Ask Jane: Volume One

Need advice? Email [email protected] or comment on this article.

Dear Jane,

My friends often make jokes about rape and cancer. I know that they don’t mean what they say, but I still find the jokes very offensive and they make me uncomfortable. However, I typically don’t say anything because I don’t want to be the awkward buzz-kill. What should I do?


Dear Upset,

I completely understand how you feel, but you should never think of yourself as an “awkward buzz-kill” for doing the right thing. For some reason, our society has deemed it acceptable for people to make light of terrible situations such as rape. After all, who hasn’t heard someone yell in the hallway “I raped that test.” Yet, just because people are doing something, that doesn’t make it right. Clearly no one means to be offensive when they make these jokes, and if anyone were ever seriously confronted on how they feel about such crimes they would heartily denounce them. However, most of us teenagers forget that simply by casually throwing around such jokes, we diminish the gravity of these terrible offenses.
Unfortunately, although I sympathize with you, there is no simple solution to your problem. All you can do is make a choice. Regardless of how you approach the situation with your friends, bringing up the fact that they are doing something wrong will make them uncomfortable. The good news is, that after the initial confrontation, things should get easier for you. Most people recognize mistakes once they are brought to light, and discussing the inappropriateness of making a joke about genocide or cancer with your friends should get them to stop. In fact, you may even convert them to feeling the way you do and asking their other friends to stop. The only advice I can give about this confrontation is that if you do decide to bring up the topic make sure to stress that just because they are joking, that doesn’t make it acceptable.

Hope this helps, and good luck.