What is so funny about rape? More specifically, men being anally raped in prison? Last Sundayâ€™s episode of the television series â€œThe Boondocksâ€ was based on the Tom Dubois characterâ€™s phobia of anal rape. When I first saw the episode that began this storyline, I laughed at Tomâ€™s nightmares about showering in a hot, steamy prison stall with huge, muscular men, eying his anus with longing. It was Tomâ€™s fear that made it so humorous. In Sundayâ€™s episode, however, after attending a group therapy program for men who fear anal rape, Tom took some children, including Riley and Huey to a prison for a Scared Straight-esque program.
First off, Aaron McGrudder must have seen all of the most popular prison-rape clips on YouTube in preparation for this episode, including Tossed Salad Man (1) and Fleece â€œBooty Warriorâ€ Johnson (2), who says that booty is more important than food or breathing for that matter. He did leave out the â€œHis face, face meâ€ one (3), which is for the best (consider yourself warned).
But what is it about male anal rape (MAR) that is so funny? I laughed at the episodeâ€™s ridiculousness and I laughed at the clips it referenced. It is important to note that I am not laughing at the act of MAR, which is not featured in any of the videos. But just like we have become so desensitized that we can make jokes about domestic violence, laughing at rape is a slippery slope.
Yesterday I was talking about the episode with a male friend who hadnâ€™t seen it. I told him how much I laughed at the episode, but I wondered why the idea of a man being violated sexually was so funny. He started laughing hysterically. â€œWhat?â€ I asked. â€œViolated! Thatâ€™s such hilarious way to put it! Violated is such a funny word.â€ I was stunned, not at my friendâ€™s douchiness (He also referred to rape as â€œsurprise sexâ€) which was pretty much protocol, but that he found the word â€œviolatedâ€ to be funny, when I intentionally used the word to denote the seriousness of the question and the issue.
I know as a woman, the idea of men fearing sexual violation in a specific setting, such as prison, when women have to think about the possibility of being sexually violated in many, if not most situations, tickles me. Men only think about rape as it relates to prison, while women think about rape as it relates to being around men we know, men we donâ€™t know, out in public alone, in a club, biking alone at night, meeting a man for the first time, traveling to countries with different norms regarding womenâ€™s rights and consent, you get the picture (Note: Can women rape women? Yes. Are we socialized to view women as being as physically threatening as men? Of course not).
But I wonder why men laugh. Is it because anal rape is â€œgayâ€ and anything â€œgayâ€ equals funny? Is it because like domestic violence, rape is only suppose to happen to women, so when it happens to men itâ€™s funny? Or, does making light of male rape and normalizing it as a part of going to prison prevent men from being sympathetic about rape in general? Most people donâ€™t laugh at a pedophile talking about what kind of little boys and girls he or she prefers, or a rapist talking about how to find potential victims. But take a large, borderline illiterate black male, put him in an orange jump suit, and ask him about the joys of forcing men to have sex with him, and we all laugh.
Itâ€™s important to note that when I say â€œweâ€ all laugh, I am including myself. I laugh, and I think I know why I do but I am not satisfied with that answer. So readers, please help me figure this out by answering in the comments section:
- Why do we laugh at male anal rape (MAR), particularly in the prison context?
- Does making light of MAR reduce our sympathy for rape victims of any sex?
As for the Boondocks episode, kudos to the writers (via Huey) for commenting on the Prison Industrial Complex, and prison as a modern-day system of slave labor.
Video references (NSFW)