Re: Rape, Still Not Funny

1

The people you do get along with who tell prison rape jokes are still assholes and bad people, you know.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:50 PM
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2

Why is it that some things that I recognize as tragic and horrible really aren't funny for me, while others, like prison rape, are?

You must be really, really sexist. And I mean REALLY sexist.


Posted by: Auto-banned | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:51 PM
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3

I think you should tell the Thursdays joke, since I haven't heard it.

I take it you don't find any racist jokes funny?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:52 PM
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4

1 and 2 are both fair enough responses. I'm just trying to pick apart why, particularly, my sense of humor is out of whack with my sense of right and wrong on this one -- it clearly indicates that I am a bad person in this regard, but I'm having trouble figuring out the mechanism.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:53 PM
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5

Why is it funny and/or acceptable? Because people feel (wrongly) that those in prison deserve it; that the men being raped are going to be the child predators and rapists and murderers.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:54 PM
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There's a difference between telling racist/sexist/rapist jokes and finding them funny. It's not at all clear to me that finding one funny is as bad as telling one.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:55 PM
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7

I would guess it's because, at some level, you still aren't rid of the attitudes that cause other people to overlook prison rape entirely, whereas you are more completely rid of racist attitudes. You don't want to have those attitudes, but people don't have a lot of choice in which background attitudes they pick up towards certain groups; it's mainly a matter of what was in the air when you were brought up.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:56 PM
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8

That op-ed is a really efficient summary. Thanks for linking to it.

I think he gets at the heart of it toward the end. We've shifted as a society from sending to people to prison as punishment to sending them for punishment. And we're uncomfortable about sex in general. Combine the two, and you get uncomfortable jokes about shaming people who we can all agree are Bad People.*

I will once again recommend James Gilligan's Violence, hands down the most simple, clear analysis I've ever seen on how men's sense of shame translates to violence against self and others.

*Rhetorical overstatement; does not reflect actual beliefs.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:57 PM
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9

Awful things are funny. The question is why you don't find other awful things funny.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:57 PM
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10

4: because it could never happen to you.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:57 PM
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5 is the obvious response. But if the post is about finding not just prison rape jokes funny when others aren't, but also finding other kinds of jokes funny (when others aren't), a local and specific explanation like that doesn't cut it. The question is why one gives a pass to certain kinds of unfunny and not others.

Perhaps it's just about the prison rape jokes specifically, though.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:57 PM
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7: Sounds reasonable.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:58 PM
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9 is funny. It is unclear whether that makes it awful.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:59 PM
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It's not at all clear to me that finding one funny is as bad as telling one.

I think that's correct. Wasn't there some thread recently, where it was discussed that humans tend to laugh at dissonance? It's a way of minimizing feelings of discomfort or uneasiness.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:59 PM
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Humor often works when it is about a powerful person being brought low, made to seem ridiculous or humiliated in some way. Insofar as we see prisoners as criminals -- those big bad dangerous people who might kill us in our beds if we weren't safely locked up -- joking about their being victims of sexual assult is an attack on their power.

Hoo boy, this is my day to be Humorless (tm).


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 3:59 PM
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16

What about racist metaphors, can you understand them? How do you feeeeeeeeeeeeeel about understanding them?

A joke is like a metaphor, you know.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:01 PM
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17

we s/b they


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:01 PM
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Have you ever known anyone in prison, LB? My guess is it's harder to avoid the empathy that takes the humor out of the joke if you are picturing the object of the joke as someone you might relate to or just sort of like.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:02 PM
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10: Talk about sexism, indeed. The one pro-bono case I worked on related to prisoner's rights, a long time ago now, was horrifying generally, but particularly horrifying on the difference between mens' and womens' prisons. I'm sure some terrible things happen in womens' prisons, but the difference in safety level and amenities, at least for the prisons I was looking at, was like night and day: the idea of being sent to one of those prisons as a man was terrifying, as a woman didn't sound sound unsurvivable at all.

