Hmm. I don’t read The Oatmeal as often as I read some other webcomics, but here are my thoughts:
Needless to say, rape is serious business, and on most occasions, I don’t approve of jokes about it, considering how many people have been affected by rape. The word is also used now and again casually in conversation (e.g. “I totally got raped on that exam!”), which I admittedly usually let slide.
Can rape jokes be funny? Well, the way I see it, most of the time it is more toying with what is considered to be taboo in our society more so than it is meant to downplay the seriousness of rape as an issue. When looking at a rape joke, I’ve always suggested that the context also be looked at. If it focuses more on the rape than it does on the diffusion and combination of horror and humor in theme, then I will most likely have a problem with it. If not, then I’ll leave it to you to judge whether or not it can be considered humorous.
Rape is very real, and it affects a lot of people. An allusion can be (and usually is) in bad taste. In this case, I think Inman had no spiteful or malicious intent with his cartoon: I think he just wanted to make a comparison that seems to have been as innocent as his jokes appear to be capable of getting. It just so happens that he chose “rape” as the word he wanted to use.
Which isn’t necessarily a good or witty thing. I totally understand people who have zero tolerance for rape jokes. Opinionated though I may be, I still think I have to look the other way sometimes, so as not to ruin the joke for myself. It’s quite selfish, and I have no excuse for it, but it’s true. It’s a flaw that I have.
I guess what I’m getting at is that, in the case of rape jokes, humor is in the eye of the beholder. In this case, I didn’t quite find the comic to be particularly funny, but I don’t think it was created with malevolence. To each his own.