It’s prom season, and along with the tacky gowns and boutonnieres comes the gross photos of men threatening their daughter’s prom date with a gun. These jokes aren’t harmless fun, they’re a product of rape culture, and the defense of these jokes show how far we, as a society, have to go before we fully recognize that women are, in fact, human.
There are so many layers to why this joke is disturbing – including the idea that women are property, that women have no agency over their own bodies, and that the teenage boys who “consent” to this joke are doing so under the threat of violence. But in this article, I want to discuss a truly harmful message that this joke perpetuates: the idea that all men are, and can’t help but be, rapists.
Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a great time at prom #BadBoys pic.twitter.com/T5JRZQYq9e
— Jay Feely (@jayfeely) April 22, 2018
As an example of this type of joke, I am including a photo former NFL player Jay Feely posted on Twitter of himself holding a gun while standing between his daughter and her prom date – because that’s the one that caused the latest Twitter kerfuffle – but there are countless others out there.
This joke is based on the idea that all men are rapists – that a man will force or coerce a woman into having sex, even if she says no – and that all women must be protected from the rapist men. An often heard reason for this joke is that the dad was once a teenage boy and knows that they “only want one thing”. The only reason a dad would have to threaten his daughter’s date with violence is if that dad knows he himself has raped women and now thinks all men are rapists like he is. Every man who says teenage boys only want one thing is admitting that he is a rapist.
The hypocritical thing is, these men who scream about protecting their daughters have no problem with their sons (or themselves) coercing women into sex. Being domineering and forceful and having a large number of sex partners are often considered good things by men in our society. They don’t consider the fact that the women they treat like garbage are someone else’s daughters. Instead of “all women”, I should have said, “just that particular man’s daughters”, because clearly every other man’s daughters are totally up for grabs.
There is another layer to the “all men are rapists” idea behind this joke: the fact that things will never change. These dads were rapists, so of course their daughter’s dates will be. And since these men don’t do anything to change the course of events the cycle will keep happening until the end of time. But this can change. How about instead of these dads threatening their daughter’s dates with violence, they teach their sons not to rape women? If more men took a stand against rape and rape culture, and taught their sons about consent, then these dads wouldn’t have to worry about their daughters being raped on prom night.
Instead of joking about how all men are rapists, dads should put in the effort to end the cycle of rape culture and teach their sons about consent. In doing so, these dads would be doing far more to protect their daughters than threatening their dates with a gun ever did.