Until today, I hadn't watched nor particularly cared about Tosh.0, because sometimes it's more productive to ignore dumb sexist bullshit that you know will make you want to throw things at your television. But this recent segment, in which comedian Daniel Tosh asks viewers to record themselves sneaking up behind women and "lightly touch" their stomachs, deserves our attention for the way Tosh goes out of his way to stress that this touching should be unprovoked, non-consensual, and — hopefully, in best case scenarios! — shame inducing.
After Tosh introduces the segment, entitled "Lightly Touching Women's Stomachs While They're Sitting Down," he waits for the audience to laugh and then says, "It's not what you think." (Huh? What does he think they thought?) Then, he breaks it down: "This is where you sneak up behind women who are sitting and lightly put your hand upon their stomach."
But wait! I'm still a bit unclear. Are we supposed to be showing our affection for these women when we stroke their bellies?
"Make sure she's aware that you are in fact feeling a roll," Tosh clarifies, after asking his audience to follow his examples — all clips of women giggling confusedly and looking ashamed after having their stomachs patted. "Be careful, because they like to pretend they don't love it."
There are already a handful of YouTube clips posted by dudes who made their own videos "gently touching" girls' stomachs, and one video on the Comedy-Central hosted Tosh.0 community page is of a kid patting his teacher's stomach. "My English teacher said she would have me suspended if I uploaded her reaction. So I chose my language teacher," he explains. OH RIGHT, that makes sense. What a quick-thinking young man!
Why don't many women "love" when men — even men they know, who won't then post the results online — touch their bellies? Maybe it's because our culture is inundated with countless images and messages that promote an unachievable standard of beauty, and women tend to feel insecure (or worse) about their bodies. And in the case of this "prank," the belly roll and, in turn, women's insecurity about their bodies, is the punchline. Your stomach has a roll, haha! Betcha feel fat, fatty! Of course you're ashamed!
This crap is par for Daniel Tosh's course; one of the "recommended" clips that pop up after you watch the stomach segment is called "Stuff You Never Want to Hear Girls Say," in which Tosh challenges viewers to still find the girls in the video attractive after they say such traumatizing, batshit crazy phrases such as "My parents are so excited to meet you," "I've decided to stop counting calories and just enjoy my life," "Let's take a class together," and, most horrifying of all, "Hi."
So why give shows like Tosh.0 more publicity by covering their tired routine? Because when Tosh beseeches his viewers to propagate his own sexism — "Daniel develops a way to get closer to women, and challenges viewers to get close, too," it says online — that's more than just unfunny; that's forcing women who probably don't watch or care about Tosh.0 to be a part of it, too.
I always assumed that very few people watched Tosh.0, based on how dumb I'd heard it was, but Change the Ratio points out that a huge number of people actually (shockingly, depressingly) tune in for every episode:
"Tosh.0" drew 3.1 million total viewers to its season premiere, along with a 2.3 adult 18-49 rating, 4.1 men 18-34 rating and a 4.6 men 18-24 rating. A huge hit with young men, "Tosh.0" was the #1 series in Prime on Tuesday night across all of television with men 18-34 and men 18-24, scoring the best rating among men 18-24 for any of the series' season premieres.
I don't really care if Daniel Tosh wants to keep ridiculing women who want their boyfriends to meet their parents and take classes with them; I have way bigger fish to fry. But it's completely unacceptable for him to physically harass unsuspecting women, and for him - and Comedy Central, by proxy - to "challenge" millions of people to follow his lead.