Content warning: This post discusses prison rape, rape jokes
On the rare occasion a rapist goes to prison for that crime, you can expect to hear people hoping that person is raped in prison. Rape jokes about larger scarier rapist “Bubbas” abound. Protagonists on police procedural television shows use the threat of prison rape to coerce confessions and cooperation, as the “good guys”.
As detestable as these public celebrations of sexual assault are, they reveal a truth feminists have been saying for generations: Rape is an abusive display of power, not uncontrollable lust. When someone hopes a convict will be raped, they aren’t hoping another prisoner will find them attractive. They’re hoping that prisoner will hurt them.
There is no crime that deserves rape, not even another rape, because rape is not something one can deserve. Rapists, whether prisoners or guards, are not judiciously sentencing offenders to assault as some type of vigilante justice. They are assaulting those they imagine they will be permitted to, just like outside prison.
When we conceive of rape as an acceptable punishment for real or imagined wrongdoing, we are taking the mindset of a rapist who justifies his actions by claiming his victim deserved it in some way. Short skirts don’t cause rape and neither do drug possession charges. Rapists do, and a prison system that enables them shares blame. A government that encourages this state of affairs as ” deterrent ” to crime shares responsibility.
That rape is common in our prisons is a stain on our national character. It is an abomination. It is cruel and unusual punishment. It is a human rights violation. It is a contributing factor to rape culture and rampant sexual assault both in and out of prisons. It isn’t justice, or a joke.
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