own children, but I like other peoples’ a lot.  I thought about Mark’s niece, who will be fifteen soon.  Since both the Journal and Savage Henry are free and available for just about anyone to pick up, I wonder if she’s seen either one.  I thought for awhile about what I would ask her and tell her if I ever got the chance to talk to her about them.  And I can tell you one thing:

I’d rather have to explain to her that although hanging from hooks embedded under your skin from the ceiling may not be the safest idea in the world, the fact remains that a woman’s body is her own and she can do whatever she wants with it, no matter what anyone thinks, than to have to explain to her why rape is so fucking hilarious.


53 responses to “Local Zine Makes Rape Jokes. Hilarity Ensues.

  1. Oh, Kristabel, I’m so disappointed in Savage Henry for running something so… “stupid” is much too mild. What’s the word for “so far away from funny that everyone involved should be banned from ever attempting humor in public again and maybe spend a couple years talking to women who’ve been in situations similar to those they thought were so hilarious”? Jesus.

    Yeah, I remember all the times I didn’t want to have sex with some guy and he insisted. I guess I missed the joke then and I’m still missing it now.

    As far as comparing to the Hooked story – we could get into a big, long, complex look at what women do to their bodies for attention and how a culture of objectification lends to both self-mutilation and sexual violence, but I will save that for another time. In any case, I come down on the side of respecting our own bodies and those of others.

    Have you contacted Chris Durant about this?

  2. Thanks for pointing out this garbage, K.

    That someone spent time writing these fake letters (that fail any attempts at wit, originality or humor), and that they passed the sniff test of the editor(s) is further evidence of a society that is sick and indifferent to the violence it perpetuates.

  3. Thanks for the reinforcement. I was really disturbed by this column and have had a hard time articulating why.

    No, Jen, I haven’t contacted Chris Durant. In fact, I hadn’t even thought about it, maybe assuming that someone who would publish that kind of trash wouldn’t care anyway, but that’s a poor excuse for inaction.

    As for the comparison to Hooked….that last paragraph is only a small part of what I actually felt about the article. We could have a very long conversation about the things you mentioned as well as the policing of women’s bodies. I don’t believe that Hooked would have stirred up nearly as much controversy if the person hanging from the ceiling had been a man.

    • Ah, yes. Absolutely hysterical! What a missed opportunity, Jen! In all seriousness, though, thank you for linking to your post. I hadn’t read it before.

      Every woman I know has stories just like the ones you told – some much more violent, some subtle – all disturbing and sad and scarring. For me, the Savage Henry column was extremely triggering, and I’m not exactly sure why. Examples of rape culture are everywhere, all the time – you’d think I’d be used to it, right? I thought that writing about it would make me feel better, but in fact, it hasn’t. I think that’s because I wasn’t able to write about it from a deep place – only one on the surface. My mind and my typing fingers just wouldn’t let me go there. You are brave to talk about your personal experiences.

  4. We wrestled with this Dr. Love a bit, letting it through based on the reaction we got on the first Dr. Love, but in retrospect we should have taken that one letter out. We look to push the boundry of humor and sometimes to some people we push it a little too far. I understand those who are disappointed or disgusted, but know that any Dr.Love in the future will be more like his first column, not the latest. I hope you keep checking out Savage Henry and have a mildly amusing experience and thanks for posting this. We print real letters to the editor and would gladly run one with your thoughts pertaining to this.

    • Thanks for your response, Chris. I’m curious, though….since you say you would take out “that one letter,” which rape joke do you find funny and appropriate for your zine? Both are disgusting and offensive. As for the third letter, while not a rape joke, it’s certainly not funny and filled with ridiculous stereotypes.

      The mainstream media is rife with misogyny and sexual violence. You want to “push the boundary of humor?” Then don’t be a fucking cliche’. You obviously have some talented writers and humorists on staff. You can all do a lot better.

  5. As one of the editors of Savage Henry, I put the magazine together. When I read this article I was shocked. Disgusted really, it made me sad. I thought the first Savage Romance with Dr. Love article was so funny, but this one was not.
    I agree about 15 year old nieces, but due to my total lack of shame discussing sex and the rights and responsibilities that come with it to my boys and my girls, I use a different yardstick to measure what I think is OK for the mag. My mom. Could we laugh at this, or would I be embarrassed or ashamed if she read it? This article did not pass that test, so I feel responsible for allowing it to print.
    Here is my story. Our team is still working out the occasional kink, and we hit one here. I thought everyone had already signed off on this article. I did not have time to contact all involved to double check before my deadline for the printer. I should have gone with my gut and pulled it. Sorry.

    • life hint: if you ever sincerely catch yourself worrying what your parents might think about you looking at a piece of literature…definitely look at it.

    • Thanks, Monica. You are in a position to make a huge difference in the way things are presented in the media in Humboldt County. As women, it’s hard to go with our guts because we’re so often told that our guts are wrong. They very rarely are. xoxox

    • “I agree about 15 year old nieces, but due to my total lack of shame discussing sex and the rights and responsibilities that come with it to my boys and my girls, I use a different yardstick to measure what I think is OK for the mag.”

