Is rape ever justified?
Is rape ever OK?
Is it ever OK to make a joke about rape?
Most people would say no. They would be horrified. They would say that rape is terrible. They would say that it would be terrible to joke about rape. I agree. Rape is horrible and should not be taken lightly.
But what about prison rape?
What about when prisoners are raped by other prisoners or by staff?
We make jokes about prison rape. “Don’t drop the soap.” The Powerpuff Girls made jokes about prison rape. In any other context, a rape joke would seem almost unthinkable.
Some might say that prison rape is different. Why? Is it because prisoners are not humans? Because I’m pretty sure that they are humans.
Some might say that prisoners are bad people. Let’s put aside for the moment people who are in prison who aren’t supposed to be there, who are locked away because of an imperfect justice system that gets things wrong. You might say that prisoners who are raped “deserved it.” So they “had it coming.” So they were “asking for it.” Haven’t we heard this line before?
Some might say that rape is part of their punishment. Let’s put aside for the moment the fact that our laws don’t mention rape, or prison conditions generally, as part of the punishment. If rape is part of the punishment, why not make it more clear?
Let’s say a man was convicted of rape. He could be sentenced to 10 years in prison. What if instead, we decide to punish him by subjecting him to an hour of violent rape? Maybe we feel uncomfortable about having another person rape the man. We can use a machine. We can use a rape machine to rape him. Do we want the government to use a rape machine to punish people? That doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.
It seems strange to me that the way that we think about rape (and a lot of other terrible things) changes if the person experiencing it is a prisoner. What does this say about how we think about people in prison?