These Lesbian Comedians Are Using Humor To Talk About Rape Culture

Through humor and heartbreak, these lesbian voices will continue to be heard until everyone listens.

When the world is rocked with pain and controversy, it’s so often queer women who work tirelessly to ensure issues aren’t forgotten when they stop making headlines. Lesbians were the on the front lines of the hospital wings during the height of the AIDS crisis when so many were still looking away. Lest we forget, it was also a lesbian whose accusation of sexual assault finally brought Bill Cosby to the courtroom for his reckoning. Andrea Constand’s was the only case that hadn’t passed the statute of limitations in their states. But not every form of activism is the same. Some lesbian comedians are using humor to open up difficult dialogues.

In the last few weeks, two lesbian comedians have dropped stand-up specials that continue to leave an imprint on viewers and reignite the passion for the #MeToo movement. Cameron Esposito recently released “Rape Jokes,” described on her website as, “a standup special about sexual assault from a survivor’s perspective.” Hannah Gadsby has also made waves by dropping “Nanette” on Netflix, an intimate special that delivers a shock to the system and revolutionizes the way comedy blends pain and laughter.

Both Esposito and Gadsby shed light on the fact that lesbians are far from immune to assault at the hands of men. They also candidly discuss their own experiences with harassment and assault in a way that reminds all of us that it can happen to anyone, anywhere, and it’s never the victim’s fault. These comedy specials hilariously and heartbreakingly remind us that toxic masculinity affects all women, regardless of their sexual orientation– and sometimes even because of it.

Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette” is a visceral gut-punch of a comedy special, blending punctual laughs with squeamish discomfort that’s laced with downright devastating commentary. She makes music by speeding up and slowing down the beat on her terms, by making you feel her pain and guffaw at her gumption. My wife watched Gadsby, mesmerized by the truth she spoke and the honesty she displayed, telling me later that some of the content made it feel like someone had exposed so many emotions she didn’t want anyone, even herself, to know about. I left this viewing experience feeling raw, sad, but also incredibly inspired.

Cameron Esposito’s “Rape Jokes” although it sounds more biting in tone, strikes a more balanced approach between comedy and social commentary. It might have left me feeling slightly less existential, but equally as impactful. Her energetic set left me feeling empowered, to speak up both for myself and for the women around me who have had the courage to tell their stories. Esposito leans more on current events to dish out her poignant hot takes, and considering the current state of affairs, it feels good to be able to find humor in some of it. If laughter is the best medicine, “Rape Jokes” serves up just the right dose to ease our pain.

These women are speaking out and using comedy to help survivors and allies understand that your value doesn’t hinge on what you do or don’t do, what you say, or what you are unable to articulate. Lesbians are just as invested in this fight against toxic masculinity, and sexual assault and harassment as our “straight sisters,” as Esposito calls them. Hannah Gadsby and Cameron Esposito are using their status and platform to deliver a message all women need to hear about their worth. From sex education and LGBTQ information to survivor support and a safe space for listening, we’re here to keep the conversation going. Lesbians have been fighting for equality for all genders and sexual orientations for decades, and their voices will continue to be heard until everyone listens.

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