      I don’t see where anyone suggested discussion of sex is something shameful – I am pretty certain that we’d be thrilled to see some matter-of-fact sex advice columns! It’s the promoting of rape culture through presenting rape as “funny” that’s the problem here.

      But I’m really glad you and Chris responded – and also relieved that standing up against something so wrong is the first reaction of many people. We have made some progress after all!

      • I had several people call in, but no one wanted to go on air, sadly! Too bad John wasn’t there – he’d have been more aggressive about it. Most callers were upset, two were of the “Johnny Rocket” school of thought.

  6. Watch out, it’s the Humor Police. You are only allowed to publish jokes they find appropriate. Because we need more censorship in this hyper-sensitive society.

    • AIDS is a real epidemic and people joke about that all the time. Maybe you people should stop telling people what is and what is not funny. It’s all subjective.

      • People who’ve been raped, or have loved ones who’ve been raped, tend to find rape jokes offensive. Sadly, we are a majority.

        Fortunately, jokes about AIDS don’t seem as regular as you claim. The same can’t be said about incessant normalization of sexual violence.

        • They are pretty damn regular, actually. People need to grow a thicker skin and just get over it. People are alway going to stay fucked up shit, and they have the right to do so. You don’t have to like it, but move on. Bitching every time someone offends you will solve nothing.

          • Take your own advice. Rape is a horribly destructive violent act that ruins people’s lives. It’s not funny or forgivable. If rapists don’t like the criticism that’s just too bad.

          • Rape is a taking without permission and harms the victim in ways that never quite heal. For a few moments of dominance or whatever they get from the experience, rapists hurt their victim physically, which may heal or not, and emotionally – which may never completely heal. What does not kill us makes us stronger, though. Someday, Johnny Rocket, I hope you meet a strong survivor who can set you straight.

  7. Ohmygod Kristabel.
    Words can’t even describe how grateful I am to know you.
    Thank you for being amazing and brilliant and beautiful and everything I love about real women.

  8. Thanks for this, Kristabel. I’ve been watching Savage Henry since day 1 and really rooting for it. But I too was disappointed to see this aspect come out in the last couple of editions. I’m good with edgy and controversial. But just because something is “free speech” doesn’t mean it’s always to be admired or supported without question. I know some of the guys who work on the publication, and I would expect more humanity from them, edge and all. So, yeah, disappointed. Probably not going to subscribe like I had planned, for now anyway.

  9. Jeemineez. Just to drive the point home one has to assume, if you go to the SH Blog site now, they’ve got an image of an elephant raping a donkey with some “humorous” reference along the extremely tired (like 1950-60s era humor) lines about whether the donkey “deserves it” or not.

    Does this guy have an unresolved “issue” somewhere with somebody?

    In some cultures, approval or disapproval of anti-social conduct is best expressed through exclusion from society. I know I’m never giving them another glance.

    • Hi Sheryl,

      Thanks for commenting. Someone else sent me an email regarding their latest rape “joke.” After Chris Durant’s blatant disregard of my question by simply telling me to write a letter to the editor, I, too, decided I’d never pick up another issue.

      There have been some recent sexual assaults at HSU. Savage Henry humor fodder for sure!

      I wonder, though, what is wrong with the women on their editorial board. It’s really disturbing – and sad.


  10. Kristabel,

    It may amuse you that I found this blog after googling for “rape jokes.” What can I say–I find them funny. Anyway, my favourite rape joke of all time is one I read in the British newspaper The Guardian (note that football here refers to soccer):

    Q. What is the difference between football and rape?

    A. Women don’t enjoy football.


  11. Michael,

    Thank you so much for distinguishing between football and soccer in this “joke.” It really made a difference in my understanding.

    I am not amused, nor am I surprised that you found this post by googling “rape jokes.” This post is getting at least 20 hits a day from other misogynist pigs around the world who are doing the same thing (note that misogynist pigs refers to the human variety.)


    • Thanks, H. You know, I thought about writing a post with a link to this as well as some thoughts on the whole thing. But just like Sarah, who didn’t want John Matthews to say my name or the name of this blog on the air, I don’t want to give those wankers any more press. I also don’t want to deal with the drooling morons who will spout off about free speech. You have it – I have it – they have it – that’s why the whole dialogue happened. Duh. Now go fuck yourself. Although that was really fun to write.

      I’m glad that the person who wrote the column had issues with the backlash and didn’t write for SH for awhile. I’m also glad that column no longer exists.

      I thought it was interesting how Chris talked about communicating with people who have problems with SH, but when I tried to ask him which joke he found appropriate, as he only said he thought one should not have been printed, he refused to answer and only told me to write a letter to the editor. As if I’d want to contribute anything that would potentially increase their readership.

      The fact that Matthews’ friend is still having problems with this issue months later speaks to how powerful, in a horribly negative way, stuff like this can be. It is obvious that the editors of Savage Henry are oblivious to the rape culture we live in. They also must never have been raped or have had anyone close to them who has been. They’re fortunate.

  12. They also must never have been raped or have had anyone close to them who has been

    Given even conservative rape statistics that seems unlikely.

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