Now, a lot of this is that there are just going to be a much higher percentage of violent criminals in a mens' prison. But it still didn't seem that the difference should be so great.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:02 PM
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I think something similar is going on when a- or irreligious people find the jokes of religious people completely unfunny, and vice versa. When the background attitudes (i.e. the emotional valences associated with certain broad concepts that doesn't necessarily have much to do with conscious beliefs) that went into formulating the joke aren't shared by the hearers, the joke falls completely flat. The greater the cultural distance between two people, the less humor they're likely to share.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:03 PM
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21

I don't know what happened to all those apostrophes. I abase myself.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:03 PM
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22

Stan Ridgway and Stewart Copeland had this to say about the subject.

I've spoken with people involved in the group Stop Prisoner Rape, who want to change the name because prisoners who have been sexually abused in prison often don't feel as if they've been raped per se, and they're reluctant to identify with the group as constituted.

Also because the name makes potential funders squidgy, which seems like a similar but harder-to-validate reason.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:03 PM
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23

Empathy also dulls your response to cutting humor. If people you know are the butt of the joke, somehow it's not so hilarious any more. I'd bet that most of us don't know a lot of people who have spent time in prison.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:03 PM
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24

To what degree are crimes committed in prison not actually crimes (or treated as "real" crimes in any useful way)? It seems like lots of kinds of prison crimes don't result in, say, trials by one's peers, but in, at most, further punishment like isolation. Would it be beneficial to make more of an effort to try prison crimes, or is that just too unthinkably difficult, what with volume?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:05 PM
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25

Pwnd by Di.

As for 20, I'm thinking about the fact that the only people I have ever known to tell priest/pedophile jokes (and tell them repeatedly, with great enjoyment) were culturally Catholic and in many cases practicing Catholics. I don't know what to make of that.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:05 PM
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26

24 is not to say that I endorse the penal codes, but the fact that they don't seem to apply in prison seems weird and backward. Rape is rape, whether it happens in a park between strangers, or on a date, or in a prison bunk.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:06 PM
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27

Pwnd by Di.

Except that I edited out "butt of the joke" in my version, because, well...


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:06 PM
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28

People do get tried for crimes committed in prison. There are some problems -- once someone's in for life, what else do you do to them beyond administrative punishment? And eyewitness testimony is hard to come by often. And the authorities often don't give a damn, because the victim is regarded as an outlaw. But it does happen.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:07 PM
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25: Maybe because Catholics tend not to hold priesthood in high regard, and stay involved in the church for other reasons? Personally, I've always found those jokes a bit boring, and I've always been either Protestant or atheist. I assumed they were meant for Catholic consumption.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:09 PM
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30

As for 20, I'm thinking about the fact that the only people I have ever known to tell priest/pedophile jokes (and tell them repeatedly, with great enjoyment) were culturally Catholic and in many cases practicing Catholics. I don't know what to make of that.

I think a lot of Catholics have first, second, or third hand sleazy-priest stories, and memories of the stories being hushed up -- maybe priest jokes feel like a way of hitting back at the code of silence?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:09 PM
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31

AWB, a large disincentive to prison officials in acknowledging or reporting crimes against inmates is potential liability. Especially now that there are so many private contractors running prisons.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:09 PM
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32

I'd bet that most of us don't know a lot of people who have spent time in prison.

Two uncles. Both with not-so-happy incarceration tales. Prison rape jokes are just about the only area off-limits in my otherwise very, very sarcastic and irreverent family.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:09 PM
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33

I had a lot of students who'd been in prison at one of the colleges where I used to teach composition. They had an assignment for which they had to explain how to do something to me, and one man wrote about how to survive in prison. It was pretty harrowing, in that everything was about how to get along, but not too well, with the known rapists, so they'd respect you enough not to make you their bitch, but not so much that they drew you in and expected you to rape someone to prove yourself. He had worked in the prison laundry with one of the rapist gangleaders, and told the guy every day, "Hey, man, I'm not going to talk to you, because I really need to get out of here in a few months and go to college and get my life together." The guy, apparently, took that to heart and let him keep his distance.

