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Rape ‘joke’ shirt at Coachella is not even a little funny

Coachella is a music festival, so it’s a given that really weird stuff is going to go down. Sadly, I’m not talking about the mudslide antics of Woodstock. I’m talking about a jerky dude who wore one of the most offensive T-shirts I’ve ever seen.

When you’re going to an all-day concert, you’ve gotta stock up — bring your PowerBars, Hacky Sack and a big helping of rape culture. That appears to be what this guy was thinking as he proudly wore a shirt printed with a disgusting message.

The T-shirt was snapped at the first weekend of Coachella in California, which just wrapped, and the second weekend of the concert begins on Friday. The photo was posted to Twitter by Jemayel Khawaja, managing editor of the Vice music and culture channel Thump.

Khawaja told his Thump coworker Michelle Lhooq of spotting the rape joke unicorn, “Believe it or not, he had a girl with him. She seemed really exasperated by the whole thing, and he gave her this look when I asked to take the picture that suggested he felt vindicated for wearing it.”

The “Eat, Sleep, Rape, Repeat” shirt is a play on the 2013 Fatboy Slim and Riva Starr “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat” single, later remixed by Calvin Harris. Except no one is laughing. According to the LAist, another Coachella concertgoer confirmed that she saw the same offensive T-shirt and that the Twitter pic above was not likely photoshopped.

So what’s the big deal? Isn’t this just some friendly DudeBro trying to push people’s buttons? I happen to be married to someone who takes great pleasure in pushing people’s buttons on almost any topic, and I’ve grown a pretty thick skin because of it. Yet I still find this “ha ha rape” shirt paired with a big grin to be highly offensive and disturbing.
Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals, sociologist and author of the upcoming book Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment , tells SheKnows, “It’s easy to simplify a shirt reading ‘Eat, Sleep, Rape, Repeat’ as one individual’s wildly inappropriate choice in a sea of creative expression. Except that when you stop to think about it, the number of choices and decisions that went into publicly displaying that shirt are astounding — from concept and design, to production, to making it available in the marketplace, to the decision to purchase and wear it. This shirt is not ‘just’ evidence of one person’s poor choice, but of legions of others’ poor choices, before and including him, all of which are evidence of the pervasiveness of rape culture in contemporary U.S. society.”

Dr. Tibbals nails it. Sure, we could give this guy the benefit of the doubt. Sure, everyone on the internet who wants his head on a silver platter could “lighten up, man,” but knowingly or unknowingly, this guy stepped on a landmine. Rape is not and never will be a joke. There’s no reason “rape” should ever be printed as a catchy slogan on a T-shirt.

Dr. Tibbals continues, “It could be that the shirt was an error (a typo or a misprint?) or some kind of attempted joke/cultural commentary that terrifically misfired. But in a world where all we can do is estimate the actual number of sexual assaults that occur all too frequently in every corner of our society, an instance like this draws attention to the deeper social structures and historical patterns that still exist just beneath the surface.”

So we have gone from victim-blaming to victim-mocking, and this Coachella attendee is part of rape culture, whether he likes it or not. The sad truth is that I look at this guy’s face and think that he looks like a sweet, fun-loving kid. Perhaps that’s what makes this issue even more relevant to us outside of the young twentysomething crowd. If either of my sons ever disrespected women by treating rape like a joke, I’d be outraged — and heartbroken.

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