Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Can Kidder be Kidder without being offensive?

This post is in reference to the comments made regarding our use of the pun, “TheRapist.” Some of our readers found this offensive and have expressed it in the following ways:
Prerna said...
Kidder and Jade - I wasn't familiar by that SNL reference, and that explanation does fit your personalities. It doesn't offend me, but as Rachel said, your intentions don't negate the possible effects. I respect your freedom to make any jokes and references you'd like to, but it seems a strange choice from a sex educator.

That said, I am glad to hear you're having a positive experience with therapy, and I truly hope it helps!
Since this blog is new, and therapy is new, I’ve decided that it may be time for me to approach this in a new way. Here are my thoughts and I welcome your comments.

I've said many times in the past, "I'm a different kind of sex educator," and my methods ruffle the feathers of many. Still, you show me a more effective way of teaching a couple about G-Spots, prostates, or basilar technique than putting on a pair of gloves actually showing them how, and I'll convert to the anti-surrugate model of sex education that has become so prevalent among my critics.

I think humor is an essential risk that we as humans should challenge ourselves to attempt. Often, I'm going to miss, but I'd prefer to keep trying because making people laugh is nearly as rewarding as making people think. I see your point, "rape" causes a guttural offensive emotion in many. Some of our readers are going to hate us for daring to make light of such a powerful word. Still, I don't wish to be niggardly with puns, quips, or (attempted) humor as they present themselves to us.

I've always held the belief that words are simply words and have no more power than the writer's intent as determined by context or the reader’s emotions as well as their ability to control those emotions. While I'm sure that everyone who read the very first paragraph realized that this post had nothing to do with rape, though sometimes therapy feels like your very thoughts are being ravaged by an un-lubricated prison cellmate. We all realize that it is just a play on words and is by no means indicative of the post’s content. Where my mind absolutely jumps past the pun and into the core of the issue, I realize that some are going to be far too distracted to continue processing letters into words and words into meaning.

So what should I do? The old Kidder would simply say, "your fear of words is infantile and your emotional intelligence is far too low to be worthy of the wisdom that I intend to bestow." But frankly, that response reeks of hubris and is undermining to my very cause. So I won't do that. I wish to be better. I wish to choose to be inclusive and I would prefer content and community over risking it all for that which I believe is humorous. I must find a way to empathize with those who this offends because currently I am unable. It is just a word, but that one word may be a detriment to the message.

So the question is, does the new Kidder value the message as it applies to the masses more than he values freedom of thought as it applies to humor, or the creative and experimental use of words? Should a painter or a photographer avoid producing art that may offend? What if that piece causes offense so great that it devalues their other works?

The philosopher in me (who I keep alive with bits of stale taffy) says that it is more important to post the word so that we are allowed to have this discussion right here and now with Prena and Rachel. The activist in me warns that it distracts from my cause. The artist in me, the writer in me, the desire in me, wishes that I read, consider, think, and remember what I've learned from this conversation, but do so promising myself that I never become too afraid of words to use them, even if, they may offend some who dare read what I’ve dared to write.

So the new Kidder is someone that I hope will listen to concerns just like this, but never place rules on words that disallow their potential much like a painter should never stop experimenting with the mixing of colors.


  1. I really appreciate this response, Kidder. Having listened to your podcast for years, I definitely expected the "Old Kidder" you spoke of above and I even hesitated for a while before commenting.
    I identify with your struggle to balance all of the "Kidder"s within you - and I think it takes a lot of courage to explore that and even more to admit it to others. As was recently said on SiF, when you choose to stand up for something that is underrepresented, you suddenly become the poster child, and you're expected to be perfect. But we can't be, we're human.
    Being a sex educator doesn't and shouldn't mean that you stop being you. Being a sex educator who listens and responds to what his audience expresses is what makes you a good one. So kudos to you, and please keep up the great work continuing the conversation and making the world just a little bit better!

  2. I also appreciate your "new Kidder" approach. It takes a lot of strength and self awareness to entertain this conversation.

    I think that the thing about being offensive is that there are different ways and reasons to do something offensive. Some things that are offensive can point out a larger social issue or fight against prejudice. Some people probably found the first interracial kiss on TV offensive, but it was a cultural event that sparked conversation.

    However, some offensive things can diminish other people's experiences or be racist/sexist/etc. Rape jokes are a pet peeve of mine. Culturally, if survivors/victims come forward, their actions, state of dress, and truthfulness are heavily scrutinized. An example is the NYT saying how a 13 year old girl "dressed older" before she was gang raped. Rape jokes can often undercut the severity of what victims go through. One of the things you hear in college is "oh, that test raped me." I find this offensive because 1) it may be triggering for a survivor and 2) students who are fortunate enough to be getting an education shouldn't be comparing a hard exam in a class they signed up for to a bodily, nonconsensual violation. So, yeah, considering the horrific nature of rape and the culture we live in, I don't see rape jokes as a constructive type of offensive language or particularly funny.

    I totally respect that therapy is challenging. I can't think of a pithy or humorous way to say this, but I think it's more akin to having a personal trainer who puts you through rigorous exercises. It's hard work, you can quit if you want, and if you stick to it you'll be better for it in the end.

    Again, thanks for having this conversation and sharing your lives with us.

  3. I notice that those who are reacting to the use of the word rape primarily are offended because the word *might* be triggering for other people. The non-pc part of my brain says "WAIT... JUST THAT WORD IS TRIGGERING FLASHBACKS FOR THESE PEOPLE??? THEY NEED THERAPY!" because "theRapist" is not that severe of a reference. Widespread public media discusses rape and uses rape in fictional and factual stories everyday. Some of the shitt I've seen flipping through the channels on prime time TV sickens me. But kidder's joking use of capitalization?

    Personally, I don't think that Kidder is the next Fred Rogers. He isn't here to make everyone feel safe and comfortable. He's here to speak his mind and discuss his life experiences, which, in uncensored form, are very real and I find valuable. I'd hate to see him censor himself in order to be safe for everyone.

  4. This is the Kapers' blog, and they write whatever they want; however, doing something publicly means others can critique and give feedback.

    Like I said, I think rape jokes/puns are in bad taste. And yes, a lot of survivors would benefit from therapy and have to work really hard to cope and move forward. And unfortunately, there are too many people who have endured assault. While there are certainly other, more upsetting statements out there about rape, I decided to share what I thought about this pun. The Kapers can decide whether they will continue to use it.