One of his main arguments was that even prisoners with short stints would lose all hope very quickly and settle into the prison's social hierarchy, at one end or the other, as if it was the only world they were ever going to know. Very depressing stuff.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:12 PM
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34

31: Liability meaning fear of being fired/chewed out?


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:12 PM
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35

For what it's worth, unless I cast the question in the post in more general terms (i.e. why is one willing to find some unfunny jokes funny but not others?), I can't understand the question, since I don't find prison rape jokes funny.

It's somewhat of an interesting question, cast in general form, given that unfogged is invested in protecting teh humor against the humorless.

I have no idea what Ben's on about in 16.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:12 PM
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36

26

"24 is not to say that I endorse the penal codes, but the fact that they don't seem to apply in prison seems weird and backward. Rape is rape, whether it happens in a park between strangers, or on a date, or in a prison bunk."

Prosecuting rapists based solely on the victim's testimony is difficult enough when the victim isn't a convicted felon. This is why NY changed the statutory rape laws so that prisoners cannot legally consent to sex with guards, juries would not convict based on the victim's testimony.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:13 PM
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37

Catholics tend not to hold priesthood in high regard

You and I must know different Catholics.

maybe priest jokes feel like a way of hitting back at the code of silence?

Hm, maybe. The personal angle makes sense. I get volcanically angry about the cases that I'm personally aware of, but it doesn't feel like a worse betrayal than other kinds of sexual assault -- I mean, I don't have any expectation that a priest is more trustworthy, so I don't feel extra-betrayed when it turns out he's not.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:13 PM
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38

34: No, sued by the victim for negligent supervision/failure to protect.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:13 PM
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39

I doubt people who tell priest/pedophile jokes necessarily know people who have been raped by priests, but they are a little safer because the joke's indignation is presumed to lie against the rapist. With prison rape humor, the joke's on the victim.

On that note, and skipping the long setup, you know the one where the father steps out to take a piss and leaves the janitor in the confessional? Janitor has a tough case in the booth, and leans out to ask the altar boy about the right contrition. "Hey kid, what's the father usually give for sodomy?" "Two Snickers and a Coke!"


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:13 PM
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40

FYI, if you google for LB's Thursday punchline, the first one that comes up is from Free Republic. Diga me con quien andas, y te digo quien eres.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:17 PM
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41

36 is an interesting point, and not to be understated. Even a woman who is a victim of rape suffers the inevitable criminalization of the victim, not under penal codes, but under the codes of patriarchal sex. "She wasn't a virgin?" etc. I can't imagine how hard it would be to be a criminal trying to say, "Actually, I really didn't consent to that."

Also, from the stories my student told, part of the problem is that a lot of victims of prison rape are forced into a kind of "consent," in that their social position in the prison makes them the sex class who must say yes. And, to get by and avoid being beaten quite as badly, they say yes, not because they actually want to be sodomized at all. Consent is a tricky thing in a social environment in which not saying yes results in all kinds of horrible possibilities.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:18 PM
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42

The third response, however, is not at all homophobic, and, in fact, is awesome.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:18 PM
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43

25,30: I'm guessing mostly displaced anger. I don't know anyone personally who was abused by a priest, but the thought of it makes my blood boil precisely because it's a betrayal of trust, similar to finding out your kid's teacher or pediatrician, someone who was supposed to be a good guy you could tell your kid to trust, hurt them.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:20 PM
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44

41: Also, it's not like the prison rape victim can go anywhere to get away from the thugs. You have all the usual problems with prosecuting rape, plus the victim's inability to move on.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:21 PM
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45

The idea about not being able to relate to someone in prison is probably relevant, but I suspect that's neither necesary nor sufficient. (You don't think it's funny when prisoners get stabbed, do you?) I think it has a lot more to do with sexism and homophobia.

One or more of these is at play: In or out of prison, rape of men isn't taken as seriously as rape of women (or isn't taken seriously at all); vaginal rape of women is worse than any other kind -- honor violated, virginity taken, etc., etc.; men can't "really" be raped; men being penetrated is per se funny; men's sexual needs are so great that it's perfectly reasonable they would a) have sex with other men when women aren't available and b) resort to violence to do so; it's just not as bad when men are the objects of violence as when women are; & etc.

