Dear Enquirer's Doc: Rape jokes are never funny

Posted at 12:17 PM, May 18, 2016

Dear Paul Daugherty,

Rape is not a joke.

When then-Indiana men’s basketball coach Robert “Bob” Knight said, “I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it,” he rightfully received a huge amount of backlash. (If you’re not familiar with this story, read it here.)

That was in 1988.

It’s now 2016. You’d think we as a society would have learned that joking about rape is never funny. Nor is it OK.

Yet you, an Enquirer columnist whose words reach thousands every day, think it appropriate to use the following lede in a column about FC Cincinnati (which has since been changed online but did make print):

“I went, I watched, I enjoyed. I wrote. As the legendary futbol fanatico Robert Montgomery Knight might put it, if soccer is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”

You should know better.

You were my professor in college. When I started working at the Enquirer, I felt privileged that I got to be your co-worker.

As a woman, especially one who has looked up to you for years, I am appalled by your words. I am appalled you thought it OK to repeat something that caused such hurt in 1988 in order to, what, look clever?

It is a pretty obscure reference. I was 3 when Knight said those words. I wouldn’t have made the connection without having been shown the New York Times article referenced above. But you knew the reference or you wouldn’t have used it. And that makes it all the more egregious.

Even worse, you seem to not be the only one who thinks joking about rape is OK.

Last week at the Cannes Film Festival, master of ceremonies Laurent Lafitte said of Woody Allen during the opening night screening of ‘Cafe Society’: “It’s very nice that you’ve been shooting so many movies in Europe, even if you are not being convicted for rape in the U.S.” Even worse, Allen brushed off the "joke." 

Philippine president-elect Rodrigo Duterte seemed to think it OK last month to express disappointment in not getting to participate in the 1989 gang rape of an Australian missionary.

Even our own presumptive Republican presidential nominee speaks in degrading ways about women, having said to a contestant on ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ last year that “must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.”

If students at St. John's College at the University of Cambridgeare called out for making rape jokes, you certainly should be. 

Women deserve more from you than a quick missive at the top of your column that said it was revised because some people find it offensive. 

It’s the people in positions of power who have the ability to make rape jokes mainstream or to put a stop to it.

So, Doc, I think you should step up. Be the one to say that this is not OK. That joking about rape isn’t OK.


No, you’re not a president-elect or a presidential nominee. But you have a voice that travels far and wide. So set the bar. Tell men that they shouldn’t joke about rape. With any luck, others will follow. And maybe one day it will be considered unacceptable for anyone to make these kinds of jokes.

But don’t do it for me. Do it for all women. Do it for my daughter.

Because, no matter your intentions, jokes like this normalize the subjugation and abuse of women. And no little girl deserves to grow up in a world where that's considered OK. 

Your former student,

Meghan (Goth) Wesley