Stay out of jail, lads…

Random fact encountered last night:

Each year twice as many men are raped in jail in America than women who are raped on the outside.   [Found this in Antero Alli’s new book. He cites Jim Hogshire (1994) You are going to prison.]

Now there are issues with reporting of rape of women, but hell, I imagine there are also issues with reporting of rape in prison, and I haven’t read the original, so let’s take the numbers at face value for the moment.

I guess what strikes me about them is that rape of females is regarded as a Big Deal, a thing that is Wrong and a bit Fucked. And that is fine. But, in contrast, male rape, and particularly prison rape, is pretty much a punchline. However, I wonder if it is any less damaging as an experience.

(Hmm… maybe the context of prison matters? Being in prison is already a  separate reality, whereas being not safe in real life is more messed up? OTOH, in prison you are trapped, and may have less ability to protect yourself. And some idiots would probably start muttering that they deserve what they get.)

The sheer numbers are surprising to me, and I would guess not widely known. If they were, perhaps it would be perceived more as a problem rather than a sick joke? Also, the ratios involved are alarming – the male prison population, even in prison-loving America, must be a fraction of the female population outside jail…

And also, since prisons don’t seem to work in any useful way, a systemic clusterfuck of that scale seems another argument for finding a different way to deal with our social issues… especially since we are looking into US style privatisation of prisons in NZ at the moment…

7 Responses to “Stay out of jail, lads…”

  1.   tatjna
    June 18th, 2010 | 3:39 pm

    I can think of two factors potentially at work here. First, men tend to be inured to violence in general – violence towards, and by, men is seen as a lot more ‘normal’ in western society than is violence towards or by women. So men raping men is somehow sen as less of a shock horror than the standard image of the powerful man overwhelming the weak woman.

    The other thing is tied in with your idea about the fact they are prisoners. In order for rape to be a joking matter, one must be able to dehumanise the victim. Prisons are designed to dehumanise the inmates, and therefore the rapes are happening to The Others, who don’t matter because they aren’t really people, you know?

    I’m surprised by the figures too, although I know that on the outside, less than 25% of rapes are reported. Dunno how that would equate to reporting in a prison – I’m guessing the surveillance that happens in a prison might increase the amount of rapes that authorities are aware of. Whether they do anything about it is another matter.

  2.   billy
    June 18th, 2010 | 4:05 pm

    Heh. This post was almost tatjna-bait 🙂

    Yeah, I think dehumanisation is a key word here.

    But I instinctively would distinguish between the social “desensitisation” of male violence, and sexual violence. Punch ups are one thing, but I think if male rape was happening to anything like that extent outside of prison, it would be a very different issue.

  3.   tatjna
    June 18th, 2010 | 8:31 pm

    Given that rape is generally seen as an expression of power, I wonder what about the prison situation causes male on male violence to swing towards rape as opposed to the punch ups that seem to be the ‘norm’ outside of prisons.

  4.   Pearce
    June 21st, 2010 | 3:02 pm

    “Vlad, you make prison sound like a man-rape conga line. I was the most disappointed in your attempt.”


    [this comment is so going to look like spam]

  5.   bruce
    June 21st, 2010 | 7:00 pm

    >in contrast, male rape, and particularly prison rape, is pretty much a punchline

    Believe it or not, I have a copy of You Are Going to Prison!

    Anyway, I think I disagree, though I think the dehumanisation aspect is valid.

    I think that it’s joked about because it’s so horrifying that it can’t be talked about in a straight, let’s do something about it way as with rape of females.

    Speaking as a straight american male, let me say that the fear of homosexuality, and the cherry on top– homosexual rape is part of the whole system. It’s not abberational. The whole enculturation of american males to fear any kind of homosexual contact, signifying, labelling dovetails nicely with this added punishment. Doing time? maybe not scary enough. Getting raped with no protection from the justice system? The real psychological threat/punishment for falling afoul of the system.

    But yeah, so horrifying that it can only be joked about– because you can make a joke if it’s never going to happen to you, right?

  6.   billy
    June 26th, 2010 | 3:19 pm

    tats: assuming for the moment homosexual rape is about power; in answer to your question I would say maybe the demographic that makes it to prison regularly is more used to violence, so bashing someone to express power/dominance is less effective than making someone your bitch.
    bruce: actually, you have a point. the homosexual rape angle is kind of the main deterrent/thing that makes prison *really* unappealing. are you suggesting that it is allowed as an institutional strategy to, no pun intended, keep people straight?

  7.   bruce
    July 2nd, 2010 | 11:52 am

    >it is allowed as an institutional strategy to, no pun intended, keep people straight?

    yes, though the word allow isn’t one I would choose. Allow suggests to me a rational actor with the power to make and enforce a decision and a laundry list of “features” that can be turned on or off.

    Rather, I think more of a hologramish state where each element references, reflects, and reinforces each other one without anyone necessarily having decided anything at any point.