No doubt multiply pwned while I typed this.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:33 PM
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46

41 44

Perhaps prisoners should not be able to consent to sex period and all prison sex should be considered criminal.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:40 PM
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47

To get back to LB's original question, I think there are certain kinds of humor that we feel we can't socially afford not to laugh at. When I was little, I laughed at the sort of vaguely-racist humor that is common in my mother's family. But by the time I got to fifth grade or so, I realized it was really actually unacceptable, so I stopped laughing. To this day, my relatives, including my dad, will get super-pissed-off by my not laughing, and will insist that I laugh, because it "really" is funny, and don't I see that, and am I accusing them of being racists, and on and on and on. It's not like I make a thing out of it; I just don't laugh at things I find troubling anymore.

My question to LB is, is this common enough in your social set that you realize that if you did react blankfacedly to a rape joke, that it would be a dangerously unacceptable not to join in the humor?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:44 PM
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48

arg. Imagine that edited for sense-making.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 4:45 PM
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49

This is a pretty boring answer, but I think it does have to do with empathy. Having spent a fair bit of time dealing with the ramifications of the that prisoners go through, and what it is like to be incarcerated, especially when you are weak, either by virtue of size, mental illness, or intellectual capacity, I think I find jokes about prison rape even less funny than garden-variety sexist jokes, because everyone knows that a sexist joke is a sexist joke, whereas a joke about prison rape is just a joke, instead of a sexist, homophobic joke.

Ugh.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 5:07 PM
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I think they are supposed to be funny because it's not like it's for real, since men are the dominant class, it's like we think they can't really be degraded and made to be sexually subservient and have their will erased.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 5:09 PM
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51

Paste Sir Kraab's 45 together with AWB's 47, and you correctly get: certain kinds of homophobic and/or sexist humor are not only still fair game (among which set? not just privileged whitey), but we can't socially afford not to laugh, so the story goes.

One goes through transformations over time: I started being blankfaced about gay (and AIDS) jokes 20 years ago when I found a number of gay loved ones. (And now my brother is HIV-positive.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 5:19 PM
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52

It's interesting how groups of people police themselves and draw lines as to what's acceptable and what's not. Here there is a fairly low bar for acceptable though uncivil* humor, and then the case of apo, the designated bar-lowerer, and then presumably** a set of things that even apo would be censured for joking about. Or maybe not.

*better than "non-PC", no?
**has it happened?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 5:25 PM
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9 got it. Most humor is stuff that would be horrible in real life with actual victims. If the situation seems absurd and safely removed from reality, it's okay to laugh at.

So a man raping a woman is never funny.

A man raping a man might be funny, depending on whether the listener feels safely removed from prison culture.

A gorilla raping a man is always funny.


Posted by: kegler | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 6:32 PM
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54

I think racist jokes and sexist jokes and prison rape jokes and all other sorts of offensive jokes are potentially very funny. (More often simply cruel and offensive, but potentially very funny.) Prison rape jokes are no different than the rest. I'd suggest that if they feel materially different to you, that probably does evidence a serious blind spot in your empathy.

Does the fact that they can be funny make offensive jokes okay? Probably not. Certainly not the stupid ones. The truly funny ones? Maybe.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 6:40 PM
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I'd bet that most of us don't know a lot of people who have spent time in prison.

I do. Some of them are very bad people. Some are not.

I find the thought of prison rape horrible for both groups.

I also liked Sir Kraab's 45.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 6:54 PM
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Oy. It occurs to me that I have a close friend who may well be spending some time in prison soon. Makes this thread weigh that much more heavily.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 6:59 PM
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57

I see a similar thing with drug crimes. Nobody seems to care about drug sentences until a family member gets busted. Then, it is "they dont need jail!! They just need treatment."


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 7:03 PM
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9,52,53:It is about trangressive humour, and we need to get a little deeper than empathy, or watch a lot of Farrelly movies and the Scarey Movie series.

