I view it as a sign of social progress that jokes about sexual violence against women have gone out of fashion in mainstream television shows and in polite conversation.
But laughing about men raping men in prison continues to be disturbingly normative. Consider for example David Letterman’s top 10 list about former Illinois Governor Blagojevich. Two of the ten are references to the hilarious possibility that Blagojevich will be sexually assaulted by other inmates, ha ha ha. It is to laugh. Not.
The former Governor should go to prison as punishment for the awful things he did. But he does not deserve to be raped in prison. No one does. And the prevalence of this human rights violation is something we should all be ashamed of rather than snigger over.
Even if you are cruel enough not to care about what happens to people in prison, consider your self-interest: Do you want more of the hundreds of thousands of people who return to communities from incarceration to come back traumatized and enraged, as well as possibly infected with Hepatitis or HIV?
Remember all those mirthless feminists in the 1970s who responded to rape jokes by saying “That’s not funny”? They were right. Jokes about prison rape should get the same frosty reception.