Feature

Laughing off the horrors of prison rape

In our culture, there

Ezra Klein
Los Angeles Times

In our culture, there’s only one kind of sexual assault that people think is hilarious, said Ezra Klein, and that’s prison rape. A new movie called Let’s Go to Prison, for example, is rife with gags about anal penetration, and its DVD box features a dropped bar of soap. When Enron’s Ken Lay was sentenced to jail, California’s attorney general said he couldn’t wait until Lay got to a tiny cell that he would share “with a tattooed dude who says, ‘Hi, my name is Spike, honey.’” It’s almost as if our society has come to believe that violent sexual assault is part of every jail sentence. That’s barbaric, and the reality of prison rape is no laughing matter. As prisoners have testified in Justice Department hearings, it’s not uncommon for some inmates to be held down, beaten, and raped by as many as seven men at a time. Some prisoners enter into coerced “relationships’’ with dominant inmates to avoid these habitual assaults; those who don’t live in constant fear. Our tacit acceptance of such brutality is both morally “grotesque’’ and counterproductive. Not surprisingly, research has shown that the humiliations of repeated sexual assaults harden prisoners and fill them with rage, making them “more violent’’ when they’re released back into society. “There’s nothing funny about that.’’
 

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