1971 in Kansas City, smoking a joint with a couple, and the guy says:"We did a lot of acid in the 60s, and the wife was worried about the baby. But I said if the baby was born without arms & legs, we could always use it as third base." Okay, not that funny.

Why are racist and sexist jokes unacceptable? Somehow I suspect the project of creating empathy by constraining humour is not that effective.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 7:20 PM
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The only think I can think of that's funnier than prison rape is an infant with cancer. Or maybe a boot stamping on a human face -- forever, with that farting noise.


Posted by: ed bowlinger | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 7:31 PM
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A man raping a man might be funny, depending on whether the listener feels safely removed from prison culture.

Prison isn't the only place men get raped.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 7:31 PM
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61

While rape jokes are homophobic, male rape victims are often not gay.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 7:32 PM
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62

While rape jokes are homophobic, male rape victims are often not gay.

This post has had me wondering about the intersection of stereotypes about prison rape and the proscription of gays in the military. It's like some weird fear that men (and women, perhaps to a lesser extent) in close quarters just can't help to get all gay, consensual or otherwise.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 7:36 PM
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Why are racist and sexist jokes unacceptable? Somehow I suspect the project of creating empathy by constraining humour is not that effective.

Interesting. I don't quite understand: a project of creating empathy, that would require bringing people to prisons, or showing them a slide show of lynchings, or any other of a variety of such things. Or more drastic things.

I don't think the constraining of humor is intended to create empathy: it's a issue of respect. No? A very important matter.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 7:38 PM
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an issue (of respect), that is.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 7:39 PM
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Why are racist and sexist jokes unacceptable? Somehow I suspect the project of creating empathy by constraining humour is not that effective.

I don't think the idea is that people will become more empathetic if you make offensive humor off-limits. Rather, as people become more empathetic, offensive humor becomes less funny.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 8:02 PM
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Gilbert Gottfried's Aristocrats joke at the Hugh Hefner roast. The Gottfried roasting of Hefner (and racist jabs at Ice-T) is in a earlier clip on the page. This clip discusses but does not show the 9/11 jokes that got Gottfried booed.

I don't think the commenters in the clip quite got it. Gottfried was making a point, that humour is and always has been one of the ways people acknowledge and relieve pain. To say something is "out of bounds" is to give in to fear. It is not about "respect."

Mel Brooks wasn't able to write "The Producers" because he didn't care about the Holocaust.

I don't laugh at prison rape jokes. I do sometimes laugh at sexist & racist & anti-semitic jokes, depending on who is telling them.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 8:04 PM
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61: True, but apropos of what?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 8:21 PM
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The jokes in 58 and 59 are both very funny.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 8:25 PM
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Prison isn't the only place men get raped.

Technically true, but rare to the point that if you're an adult male who's not in prison, it's not even on the radar as a threat.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 8:30 PM
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68:Does this mean we have no empathy for the thalidomide children?

If the baby had been born without arms & legs...it was actually fine...would the "third base" joke still be funny? I think so, delivered by the father or someone close to the family. Funny delivered to the mother or someone trying to deal with the tragedy.

But maybe not funny to a nurse. A nurse wouldn't feel she had permission to laugh. But she might later tell it to a doctor.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 8:37 PM
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Agreed. But plenty of people believe it only happens in prison, which contributes to not believing men who have been raped elsewhere.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 8:45 PM
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Are you talking about women raping men or men raping men?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 8:49 PM
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62: It's like some weird fear that men (and women, perhaps to a lesser extent) in close quarters just can't help to get all gay, consensual or otherwise.

There certainly is a strain of humor (mostly really, really not funny) that comes from (what I interpret as) most men's deep-seated (and generally repressed) ambivalence about homosexuality. The standard "drop the soap" BS is not just limited to prison stuff, and the most amazing I have encountered in several of my lives was when any trip to freaking San Francisco would elicit all sorts of clever "watch your ass" bon mots.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 8:54 PM
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74

Women dressed as bears raping men.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 8:57 PM
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75

Not funny, Wrongshore.


Posted by: rapebear | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 8:58 PM
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76

Fucking George Washington.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 9:04 PM
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77

A gorilla raping a man is always funny.

