Or, The Moral Algebra of Performing 'The Scotsman'
Last Friday night, at the bardic circle at Battle on the Bay, there were several newcomers. I thought, "What songs did I like hearing when I was new to the SCA?" In the East at that time, "The Scotsman" ("A Scotsman clad in kilt left a bar one evening fair...") was so popular that within a year or two, it ended up on the "For the love of Mike, sing something ELSE" list. I haven't heard it sung in a while, so I trotted it out.
As a joke, it's wonderfully constructed. The blue silk ribbon sneaks in with nary a hint that it'll be a first-place award in the punchline. It almost always gets a laugh.
So it was a little disconcerting when it came to me, all in a rush, that this is a joke-song about sexual assault.
Seriously. Swap the genders. A drunk woman passes out, and two men look up her skirt and leave evidence that they'd done so. That's not a joke, that's the six o'clock news. And if it's not okay to do to a woman, it's not okay to do to a man.
But it's just a jooooo-oke. Can't we make fun of anything anymore?
Did you know that over half of all sexual assaults in the US military are man-on-man? Tea-bagging counts. "Mushroom tapping" counts. And, as rare as it is for a woman to report a sexual assault, it's even rarer for a man to.
It's just guys being guys.
What, are you a wuss or something?
It was just horseplay.
Jokes like this are another way of signaling that sexual assault doesn't need to be taken seriously. No big. Betcha wish you hadn't been passed out, eh? Rather be awake for that, yeah?
At least then you could have consented.
That's not the point of the song.
No, it's not. I don't think it's meant to do anything but make people laugh.
But 40 years on, it's getting clearer that really, it's not actually funny. If the culture took sexual assault more seriously, maybe this could exist as a clear case of fantasy. I know a joke whose punchline is "The American doctor thought for a moment, then took the American lawyer and threw him out the [airplane] window." It's a Readers Digest joke, not all that great, and OMG it advocates murder! Except not really. In real life, there is no question that defenestrating people out of airplanes is not okay.
In real life, there are questions about whether or not some kinds of sexual assault are real or not.
OMG who made you the Song Police.
Nobody. I'm not the Song Police. I won't stop anyone from singing this. I won't even get up in their grill about "what you're really singing about."
But I think I've performed it for the last time.