So, I really don’t wanna keep going on about it – I’m boring myself, frankly – but seriously, if the words “I want to rape all women,” or “I think it’s funny when women get raped,” or “Wouldn’t it be great if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now?” are meaningless, then the words “All Americans are rapists” have to be meaningless, too. Totally, totally meaningless. Nothing to get all upset about. Like, duh. But I don’t wanna keep on going on about it.
I do think, though, that the reason people find rape jokes okay is because they find rape okay, because if rape jokes weren’t really about rape, then a rapist joke wouldn’t really be about rapists, either. You can’t have one “artistic freedom” rule for rape and another for rapists. That’s just a double standard. So the real reason people say stuff like “Hey, it’s just a joke/Hey, words are just meaningless/Hey, lady, get out the comedy club if you don’t know words are just words/Hey, can’t you take a joke/Hey, comedy ain’t pretty” is not because rape jokes have nothing to do with rape but because they have everything to do with rape.
They are not this huge taboo people are breaking. They’re just jokes about how nice it would be if more women got raped more often. And the reason people think women don’t have the right to get upset – why a woman who heckles during rape jokes deserves to be threatened with sexual violence – is because they actually think women should just be grateful they’re not actually being raped right now. Rape jokes aren’t taboo. They’re not edgy. They’re just tools of oppression. They’re just banal. They’re like the Olympics or something. They’re cowardly and spineless tools of oppression. They’re literally Black Rod at the opening of Parliament or something. They’re about as edgy and subversive as Kate fucking Middleton wearing tartan one day.
I’ll tell you something that is a real taboo, though – a real taboo. It’s this thing we do at my Lesebühne every Wednesday night. It’s gonna make your heads explode.
So, I’ve been living in Berlin for a while, right? And when I first arrived, I lived in a WG with this guy called Tex on Skalitzer Straße. And he took me out to a “Lesebühne”. They were kind of new, back then, the Lesebühnes, well, not as old as they are now, anyways. We were in the queue for LSD and the guy on the door – I don’t know for sure, but I think it was Tube – said I couldn’t come in if I spoke English.
“Oh, my German is really, really good!” I said breezily.
The guy on the door who I think was Tube looked at me blankly. That’s why I think it was Tube. He always looks at people blankly, if he can.
So I got in and I understood nothing. NADA. Nix. Zilch. I just sat there, bored and embarrassed and frustrated and also quite bored. The only thing I understood was this song about Godzilla roaming around Berlin. Fuck, I laughed loud during that song. LOUD. Really fucking loud.
So, then I did all this stuff, you know? I wrote for Bordercrossing Berlin and put on some really appalling plays at the English Theatre. Stuff like that. I did all this English-language comedy. (I’m really sorry about those plays at the English Theatre, by the way.) All you guys who think this blog is so terrible; thank God you didn’t see the Prison Sex trilogy. (If you worked on them with me, I don’t mean that, of course, I’m being selbstironisch, they were fabulous, dahlings.) And then, 2008, I started doing poetry slams, like, I started writing in German. Fuck, it only took me eight years. And then, in 2009, I got invited to be a guest at a Lesebühne myself.
Oh, God. I really wanted to impress those boys, you know. I wanted them to think I was as German as possible. I told them about all the poetry slams I’d won. I was showing off, really.
“I’ve won three poetry slams,” I told them after the show.
“Oh,” one of them replied, sneering disapprovingly. I think it was probably Tube, coz Tube often sneers disapprovingly, but I wouldn’t wanna be quoted on that. “A poetry slam. Isn’t that where a load of so-called poets get up on the stage and read provocative and pubescent text and then at the end of the night the most provocative and pubescent text wins?”
I gulped. I took a sip of Weißweinschorle.
“I’ve only won three,” I said, grinning breezily.
And then, last year, I started reading at the Surfpoeten every Wednesday night. Now the thing about the Surfpoeten is this: they start every show off by praying against work. There’s this movement in Germany that wants everybody in the country to get €900 a month. The movement is called Bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen (“unconditional basic income”). Everybody in the whole country will get €900. That’s the plan. It’s not that people won’t work anymore, they just won’t have to. That’s the idea.
But the Surfpoeten want everybody to get €3,500 a month. And robots will do all the work. And that’s how we begin every show; we pray to end the Zwang to Lohnarbeit.
Thing is, when I first started at Surfpoeten, I was just really desperate to be a member. I just really, really, really, REALLY wanted to become a member. I bargained with God and everything, even though I don’t believe in him. When they let me join, it was just about the happiest day of my life. I didn’t give a shit about the prayer against work, but I did it anyways, coz I really wanted them to let me join. But, still, for the first three months after I finally persuaded them to let me in, I had a really uneasy feeling every time I had to pray. A really bad feeling. I felt like I was doing something really bad. Really awful. I felt like I was having my insides torn out.
And I never knew why, until my English friends started coming to watch the show. I thought it was just nerves.
“We start every show off with a prayer against work,” I told my Neukölln/English friend, Sarah, on the way to Prenzlauer Berg.
She looked at me, gobsmacked. “You do what?” She asked.
“We pray against work, you know, against the Zwang to Lohnarbeit thingamijagig. You know? Because robots can do all the work, really.”
She stared at me on the U8, speechless. “You. Pray. Against. Work?” she whispered.
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s like a Bedingungloses Grundeinkommen type thing.”
“I am not joining in,” she said, emphatically, tossing her chin like a character out of a 19th century children’s novel. “I love my job,” she added. “I love it. I won’t pray against that. You can’t make me.”
A few weeks later another English friend came to see us perform. I hadn’t had time to warn her beforehand, so she came up to me in the music break straight afterwards.
“I can’t believe you do that,” she said. “That’s outrageous. Praying against work. Some people like their jobs, Jacinta.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s just the Zwang to Lohnarbeit we’re praying against. You’ll still be able to work and that. Nobody’s stopping you.”
“You looked like such a slut, mouthing along to that blasphemous prayer,” she said. “You only join in because they let you read your little stories once a week. You don’t believe that shit. I know you don’t.”
And that’s when I realized. For Anglo-Saxons, praying against work is the ultimate blasphemy. The biggest taboo. Dead babies, threatening audience members with rape, farting on stage, weeing on a sheep’s head. None of it comes close to praying against work. But, oh, my God, it is fun. It’s so much fun. You guys should try it some time. It goes like this: “Arbeit! Geisel der Menschheit…” Actually, come down to Pfefferberg and see for yourselves.