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Lindy West Responds to Rape Threats Following Televised Debate with Comedian Jim Norton

Lindy West Responds to Rape Threats Following Televised Debate with Comedian Jim Norton

Following an appearance on FX’s late night series “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell” in which she discussed the ethics of rape jokes, Jezebel staff writer Lindy West has been under attack from asinine internet commenters, local comics, and even co-workers regarding her position against the “anything goes” rule of comedy.

In a post yesterday on Jezebel, West wrote that detractors have been “threatening to rape and kill me, telling me I’m just bitter because I’m too fat to get raped, and suggesting that the debate would have been better if it had just been Jim raping me.” She included a video in which she reads the comments written under the YouTube clip of the debate, and also listed screen caps of particularly horrific comments below her article. 

Norton responded to the comments on The Opie and Anthony Show, a talk radio program Norton co-hosts on XM Satellite Radio. He made a point to say how nice West was off-camera and how he enjoyed debating with her while also illustrating that he wasn’t disagreeing with her as a human being, just the point she was trying to make. 

“I don’t tell people what to write or how to Tweet,” Norton said. “I don’t like to do that…but come on…go after the opinion. You’re not helping anything by [attacking West].”

The debate —and its 176,000 views on YouTube — has reignited the issue of free speech in comedy, specifically in regard to rape jokes. Everyone certainly remembers the Daniel Tosh controversy from last year, and while many people turned on his comments specifically, many comedians are taking a stand in favor of his right to say them. After West wrote an article on May 10 of this year titled, “An Open Letter to White Male Comedians,” popular comic and Twitter demigod Patton Oswalt said the article was well-written, but there was also a good counterargument out there by Shaun Broyls. When West pressed him for his straightforward opinion on the issue, Oswalt said “Rape is absolutely wrong; speech is absolutely free.”

Stand-up comedian Jamie Kilstein took a more rueful approach, saying via his Twitter account, “As comedians, we don’t have health care, get paid shitty, and have no union. Yet the hill we choose to bond and die on was rape jokes.” Comedian Sara Schaefer embraced the debate, posting on Facebook she wished it would have come sooner, while fellow jokester Max Silvestri countered via Twitter with, “My distaste for rape jokes is neck and neck with my distaste for clumsy think pieces about them so let’s just not tell rape jokes.”

For more, take a look at the full version of the Jim Norton and Lindy West debate below.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , , , , ,


Alex Reynard

Why doesn't this article call out Lindy for being a liar?

"West wrote that detractors have been "threatening to rape and kill me"

She showed plenty of examples, and I read them. Not a single one was a death threat. Only TWO could be considered rape threats, and one of those was actually a meme reference.

>telling me I'm just bitter because I'm too fat to get raped

90% of the comments were this. Mean jokes about her appearance but absolutely not rape threats.

>and suggesting that the debate would have been better if it had just been Jim raping me."

Exactly ONE PERSON said that, and it was likely referencing Tosh's comment that started this whole thing.

I'm sorry that so many people focused on Lindy's appearance instead of her debate performance, but she does not deserve sympathy when she begs for it through exaggerated whining. These are freakin' YOUTUBE COMMENTS. No one with any sort of popularity doesn't get this same treatment. There is nothing special or newsworthy about this.


So much proto-fascism it's getting really warm protect lil b at all costs

Eric Larkin

Just because people laugh, doesn't mean it's funny. Would we laugh about raping babies? Is that funny too?
Comparing rape jokes to films about rape is like comparing apples and oranges. When you make jokes about sexual assault, it sends a message to so many, that it's no big deal. This kind of joke gives rapists some kind of respite from their actions, their guilt, their conscious that says something wrong.
1 of ever 6 women in the us has been raped. This is not some far off occurrence, it's something happening often. So when you think about telling rape jokes, please think of all the rape victims in the room watching next time. Imagine that they are your daughters, wives and mothers – then tell your joke.


Rape is not funny. I don't recall any of the 10 plus women I have known of that have been raped saying it was fun. The fact that there are others who think rape is no big deal, when it is one of the most terrifying, gut-wrenching, nearly soul-killing ordeals to ever be endured by any woman, man, or child is even worse. I think some people honestly think it is just a form of rough sex, when it is a horrific crime of utter brutality. Everyone does have a right to free speech, but that doesn't mean one has to make verbal threats to someone else's safety with regards to rape or joke about it. That is ridiculous and unnecessary.

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