Tuesday, May 08, 2007

So why do we as a culture think anal rape is funny?

This is one of those things that has bothered me for awhile, but I haven't ever written about it.

Linguist Friend knows a Polish curse that translates to "may a branch fuck you" that implies a sort of torture that you can imagine without any additional help from me. (I'm sure he'd teach it to you at GA if you asked nicely.) I bring this up not to bitch at Linguistfriend (or Poland, for that matter) but I have to wonder how desensitized one has to be to find that a good thing to say. Admittedly, I don't think I've ever heard LF say it to anyone other than a misbehaving cat. But still...

Perhaps I'm overly sensitive to this because my brother is in jail and everybody knows that prison rape is the funniest thing ever. I've been known to write to wacky morning show Djs that joke about prison rape and say "Prison rape? Is still rape. Is rape funny to you?" I get sheepish responses and there are often fewer rape jokes on that specific show, but it's a drop in a very large cultural bucket.

I'm pretty sure that if I said that I wanted a female to be forcibly impaled on something, the community would be mad at me. But if I said the same thing about a guy, that's funny?

The only specific example I used was one from my best friend for a reason. Finger-pointing and talking about past things people have said sounds like a boring discussion to me. Comments attacking individuals will be deleted from this post. I'm not looking to attack any specific person for making jokes about it, but I am curious why it happens and why it really doesn't seem to bother anyone but me as far as I can tell.

CC

13 comments:

Steve Caldwell said...

Many things that people make jokes about are things that make people uncomfortable.

It appears that male-on-male anal rape in general and prison rape in particular do make folks uncomfortable.

My daughter invited us to see a production of The Exonerated at her college. The play is about men and women on death row who were wrongfully accused.

One actor was relating the experience of a man who was wrongfully accused and anally raped in prison. The monologue was very intense. When he mentions the sexual assault, a few people in the audience nervously laughed.

I doubt that even the persons who nervously laughed were viewing it as funny. It was probably a way for them to reduce tension with this topic.

The nervous laughter did bother the cast and crew. They talked about it when we went drinking after the performance.

I would suggest that jokes and laughter in part come from a need to reduce tension. So why do so many feel tension with the topic of male-male rape?

Is it due to the possibility that men can be victims?

Is it due to discomfort over homosexuality?

Is it due to misogyny and the possibility that a male might be forced into a "female" sexual role?

Or perhaps all of these possibilities contribute to the discomfort with this topic and the need for some folks to make jokes for relieving that discomfort?

Boy in the Bands said...

I detest prison/anal rape jokes, too, for the reasons you mention but also because it feeds into the image of gay men -- after all, sexual positions are the sine qua non of identity, right? -- as depraved, predatory sadists (who get what they deserve.)

UUpdater said...

"Tragedy is me getting a Hangnail. Comedy is you falling down an elevator shaft. If it doesn't happen to me, it's funny." Mel Brooks

Of course I doubt it would be funny for Mel Brooks if it were a relative in the elevator shaft. I also suppose most of the people laughing at anal rape jokes do so because they feel very separated from the experience.

ms. kitty said...

I think it's awful too, CC. As a junior high school counselor, several years ago, I had boys in my caseload who had been anally raped. The damage to their self-identity was as serious as to that of any girl who had been assaulted. They were humiliated and enraged by the "power over" scenario. They were little boys when it happened, but it must affect adult males in somewhat the same way. It's not funny at all. Ever.

James Andrix said...

Perhaps it's a byproduct of our view of criminals, and to a lesser extent men.

Nobody says "Don't you care about muggers and murderers?" In general it's considered OK to not have much compassion for criminals.

Last night I heard a joke about Paris Hilton getting tattoos, bulking up, and making designer shivs.
If a male defrauds the public and goes to jail, there will be jokes about shanking right along with the rape jokes because some part of most people are angry enough to want him dead.

Men in general have a role of the strong protector. It's almost like the think that it's impossible for them to be powerless, so anything that happens to them is just something that happens, not a cause for compassion.

kim said...

I don't think I've ever heard a joke about anal rape. I agree that it wouldn't be funny. Rape is rape, and it's not funny.
But humor is often about pain avoided. Except puns.

PG said...

I'm pretty sure that if I said that I wanted a female to be forcibly impaled on something, the community would be mad at me. But if I said the same thing about a guy, that's funny?

Depends on the community. I've spent two weeks arguing on my blog with people who started an online community where the social norm is that talking about raping a woman is "edgy" humor, and if she gets upset about it, that shows she's an uptight bitch. One thing I've noticed but not pointed out there is that the guys who complain that when making such comments they are merely playing a part, never seem to put themselves in the role of someone who would want to rape a man. I guess the amount of acting they're ready to do is limited.

If anyone is interested in the "Prison Rape Elimination Act" passed by Congress a few years ago, I highly recommend this article.

epilonious said...

I present John Gabriels Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory

I once spent a better part of a week trying to convince an internet message board to stop using "Gay" as a pejorative. In that week I learned trying to get the internet to stop doing anything that causes drama or discomfort (IE, giving attendees attention) is pretty much impossible because no-one is going to be smacked or looked in the eye for being highly inappropriate.

As for our fascination with it... I think half of it is discomfort, as Steve pointed out, and the other is just schadenfreude.

PG said...

epilonius,

I'm a big fan of community moderation systems, like on SlashDot, where the majority of decent people can "vote down" the trolls so their messages are still available, but are not prominent. Such systems do allow for the kind of social punishment that bad behavior offline would receive.

Robin Edgar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chalicechick said...

Finger-pointing and talking about past things people have said sounds like a boring discussion to me. Comments attacking individuals will be deleted from this post. I'm not looking to attack any specific person for making jokes about it, but I am curious why it happens and why it really doesn't seem to bother anyone but me as far as I can tell.

LaReinaCobre said...

Not interested in prison rape jokes. I think people are insensitive because they lack understanding. They don't have a loved one in prison, like you do, or like I do.

In entertainment, these jokes are frequent, e.g. "don't reach for that soap!" There was even a movie - a comedy! - recently about prison rape, which was protested by anti prison rape activists, including some UUs.

epilonious said...

PG: I have been around digg too much to trust the community moderation systems. Someone trolling in a very funny way will be dugg-up, while someone making a good point in a sanctimonious or too-earnest way will be dugg-down... and the people mocking them dugg up anew.

I'm sure that trying to get Digg to stop using "gay" as a pejorative would be just as futile and prickly as no-one likes being told how to talk.