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Sara C Nelson Headshot

It's My Right to Laugh at Offensive Humour

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During Halloween party season I spotted perhaps five Jimmy Savile outfits. A cigar, a shell-suit, a cheap blond wig and some bling make for an astoundingly simple yet instantly identifiable costume.

I laughed until my sides hurt - and so did everyone there.

That I found them funny doesn't make me some kind of monster. It doesn't mean I'm a paedophile sympathiser. It doesn't mean I disregard the very real pain the abused and vulnerable experience.

It just means that I have a sense of humour that may be a little different to yours. It means I can laugh where others may take offense. I'm allowed to find these things funny and I'll continue to defend my right to do so.

If someone rushes into a meeting late, announcing they're "sweating like a rapist", I'll chuckle.

When one of my close male friends recounted his trip to a model figurine convention he described his nerdy glee akin to that of a "paedophile in a nursery". I laughed at that too. It's funny because he's not a paedophile, (he is justifiably ashamed of the figurine fetish though, rest assured.)

Declaring oneself to be "sweating like a rapist" also tickles me, because one isn't a rapist.

If I were in the company of someone whom I suspected may have fallen victim to a rapist or a paedophile I'll exercise caution with this sort of joke. But I won't live my life walking on eggshells.

In the same way I might gently suggest if you're easily offended by jokes about disability or rape you probably shouldn't book tickets for Frankie Boyle's next stand-up show or even follow him on Twitter.

I respect a person's right to hold any opinion, even if I don't respect the opinion itself.

Which means Boyle's repertoire of jokes about Madeleine McCann, BabyP, Katie Price's disabled son Harvey and children with Down's Syndrome don't send me into paroxysms of rage.

I find some of his material amusing. Some of it's hilarious. And some of it I don't care for at all.

But I won't wring my hands in despair because he's targeting "life's innocents". I respect his right to poke fun at these subjects, even if I don't always find his jokes funny.

I've worked as a journalist for over ten years and that's more than a decade of writing about the horrors of humankind. Dead babies, hate crimes, bombs, earthquakes and murder. You name it, I've covered it.

I'll never, ever, be blasé about these things, but in order to function and not crumple into a sobbing heap at my desk every time I am confronted with some new tragedy, it has became necessary to anaesthetise myself.

I was working at a certain red-top tabloid when the Baby P scandal broke and many readers began sending in teddies, cheques, cards, letters and toys.

The grief for this child, who died alone in a blood spattered cot before reaching his second birthday, was palpable. And it was moving evidence of the love and care we can extend to those we have never even met.

The gifts continued to come thick and fast, piling onto my desk until I was eventually surrounded by a shrine of toys and tributes to a dead child.

I don't assume to have any more resilience or backbone than the next person, but I was able to disengage emotionally.

If I hadn't, I wouldn't have been able to write and I would have been out of a job. I am immensely grateful to be able to laugh and/or tune out. And I know it doesn't make me any less of a person.

I've experienced racist abuse (I'm half Iranian), I've been branded a slag for admitting to the odd one-night stand and I've been in a relationship with someone who was handy with his fists.

All of these situations were horrible, traumatic and sad. But when my friends jokingly refer to me as "the Ayatollah", call me a sex pest and ask if I'd like a pint of wife-beater, I'm in stitches.

I'm OK with that because it's genuinely funny. Because I unrepentantly believe mocking the horrible, terrible things in life takes the poison out of them.

And if you don't agree, it's your right to jog on.