The Onion's usual brand of satire fell flat today when the humor publication tried to find the funny in the fake story of a 13-year-old being sexually assaulted by her stepfather. In "Adolescent Girl Reaching Age Where She Starts Exploring Stepfather's Body," The Onion writers compared puberty and self-exploration with incest and child molestation. An expert "quoted" in the story explained:

“It can be awkward and even a little scary for an adolescent girl when she experiences all these strange new feelings and starts to notice the sexual desires of her mother’s husband [...] It will probably take time for Heather to figure out what does and doesn’t feel good to her stepfather [... b]ut it’s all part of growing up, and she should know that she is taking a very important step in life.

Reactions to the post were a mix of confusion and disgust. "Can someone explain to me how this in @TheOnion is funny? I may just be truly Not Getting It," tweeted Jill Filipovic of Feministe. CUNY instructor Angus Johnston was also lost. "I understand that they're opposed to the sexual abuse of children by family members," tweeted Johnston. "I just don't get the joke." Jessica Wakeman at The Frisky thought the story failed as well. "Had he been in the piece, saying something entitled and creepy and dumb, maaaybe the piece would have been cringe-inducingly funny. Instead it’s mystifyingly uncomfortable," wrote Wakeman. "What’s the punchline here? Sexual abuse is terrible? Adolescent girls are preyed on by older men? HA HA!"

This isn't to say that The Onion doesn't know how to use satire to address sexual violence issues. Its 2011 Sportsdome story "Athlete Overcomes Rape" followed an athlete accused of raping a fellow student with the sympathy one would (ideally) expect for the victim. The segment became relevant this year when CNN correspondents lamented the once promising futures of the convicted Steubenville rapists. That time around the joke, as well as the social commentary, was clear.