Rape, rape, rape, rape an ape...


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 9:12 PM
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78

I'm impressed that we're at comment 78, and this thread hasn't yet reached its inevitable conclusion that prison rape jokes are funny after all.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 9:55 PM
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79

Rape a Celebrity Ape. That would be on E!


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 9:59 PM
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78: I'm personally surprised that we haven't had 6000 comments about feminism, though I suppose it is a weekend.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 10:03 PM
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81

You know why prison rape jokes are funny?

Cuzza feminism.

There we are.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 10:05 PM
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82

We had to laugh at something after all those humorless bitches said we couldn't cop a feel.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 10:11 PM
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83

I don't think I've ever heard a prison rape joke I thought was funny. It's not just a sense of propriety -- I've heard plenty of funny dumb blonde jokes, and plenty that successfully played off racial stereotypes. I guess I just don't find violence or menace very funny.


Posted by: NĂ¡pi | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 10:12 PM
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84

And I'm surprised that after 80+ comment, LB still hasn't told the joke. Completely unfair holding out on us.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 10:19 PM
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85

Tragedy is when I have a hangnail. Comedy is when you fall down an open manhole and die.


Posted by: Mel Brooks | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 10:57 PM
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86

I've spoken with people involved in the group Stop Prisoner Rape, who want to change the name because prisoners who have been sexually abused in prison often don't feel as if they've been raped per se

'I wasn't raped; it was "surprise sex".'


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 11:05 PM
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Awful things are funny. The question is why you don't find other awful things funny.

This is a good start to a serious answer. When we're young, we'll laugh at just about anything that we recognize as supposed-to-be-funny as long as we haven't been explicitly taught not to laugh at it. (Some people don't get much beyond this; I've read comics talk about how shocked they were to find that audiences will laugh at anything.)

So what seems to be the simplest explanation is that you've taught yourself that certain things aren't funny, but you haven't done that with the prison rape subject. There was probably a time in your life when you had to say, 'wait, wife-beating jokes aren't funny." and then another 'wait, racist jokes aren't funny." and maybe "holocaust jokes aren't funny." etc... Each time, one has to actively take a position against finding those subjects funny (unless you grew up in an environment where such jokes were frowned upon). Anyway, like I said, this seems to be the simplest explanation to me. You seem to be looking for some kind of inner conflict that's being reflected in your sense of humor, but even if there is some conflict there, your mind seems quite made up about whether these things should be funny. It's just a matter of putting your foot down, then.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 11:15 PM
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"Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke" got me into prison, and it'll get me through prison.


Posted by: ed bowlinger | Link to this comment | 03-30-08 11:20 PM
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You're not going to like Thursdays

that joke dates back to the British Army in India and (as I interpret it anyway) refers to consensual intercourse.

It's like some weird fear that men (and women, perhaps to a lesser extent) in close quarters just can't help to get all gay, consensual or otherwise.

It's not that weird a fear, given that (as the evidence from fields as diverse as prisons, submarines, boarding schools, isolated mountain ranches etc pretty universally shows), when men are kept in close proximity in the absence of women, they do, in fact, tend to have sex with one another.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 12:54 AM
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It's not that weird a fear, given that (as the evidence from fields as diverse as prisons, submarines, boarding schools, isolated mountain ranches etc pretty universally shows), when men are kept in close proximity in the absence of women, they do, in fact, tend to have sex with one another.

Right. It happens. But to be afraid that it's going to happen? To your bum? Like, any time now?!?! Silly.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 1:12 AM
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I think I found the joke that LB referenced.


Posted by: feldspar | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 1:12 AM
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91, see 42.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 1:14 AM
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Addendum to 90: unless you're in jail. Yes, then it really happens there. I have the relatives with health problems to prove it.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 1:16 AM
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Now I am sad.


Posted by: feldspar | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 1:16 AM
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94 because of feminism.


Posted by: feldspar | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 1:18 AM
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I do have an acquaintance who spent time in prison for possession of child pornography and his wife was terrified that he'd be raped or beaten up if the nature of his crime was discovered. I found that funny.

