OK, so, here's what happened. Curtis Wenis made this lukewarm, totally inoffensive joke in Diana's story about rape at Oregon. The joke hauled in some recs, which is fine. Diana demoted it, which is also fine. None of this is a very big deal.
Curtis took to Twitter to bitch at Diana about having his joke demoted. My first mistake was wading into this shit at all. My reason for doing so was to try to back Curtis off from picking a fight with Diana. I should have known better. Instead of diffusing the situation, my engagement turned it into a whole big stupid thing.
Let's start here: Curtis's joke was not a rape joke. It was a joke, and a harmless one, in an article about rape. In any other post, it would have been nothing more than just another harmless, totally forgettable joke. Hell, even in that post, it's just a forgettable-ass pun.
I can't speak for Diana, so, uhh, here:
In Diana's estimation, the comments section of a story about gang rape is an inappropriate place to make throwaway puns. Whether you agree or not, it's evident that Diana's motivation for removing the joke is respecting the sensitivities of people who might feel unwelcome in a space in which a story about gang rape is used as fodder for throwaway jokes.
So, there will be any number of pious types who will look for offense in any old thing, of course, and those people can be obnoxious, but at least some of the people who might be troubled and made to feel unwelcome by even lukewarm jokes in such circumstances are inevitably women and rape victims.
I talked about this a little in Twitter DM tonight, and I tried to talk about it constructively with Curtis, but here's how this goes: there's nothing wrong with Curtis's joke—it's not a special joke, but it's not remotely offensive—but there's also nothing wrong, and maybe there's even something commendable, about prioritizing the comfort of people who fall into the category of victims of rape culture over the joke-making rights of people, like me and Curtis and most of the rest of us, who are pretty far removed.
Because here's the thing: I'm safe everywhere. On the internet, women are safe almost nowhere, and the comfort of rape victims is apparently an afterthought even in the comments of stories about gang rape. Again, I can't speak for Diana, but if, as I suspect, her motivation for removing the joke had to do with respecting the sensitivities that surround rape and rape culture, that's a noble cause. You and I might not think the joke is threatening or offensive, and you and I might hope that comments like Curtis's accrue, generally, in the right direction, but, I don't know, can you be pissed off that someone exercised an extra degree of caution? Comfy internet commenters have the whole rest of the internet to make whatever jokes they like, not to mention their homes and via email and on Twitter—maybe we can cede just a few comments sections on a progressive blog, just every now and then, for people whose safe spaces are few and far between.
You have to be able to separate Curtis's joke from the action taken. It wasn't a commentary on Curtis's joke. Curtis's joke is just fine. It's a little flat and uninspired, but it's not a rape joke and it's not offensive. Curtis wasn't banned or blacklisted for that joke. He got some daps for it, and then it was moved behind a curtain. As I tried to say to Curtis on Twitter, no part of what happened was worth picking a fight over.
More broadly, this is virtually always what happens whenever someone tries to make this exact point: every imperfection in the moderation of comments is scrutinized, the slippery slope is unsheathed, someone is accused of false piety, and, incredibly, impassioned arguments are made in defense of a pre-existing culture—a status quo—whose preservation, even to the degree that it excludes victim groups, supersedes all other concerns.
Don't do that! Seriously. You don't want to be the person who is saying but, but Deadspin has always been the place where we can make jokes who doesn't realize that what they might also be saying is Deadspin has always been a place that is unwelcome to members of victim groups. No one is telling you not to make your joke. Hell, no one is climbing up Curtis's ass for making the joke he made. All that happened was his joke was moved behind a curtain. It's not worth all this. It never was worth all this, not when it was the previous round of self-styled star commenters, not when it was my bullshit meta-blog (when I was absolutely on the other side of this argument, and I've got the pixels to prove it), not when it was Sidespin Roundups, and not tonight. It never will be worth it. Your right to make all jokes in the comments of a blog is not worth defending.
Alright. That's it. Goodnight.