Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

PRISON RAPE: REALLY, REALLY NOT FUNNY Over in The Corner, Andrew Stuttaford links to an article in Yale Law's own Legal Affairs on prison rape in the United States. It's a good piece, which you should read when you have the chance. An old boss of mine, Eli Lehrer, once described prison rape as the biggest systematic civil rights violation in the United States today (see more of his thoughts on the topic here). I don't know if that's true, though it's certainly plausible. Prison rape is a real problem for the country, one that (as Stuttaford says) challenges our vision of how civilized we are as a society. I find myself particularly galled by how easy it is for otherwise good, humane people (in which I count myself, alas) to think of the rapes endured in prison as naturally part-and-parcel of the punishment we visit on criminals. They're not. They're a massive and cruel injustice, one that we abet if we don't do our utmost to stop it.

What I hate most is that, in spite of myself, I find prison rape funny. Half Baked is funny, as are many of the other movies that use prison rape, or the fear of prison rape for comic effect. (It's not just prison rape either; think of the scene in which Seabass rapes Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber.) We would rightly consider it appalling to joke about a man raping a woman. But when Nasty Nate threatens to take his "cocktail....FRUIT!" from Kenny, or when Cam Neely makes Jim Carrey "find a happy place", we laugh. (Perhaps you're chuckling now.) I don't know why we react so differently; I just wish we didn't.