On the other hand, I don't in the least find funny the thought of some nineteen year old boy being gang-raped by lifers. I think the difference is that for some people prison rape -- considered as the ultimate possible humiliation, the demonstration that you are on the lowest rung of the lowest status ladder in the world -- comes as a natural progression from the downward course of the rest of their lives. For a lifelong loser to lose a little more is not funny, or only very painfully funny.

But for someone who has been, up till then, a winner suddenly to be demoted to the very bottom of the heap -- that's laugh out loud banana skin humour. eg my acquaintance had been a senior executive on one of Richard Desmond's newspapers. I'd have laughed even harder if it had been Desmond himself. If Dick Cheney were to have his pacemaker fail under the strain of servicing an aggrieved gang member this would be very much funnier than the sort of prison rape that actually happens.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 1:23 AM
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If Dick Cheney were to have his pacemaker fail under the strain of servicing an aggrieved gang member this would be very much funnier than the sort of prison rape that actually happens.

See, I'd much rather see him hauled into the custody of the ICC in the Hague and prosecuted for war crimes, but then I've had two uncles who've been ass-raped in jail, so I'm not, like, impartial.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 1:37 AM
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I note just in passing that LizardBreath (and, evidently, others on this thread) think of "prison rape" as something that only happens to men.

Women are raped in prison, and have the same impossible problem of either bringing charges - the word of a convicted prisoner against a guard - or being able to move on, since a prisoner can't demand that a guard is transferred. While men being raped in prison is at least acknowledged, sometimes, as a bad thing that shouldn't happen - if sometimes as a bad thing that can be joked about - women's vulnerability to rape in prison is invisible.

Which is why I half-agree with 36 - change the laws so that a prisoner, convicted or on remand, cannot consent to sex in prison.

Except: if a guard has sex with a prisoner, that's statutory rape, no defense possible, that's no problem.

If two prisoners have sex, ought there to be considered the possibility that it could be consensual?

Further, a big part of the problem in UK jails at least is the refusal to recognise in any helpful way that prisoners have sex and do drugs, and therefore condoms and needle-exchanges are never provided. HIV transmission in prisons is a major problem, precisely because the facilities for HIV prevention in the outside world are denied to prisoners.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 1:46 AM
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Stanley -- I'd much rather see Cheney stand trial too. But neither is going to happen. I'm sorry for your uncles; it still seems worthwhile to ask why we laugh at terrible things. There is also the point, perhaps worth bearing in mind for fear of causing or taking offence, that the whole genre of prison rape jokes is very American. I don't think I have ever heard one in this country, and certainly not one set in a British jail. They came over here purely as an American import.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 2:21 AM
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99: Thanks. I've been a bit snide and will head to bed now.

It's really quite curious if it is a US-only thing. I'd like to see more discussion about it.

Um, as would Kobe.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 2:34 AM
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a big part of the problem in UK jails at least is the refusal to recognise in any helpful way that prisoners have sex

This happens in the US too. I know a guy who was in for a very long stretch (late 1960s-mid-1990s) and he said that in the years he was allowed to teach an HIV/AIDS class, they were always having to figure out how to say elliptically that people should steal plastic baggies from the kitchen. The prison officials knew full well that there was plenty of sex going on (consensual and non) but they couldn't/wouldn't stock condoms. Terrible situation.


Posted by: Not my usual | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 5:28 AM
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Based on what I know, the phrase "prison rape" doesn't cover the phenomenon. Once a man is raped, he theoretically and often becomes the slave of the rapist, who can either take him as a kind of girlfriend / wife, or rents him out to other guys. It's an ongoing relationship of domination. (This is more conformable to things Foucault wrote in the History of Sexuality than it is to either traditional or liberated contemporary ideas of homosexuality or gayness.

The original sexual orientation of the victim is irrelevant, what's at work is whether he can defend himself and whether he has protectors (a gang). Already-gay men are well advised to seduce the toughest guy in the place. Some "wives" adapt to their role, take pride in their man's status, and play powergames by manipulating him and others. Others are totally crushed victims.

