Bill Cosby's 1969 joke about seeking a date rape drug


#1

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#2

Yes. Yes it was.

Because the joke is not about the mythological “Spanish Fly.” The joke is about the universality of stories. He heard about it in Philadelphia when he 13. Robert Culp heard the same stories. And the dude in Spain had heard of it too, as American Fly.


#3

Spanish fly is a mythical aphrodisiac. Unless something has changed about date rape drugs that I don’t know about, I’m not sure why it should be confused with rohypnol


#4

Ironically, Why Spanish Fly only works on men. And is deadly.


#5

And if we didn’t know what we know today, that explanation would make some kind of sense.

But we know–at least we know what the accusers are saying–and the joke in hindsight seems to suggest that Mr. Cosby had a somewhat casual attitude about what we would now call date rape. In fairness to Mr. Cosby, the 60s were a different time, and many men still had the rapey “boys will be boys” mentality of the 1950s, so that might explain the easy and deep laughs of the audience. Today, they would probably groan, although I’m sure a fair number of frat boys would hoot and holler and pump their fists. Because, you know, what you’re calling the true point of the joke (“the universality of stories”) would be completely lost on many in the audience, who today would see it as more of a reaction to political correctness and so-called femi-nazism, which apparently torments and emasculates little boys and men alike.


#6

So does this mean that Daniel Tosh could still be able to get a presidential medal of freedom award someday?


#7

I think we are suffering from cultural distance. In 1969 “Spanish Fly” would not have been understood by those audiences as a date rape drug, but as something to increase a woman’s desire, an aphrodisiac. A “love potion”, a myth shared by adolescents, as per Cosby’s joke.

Rohypnol, the most common date rape drug that we know about today, was not available to the general public until 1975. You are mis-interpreting the joke by inferring that he is talking about a date rape drug, when he is merely joking about a “love potion”.


#8

Exactly!


#9

I don’t know about this. One man’s aphrodisiac is another woman’s date rape drug.

If you listen to how Mr. Cosby describes the furtive whispering among the boys and men when they talk about it (in secret, don’t you know, because it’s clearly something that shouldn’t be discussed in the open), there’s a not so subtle pervy tone to it that kind of makes the joke an insider’s dirty little secret.

But to your point, the times were different, at least in terms of how tolerant the male-dominated culture was to the use of “aphrodisiacs” to compel a woman’s desire.


#10

nope. that’s you suggesting that and pinning your preception as someone else’s intent. Or so it appears from here.

I think tat’s a stretch for this one piece, can you show a pattern in the rest of his work?

So called by you, not Cosby or anyone else here. I think I see where you’re coming from.

No, actually. I really did not see that coming. The aristocrats!!!


#11

While you’re at it, check out this horrible song about a guy out looking for a date rape drug! And you’ll never guess who sang it! The Coasters! Herb Alpert! Robert Plant! The White Stripes! Alvin and the Chipmunks! Neil Diamond! Elke Brooks! Horrible!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Potion_No.9(song)


#12


#13

Okay, but in the case of Love Potion #9, what makes it funny is that the man doses himself, with unintended consequences. It makes fun of the would be date rapist, putting him into embarrassing and awkward situations (kissing a lamp post, policeman, etc)

if the song were about him giving it to his girlfriend and her doing those things, it would be a pretty fucking creepy song


#14

Bill Cosby also made jokes about killing his own children. Any parent would totally understand. After the murder of his son, those jokes became less funny. We (usually) understand that shift in context as a function of history, rather than a judgement of his parenting skills. Inviting us to be outraged about comedy that’s half a century out of date, doesn’t really advance any important agenda.


#15

I’m sad that BoingBoing actually went here, riding on the wave of Bill Cosby media hype. It’s not what I expect from BoingBoing at all. Mark F - you have lost some of my respect for you as a curator.


#16

Oh I don’t know. It’s still very funny.
Spanish fly was a mythical aphrodisiac that was supposed to get your date in the mood. Not knock her out completely to take advantage of her.
Apples and oranges.


#17

Spanish fly was a topic of adolescent males back in the 60’s and 70’s. It’s apparently not mythical, and it doesn’t sound like it would be a very effective date rape drug. I hope we have progressed since then on what topics are funny, but it’s more recent generations that have had real date rape drugs to deal with.

From Web MD:

Spanish Fly
No discussion of aphrodisiacs would be complete without mention of Spanish fly, the most legendary of the love drugs, but also the most dangerous. Spanish fly, or cantharides, is extracted from dried beetle dung. Reported sexual excitement after taking Spanish fly stems from its ability to irritate the urogenital tract, causing a rush of blood to the genital area. And that’s not the down side! Spanish fly is a poison that burns the mouth and throat, and can cause urinary infections, scarring of the urethra, and in some rare cases, death.


#18

An aphrodisiac administered surreptitiously, without consent, is a date rape drug. The myth that so delights the young Cosby also fascinates the adult Cosby in this routine. Sure, there’s a nice bit of comedic construction which loops it into a story of universal truth, but there’s no denying the mechanism he uses to get there is a story about chemically coercing women into doing something they’re not otherwise inclined to do, without their consent. Given that Cosby stands accused of that very act, right about the time this was recorded, it is very disturbing, and historic social context can’t make it right.


#19

You left out the ‘W’ at the beginning of your name.


#20

If you listen to how Mr. Cosby describes the furtive whispering among the boys and men when they talk about it (in secret, don’t you know, because it’s clearly something that shouldn’t be discussed in the open)

I’m trying to understand your social environment. Does NSFW have any meaning in your world?