Saturday, 4 May 2013

Ugh. Prison rape jokes aren't funny.

I get offensive jokes. Of course I do. I've laughed at a few. Everything's offensive to someone. But saying as much can get you branded as that lowest of the social pariahs, the one who doesn't have a "sense of humour".

Anyway, what I really mean is that I understand the mentality behind making offensive jokes. There's the shock factor, the need to make people think "did you really just say that?", the moment of disbelief before the hysterical surprised laughter. The need to prove you're edgy and cool. The ease at which you can pick a target, and then moan how anyone who doesn't like your joke is just being politically correct.

People are slowly getting better at this sort of thing, I think. Jokes about homosexuality tend to revolve less around the heinous practices of being gay and more around the uncomfortable reaction it genders from conservatives - and I love that. There are countless posts about why rape jokes aren't funny and why comments about minorities are thing which have to come from within those communities rather than from outside them. Generally, gratuitously bad-taste jokes are getting more sensitive, or at least smarter.

The thing is, apparently prison rape is still totally a-okay to mock.

Think about it. No matter the medium - sitcoms or drama or magazine editorial, left-leaning or ardently conservative. Whenever the chance of being incarcerated crops up, there will almost always follow a comment about what will follow in prison.

"I'm too pretty for jail!"

"Don't go dropping any soap."

"Be careful in the showers."

It all makes me feel like throwing up.

We've established generally, as a society that raping a woman is wrong (unless you're one of those cave-dwelling neolithic things known as a "lad", in which case you probably thing it's "mad bantertainment"). Putting something in someone else's orifice without their express permission is a kinda literal dick move.

Apparently, this doesn't apply to criminals. You robbed someone's house: therefore, alongside being locked up, I am totally fine with the idea of you being sexually assaulted as part of your penalty - and not only that, I will gleefully laugh about it. It's just how things work.

I remember having a guy come into my school and talk to us about his time in a prison in Arizona. It sounds like the stuff of nightmares, feculent and sweaty and putrid, full of people who fell out of horror stories. There were gangs set up strictly along race lines, and getting beaten up was a regular occurance. This guy told us about one event he witnessed where another inmate had a glass bottle inserted into his rectum and then shattered.

And it's something we get jokes about on primetime television.

Prison rape is a humanitarian problem, but we don't care about it because the victims of it aren't children being sodomised by Catholic priests or women suffering at the hands of abusive boyfriends. Of course I'm not saying those things are fine - they are heinous. But they aren't mocked with the same crushing regularity. Rape is a horrible thing. It's not about sexual attraction, it's (broadly) about exerting power over another individual in any way you can, proving your dominance. And suddenly, an action which we deplore when directed towards women is hilarious when directed towards people in the criminal justice system.

I suppose another level of it is the masculinity aspect of it. Rape against men is even more underreported and underrepresented than rape against women, and I guess it's because the shame aspect of it is that much more heightened. Women get caught up in the idea that if they'd been less provactive it wouldn't have happened: men assume a "real man" wouldn't get raped, and the silence continues.

Worse, consider the conditions inside prison: if it's the sort of place you will be raped in the first place, trying to get councilling for it will be impossible. Imagine trying to recover from such a destructive event in an actively hostile environment. You'd just be expected to get on with your day. You'd gain no sympathy, from anybody. That's horrible.

Is that why we laugh at jokes about people being anally assaulted? Being it's emasculating? Because we think that murderers and kidnappers and drug dealers deserve it?

They might be horrible people who did horrible things. They might equally be entirely unremarkable people who made a mistake and got busted over it. But whatever their moral status, prisoners are still PEOPLE. And no person ever deserves to be raped.

Trying to sort out the actual institutionalised practise of prison rape is a serious problem in and of itself. The very least we can do is to stop half-assed writers using it as a cheap punchline whenever they want to try and be controversial.

So prison rape "jokes" aren't funny. Cut that shit out.


  1. So who are you to dictate what's funny and what's not? The God of comedy? Also, why should I feel sorry for a bunch of people who don't give a rat's ass about anyone but themselve's and rob, kill, assault and rape?

    1. Hi Irwin!
      Well, you kind of answered your own question. They are selfish people, but they are still PEOPLE. Human rights are called human rights for a reason - they apply universally, not just to nice people, y'know?

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