Sorry, Prison Rape Jokes About Justin Bieber Aren’t Funny

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When rape involves men, particularly men in prison, we as a society often trivialize it into nothing more than a “don’t drop the soap” joke. John Lash, executive director of Georgia Conflict Center, implores us to end our absurd acceptance of rape.

By John Lash

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I don’t think rape is funny, and I don’t find jokes about rape entertaining. A lot of people might feel the same way, at least when it involves women, but when it comes to men, particularly men in prison, our society accepts rape, and sometimes even condones it. “Don’t drop the soap” or “Watch out for Bubba” are commonly recognized as rape jokes. When criminals are arrested people openly write of their wish to see them raped.

Think about 19-year-old Justin Bieber’s recent arrest in Florida. I am certain I have never heard a song by Justin Bieber, so I don’t have an opinion about him or his music. It appears that a lot of people enjoy his music, and a lot of other people seem to hate him. I don’t follow news about celebrities much, so I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the Facebook post that came across my page last week.

It was a picture of Bieber, smiling in an orange jail jumpsuit. Next to him was a picture of a dark skinned, seemingly angry black man. The caption implied that the black man was going to rape Bieber. It currently has over 400,000 likes on Facebook as well as nearly 20,000 shares and comments. Many of the comments were exceedingly vile, as is the nature of the Internet, but it isn’t uncommon to hear prison rape jokes in other media as well, including late night comedy shows.

“The police report described him as 5 feet 9 inches tall and 140 lbs. Or as his cell mate put it, ‘just right’,” said Conan O’Brien. And Jay Leno quipped that Bieber would not want to sing “I wanna be your boyfriend” to other prisoners.

After searching for the story online, I read about Bieber’s escapades and subsequent arrest. The vitriol in the comments was palpable, and many expressed their hope that the young celebrity would find himself in the cell with “Bubba” and be anally raped or forced to perform oral sex. In nearly every meme the imagined rapist was black.

I do not want Justin Bieber to be raped. I also don’t see anything funny about the chance that he (or anyone else) could be raped if he were to be incarcerated. Let me add that I also don’t see anything funny about the portrayal of his imagined rapist as a black man. Both the acceptance of rape, particularly of young men, and the assumption that the ones doing the raping will be black are repulsive to me.

According to Just Detention International (JDI), more than 200,000 prisoners, including children, are raped in American prisons each year. Rapes and other sexual assaults are carried out by staff and other prisoners on some of the most vulnerable people in our country. The state takes their freedom away, along with most rights, and thus has an obligation to protect them. This is not happening yet, partly due to a lack of public pressure to change the status quo.

Consider the outrage that would occur if late night comics were to joke about women being raped or how women deserve to be raped if they put themselves in certain situations. Few people hold such beliefs, and few find it humorous. With male prisoners things are different though. Not only do we as a society accept the current state of prisons, we actively support its inclusion in the punishment that prisoners suffer. We support it so strongly that we are able to make jokes about it. I look forward to the day when such jokes will go the way of jokes based on race, religion, nationality and sexuality. When the humor of them wears off and people see the real horror that we have so easily tolerated.

***

John Lash is the executive director of Georgia Conflict Center in Athens, Ga. where he works to increase the use of restorative justice approaches in the juvenile court, schools, and the community, and teaches conflict management skills in various settings. He is a graduate of the Master in Conflict Management program at Kennesaw State University. He is a regular op ed contributor to JJIE, where he also assists in website management and content curation.

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Comments

  1. Nice one, John.

  2. Theorema Egregium says:

    Like I wrote last time on a similar article, I don’t believe it is really jokes. It is a revenge-by-proxy fantasy.

    It is when people seek a socially acceptable outlet for their pent-up aggression. They vent it in the form of “righteous anger”, and delinquents whose prison sentence is considered too small are a popular target, because you can be sure to be part of an angry mob, which makes it look justified. It’s a “Burn the witch!” scenario, except those people are too much afraid to be seen as evil themselves to state outright, “I would like to beat up/rape/kill Justin Bieber”, so they attenuate it by expressing their wish that someone else will do it, and also mask it as a joke.

  3. Thank you John for shinning some light into some misfortunes of societal humor.

  4. Well, maybe if rape wasn’t allowed in prison, people would not just assume that a 19 year old teenager would be brutally outmatched by anybody bigger than him. Rape is not supposed to be allowed in prison, but nobody cares because once you are a convict, the only person you can depend on is yourself. Guards do not care, they tend to look the other way. Prison is its own world, if you piss off the wrong inmate, you are screwed.
    Society accepts what happens in these places and aren’t even surprised. The social media, like films, tv, talk shows, and anything with news in general is no longer horrified by these actions because deep down everyone thinks, that if you are arrested and convicted its your own damn fault, therefore whatever happens in prison stays in prison, until maybe one day we will pay attention to the violence and horror that we are constantly shown everyday. So, don’t be disgusted be people’s comments because people adapt, and right now, we have adapted to this. Thank social media for that.
    What are we going to do about it?

  5. Barry Taylor says:

    I do not like Bieber
    He is a spoilt brat who is going to be his own downfall .
    That he should be sent to prison will be what he deserves but I do not think he will easily end up in prison
    He is to famous
    I agree that I do not condone Prison Rape on any male
    I have seen what trauma this causes for men who have been raped in Prison
    Imagine yourself being raped

  6. The Messanger says:

    Okay let’s get something straight here. Prison jokes about justin bieber are funny. Why you ask? Well it’s because justin bieber sucks and deserves to be made fun of. Now if this was some other person it wouldn’t be because they are more valuable then justin bieber. I’m sorry, but that’s just simple logic.

  7. CaptainROFL says:

    Fail article is fail

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  1. […] Sorry, Prison Rape Jokes About Justin Bieber Aren’t Funny by John Lash (747 words) When rape involves men, particularly men in prison, we as a society often trivialize it into nothing more than a “don’t drop the soap” joke. John Lash, executive director of Georgia Conflict Center, implores us to end our absurd acceptance of rape. http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/cc-sorry-prison-rape-jokes-about-justin-bieber-arent-funn… […]

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