It's a common conviction in prisons that only the passive participant is gay, but a prison psychiatrist told a friend of mine "If they'll flip, they'll flop" (i.e., a lot of the super tough guys would play the passive role at times).

Julius Caesar: "Every woman's husband and every man's wife". Prison sex is even more tied into power games than traditional sex-roles are.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 5:33 AM
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"often actually", "or rent"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 5:34 AM
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"Every woman's husband and every man's wife"....

The latter unsupported by the historical record.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 7:38 AM
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Jokes and or/complaisance about the likes of Dick Cheney getting raped in jail overlooks something: where there's a rape, there's a rapist, i.e., someone who may never have committed rape before. The idea of someone becoming a rapist is, or ought to be, as horrific as the rape.


Posted by: goofyfoot | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 11:10 AM
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The attitudes expressed in 96 seem to me to be the very same ones that lead people to be indifferent to or to favor torture of "terrorists". Indulging in sadism and brutality is morally wrong and corrupting, period, end of story, even if the victim supposedly deserves it.

Of course, you can see this pro-torture attitude all over American popular entertainment.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 11:12 AM
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Adding to the irony, of course, is that I'm sure Dick Cheney feels the same way about "terrorists" in Abu Ghraib as some liberals feel about Dick Cheney. Same attitude, just as corrupt.

Abu Ghraib showed how firmly fixed the idea of rape-as-punishment has become in American psychology.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 11:14 AM
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9: Awful things are funny. The question is why you don't find other awful things funny.

87: This is a good start to a serious answer. When we're young, we'll laugh at just about anything that we recognize as supposed-to-be-funny as long as we haven't been explicitly taught not to laugh at it.

Ogged's formulation in 9 puzzled me; still does. I sorted through various thoughts: this is a joke? this is a proposition, floated? It seems to propose that awful=funny is a sort of baseline: but awful things as genuinely funny, or as painfully funny, funny because uncomfortable or transgressive? Kids famously find sadistic or destructive things funny (tearing the legs off beetles, torturing cats, blowing up your G.I. Joes or tearing the arms off your Barbies) -- though it seems difficult to suppose this is some inherent feature of human nature, that suffering and cruelty are funny.

I honestly don't know where to go from there; surely people have done work on this. The terms are (for me) too impoverished to make sense of the matter. The funny is not a natural kind; awful things are not (naturally) funny.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 12:08 PM
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Careful records of sodomy being kept in those days.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 12:24 PM
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Abu Ghraib showed how firmly fixed

Yes. I still don't understand why this passed without much comment. Unlike other wartime crimes, this one wasn't done in anger or weakened by an aspect of self-defence. AG was a chance for kids to make their own greatest home videos, and they did.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 12:37 PM
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108: The proposition that most forms of humour play off of something awful (usually sex, drugs, violence or death) is pretty standard and hard to refute. (At least this holds for most forms of funny humour; we're not counting the Family Circus or Jeff Foxworthy.) Of course, not all humour plays off these things in the same way. Jon Stewart and Rush Limbaugh could both joke about the Iraq War, but they'll be completely different jokes.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 12:38 PM
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The proposition that most forms of humour play off of something awful (usually sex, drugs, violence or death) is pretty standard and hard to refute.

Oh, I don't deny it. If ogged had said "The awful is considered funny," I wouldn't be puzzled.

One of my most well-remembered moments of funny: sitting in a university library just inside a glass wall looking out on the courtyard approach. February or so, just after an ice storm the previous evening. There was a slick, invisible ice patch on the path, and I watched one person after another, every 5 minutes, stride along and fall flat on their asses. One ... next ... next ... next ... next. Hysterical. I lost it, I was so fascinated, couldn't look away, couldn't stop laughing uncontrollably. I had to leave.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 1:04 PM
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112 reminds me of sitting outside the door of a restaurant waiting for a seat. The door had a handle around waist level, and a *real* handle around hip level that was the one you had to use. I counted 12 people in 15 minutes try the wrong handle, get confused, and find the lower handle. Pretty funny.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 03-31-08 6:27 PM
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