Protestors demonstrate as former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn exits Manhattan court in 2011. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

What was supposed to be a discussion on gun control in Colorado turned into a ‘rape prevention’ debate that then downward spiraled into rape jokes on Twitter.

Seriously, could I make this up?

The Twitter hoopla that now is making headlines started last week when Colorado State Rep. Joe Salazar (D) gave his two cents about a bill that would ban concealed weapons on college campuses.

In an apparent response to concerns about what women would do to defend themselves against rapists, Salazar said, “It’s why we have call boxes, it’s why we have safe zones, it’s why we have the whistles. Because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at.”

Really? Is that why we have rape whistles? So fearful women don’t unload on male peers on campuses everywhere? Strange, I’ve never heard it explained that way.

“And you don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop…pop a round at somebody.”

Yikes. Salazar later apologized but it was a little too late, at least for social media.

Cue conservative blogger SooperMexican, who told The Daily Beast he started the #LiberalTips2AvoidRape hashtag on Monday because he found Salazar’s comments to be “condescending to women.”

That would have been very constructive indeed, but the conversation SooperMexican started—one that gained 25,000 tweets in 24 hours and trended for two days—looked more like this:

@TheKindaNiceGuy #LiberalTips2AvoidRape Write a formal letter to the rapist asking him not to. If time is of the essences, use email.

@Bidenshairplugs #LiberalTips2AvoidRape Go for the Democrat politician look. You definitely won’t be raped…

Photo credit:

This photo was retweeted more than 200 times.

SooperMexican eventually did admit some people were “taking it a bit too far” by mocking survivors of rape. But his tweets weren’t exactly fostering dialogue on self-defense or debunking sexist constructs like victim blaming.

@SooperMexican #LiberalTips2AvoidRape: yell “racist” at your rapist… that’s like the worst thing ever!

@SooperMexican #LiberalTips2AvoidRape: pray to Obama extra hard, and promise to have 3 abortions in his name.

And then Fox commentator Bob Beckel said on The Five, “When is the last time you heard of a rape on campus?” He was roundly shot down, but still.

To think I considered the Missouri bill that would make proposing legislation to limit gun rights a felony was absurd. Is this seriously what the dialogue on gun control/rights and rape in our country has turned into?

As Shelby Knox, activist, put perfectly on Twitter: @ShelbyKnox What Salazar said about rape & guns was STUPID. #LiberalTips2AvoidRape is the GOP taking it & making rape & survivors a punchline.

She added: @ShelbyKnox Just the frame, ‘avoiding rape,’ tells women to prevent rape rather than asking people NOT TO RAPE. #LiberalTips2AvoidRape #rapeculture

Bingo. The next time someone wants to talk about “rape prevention,” I’m whipping out this:

British-based campaigns released this poster on how to stop rape (hint: for potential perpetrators).

How you feel about the Second Amendment is one thing. We can have a discussion about gun rights/control, or at least try. And I’m all for a conversation on effective defense against sexual assaults. But making light of rape, rape survivors or anything remotely related to rape (except for the perpetrators) not only undermines your argument, it’s unacceptable.

Aly Neel is a journalist based in Istanbul. Follow her on Twitter at @AlysonNeel.