Looking back through older posts on the OneY subreddit on Reddit, a relatively new and very promising subreddit devoted to men’s issues, I ran across a surprisingly civil and illuminating discussion of prison rape jokes. “Scarletbanner” opened the discussion by asking why there is a double standard with regard to these jokes:
As someone [who’s] majoring in Criminal Justice, I hear comments when the topic of women being raped that it’s “fucked up shit”, yet when the subject turns to prison rape, it’s a massive joke… from derogatory comments regarding sexual preference to “don’t drop the soap”. Between 43,000-140,000+ are raped each year ffs, with men (especially homosexuals) as the largest targeted group…
The typical Men’s Rights take on this is that there’s a double standard “because nobody gives a shit about men,” as EddieVanHelsing put it in a comment there. This explanation doesn’t take us very far, given that women are also raped in prison, and that people make jokes about that too.
Others in the discussion offered more incisive takes on the issue. puffinmuffin pointed out that
the problem is NO ONE CARES about people in jail. No one gives a shit about prisoner’s rights. It really isn’t an issue about raping, it’s an issue about the fucked up system that no one cares enough to fix. Conditions in a lot of jails are downright abhorrent. Unsanitary environments, abuse, horrid bureaucracy … But no one cares. They think, “Oh, well, they’re criminals so they deserve whatever.”
Archythearchivist, a self-described “XX, card carrying, baby eatin’ feminist” suggested that the double standard
is perhaps more indicative of the way that masculinity is viewed. Male rape is funny (to some) because it subverts common narratives of male virility and roles. It’s a “joke” where the main idea is that the world is a certain way, and only certain less masculine men would be raped. … It bases itself on a world that supposedly does not exist, at least not for “real” men. … These jokes should be considered as tasteless and hateful as any other rape joke.
But perhaps the most thoughtful comment came from AlphaCygni, who noted that there had recently been a post on Reddit
from a guy who had been sexually abused in a juvenile detention facility. Apparently there was systematic abuse and rape of young boys within this facility. What struck me the most about the [discussion of this on Reddit] was the number of individuals asking the victim why he didn’t just bite the dicks of his attackers. It was a situation so far out of their mindset, they couldn’t imagine how a person can be made to feel so powerless and scared that their primary focus is on staying alive rather than avoiding emasculation. Rape as a real possibility is something that just never seriously occurs to most men and, since they never think about, they can’t place themselves in the victim’s shoes. …
All that being said, I do know some women who joke about rape. I know a rape victim who makes rape jokes. I know other rape victims who can’t stand them. I think if more people could experience what it’s like to be the object of unwanted, intense, sexual attraction by someone who is more powerful than you, there would be less rape jokes overall except by those who enjoy gallows humor. I think that if more men were allowed to openly share their rape experiences and men were to listen to these poor individuals and try to put themselves in their shoes instead of asking how they could allow such a thing to happen, or discounting their masculinity, prison rape jokes wouldn’t be seen widely as funny.
The whole comment is worth reading; this is only an excerpt.
Prison rape is a disgrace, and jokes about it don’t help. Because most of those in prison are male, it primarily affects men. But women in prison are more than twice as likely to be raped or abused by other inmates than men. And, as Scarletbanner alluded to in the comment that started off the discussion, gays (and transsexuals) face a much higher risk of rape in prison.
I’m preparing a “further reading” post on prison rape, but in the meantime if you’re looking for more information on the subject, I suggest you start with the fact sheets on the web site of Just Detention International, a human rights advocacy group working to stop sexual abuse in detention facilities worldwide; the pictures I used to illustrate this post come from a media campaign by the group.