Does General Hospital‘s Teen Prison Rape Storyline Go Too Far?

My sister is a mother with four boys (one is 18) and an addiction to General Hospital. She told me that the soap opera recently started a story line involving a straight 18-year-old virgin who gets raped in prison. And while it’s upset her enough to possibly stop watching, 949 Facebook fans who have commented on the scene feel equally ambivalent. I almost never hear about prison rape on TV (even in Texas, the “Prison Rape Capital of the World”) and when I do, it’s usually in crass jokes. Does that mean General Hospital‘s treatment of such a taboo topic is actually progressive? Or just going scandalous for sweeps week?

For those of you (like me) who don’t watch the show, 18-year-old Michael landed in prison for bludgeoning his crazy stepmother to death with an axe handle after she kidnapped his pregnant mom. Michael’s mobster dad burned all the evidence to protect his son but the court convicted Michael anyway. Once on the inside, Michael’s rapist Carter protected him from an abusive guard and later raped Michael as “payback.”

The soap opera never explicitly shows the rape. Cameras show Michael in bed as Carter somehow enters his cell at night and tells Michael he’s gonna pay. The following week, when Jason (one of his dad’s mob buddies) ends up sharing a cell with Michael, the teenager appears bruised, despondent and flinches away when Jason tries to place his hand on Michael’s shoulder. Later they show Michael having his blood drawn in the prison infirmary (HIV test?) and when Mike sits down, he does so very, very slowly.

Showing its effects on the young man makes for a more heartrending tale than if they’d just shown the attack. It’s perfecting for shocking audiences while turning a young character evil or possibly redeeming his dad’s no-good goon as a protector of the young; and that’s precisely the problem. I’ve seen enough prison porn flicks to know how easily and often the reality of prison rape gets turned into a fictional plot point that’s forgotten as soon as the next scene begins.

But General Hospital isn’t just being sensational—they’re acknowledging a very real problem. Seventy percent of LGBT-identified inmates report having being sexual assaulted during their incarceration. People mistakenly assume that all prison rapists and their victims are gay (why else would a man not fight to the death to protect his ass?). And HIV rates among male U.S. inmates are five times higher than gen pop (that’s general population, for the unaware). That’s partially because most prisons don’t hand out condoms — the conservative argument being that condoms only encourage sexual activity as a tacit permission, the same flawed reasoning behind abstinence-only sex ed.

All My Children, The Young and the Restless, and One Life to Live all intimated prison rape storylines back in the early 80s, but General Hospital may be poised to break new ground by addressing the reality in full. And while some Facebook fans feel disappointed that “the series is turning into a daytime Oz“, my sister’s not disturbed by the storyline so much as the victim being an 18-year-old virgin (like her son). “He’s so innocent and the storyline’s so real,” she said. “I don’t watch soap operas to live in reality, I watch them to escape into fantasy.”

Criminal fathers, crazed stepmothers, and accidental murders make satisfying fodder for daytime soaps, but it seems that some television audiences still feel uncomfortable talking about prison rape, whether real or fictional.

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  • MatthewinCA81

    I won’t even start with rapid soap opera aging syndrome in this case. I will say how disappointed I am in American soap operas though. I have stopped watching them. Only Europe for me!

    I could almost forgive the conservative story lines, the bad cinematography, and the cheesy settings. What I can’t forgive when I compare it to European soaps is the caliber of acting. Those are actors that are devoted. I think they must practice after hours because they are committed to their roles. When I watch American soaps now, I just don’t buy it.

    There are exceptions of course, but mostly it looks like what the actors have said in interviews – they have a read through and then they tape.
    So, no. To do a rape storyline on General Hospital and disregard Bobby’s gay son Lucas(?(I can’t remember at this point it’s been so long)) is just not acceptable.

    Rape in prison is valid; however, I really do already know how American soap operas will handle it – cheap, poorly acted (with an Emmy most likely), and since this is General Hospital: a mob murder of the rapist. Oh, and Carly will be involved somehow. Music will play and… a breakthrough in less than a year. Hurray!

    Sorry this is long, but it really irritates me. Soap operas have so much potential, but they fail to live up to it in my country (USA).>:[

  • Tom

    So. I have to go to jail if I wanna get laid?

  • Lamar

    Prison rape is a real problem but it’s not taken seriously by the majority of the public, the media or the government, however there are endless discussions on combating male-female rape such as devices that cut off a man’s dick, talk of capital punishment for male rapists etc.
    Why isn’t male rape addressed more often, victims are way more likely to get infected with STDs such as HIV, it is far more painful and traumatic but it’s like every time male-male rape is mentioned it’s in a joke but for male-female rape it couldn’t be more serious. Men need to start demanding their rights.

  • Lanjier

    I think soap Operas have to be fun and a little silly. The slide off their genre when they make life too real, and I think that is what some of the viewers are complaining about.

    But I should never be allowed to write one. “Trans-gender Warden Kundla takes Michael in her office and they talk about their dreams over tea.”

  • stan

    Hi, didn’t the douche kill someone, with an axe handle? It would only be appropriate that they show the rape, with the handle. In 3D. Cheers.

  • Bob

    “my sister’s not disturbed by the storyline so much as the victim being an 18-year-old virgin (like her son). “He’s so innocent”

    Funny how all mothers think their babies are innocent virgins! My mother thought the same thing while I began having sex at 11 years old!


    @Bob:*funny* I was 8 before I was 7 :-p

  • Kyle412

    Rape on GH is nothing new. Laura of the iconic daytime couple Luke and Laura was raped by Luke of all people! She was 20 at the most. Elizabeth was raped when she was 16 (younger than Michael at 18). Both the stories of Laura and Elizabeth were popular. Interesting that viewers are getting up in arms about a rape when it’s a male rape but for years they have been keeping quiet about when women are raped.

  • Nick

    Actually, I think addressing male rape in this genre is a good thing. Rape in any form is disgusting and dispicable. Sadly though, male rape tends to be overlooked and ignored. One of my best friends was raped a few years ago. Despite the resulting trauma and devastation, she began voluteering at rape crisis centers and has become very active in support groups for victims. However, she has told me that frequently male victims tend to be ignored, scorned, or at the very least not taken seriously by victims’ support groups. Fortunately, she is working to change this attitude at the centers she does volunteer at. By addressing this issue in such a wide spread format, maybe the wider society will change its attitude and begin to take male rape victims more seriously and treat them with the support and love they need.

  • glennmcgahee

    I guess if Michael has been infected by the HIV virus, he’ll be in the storyline for a while longer to educate the public a little and then be written outta the show. Nobody who is HIV positive can stay around for very long since they’re so many issues that will have to be dealt with. The public couldn’t handle it.


    @glennmcgahee: Gonna be interesting to see how Uncle Saul’s HIV storyline unfolds on Brothers and Sisters. The writers tend to be fairly Gay positive so most likely won’t be over the top.

  • Dame Helga von ornstein

    I hate to sound like a wet blanket but for some reason or other the teenaged actors in these soap operas look like older actors pretending to be teenagers. I don’t watch soaps but have no doubt it took some acting for this actor to sit down softly.

    Another desperate attempt to attract more of the loyal gay community to it’s show.

  • Daniel

    Actually, Robin (another character on GH) has HIV and has been on the show since she was a teenager. She lives with HIV and is married. It doesn’t come up constantly, but certainly it is a regular impact on her life and the storylines.

    I watch GH everyday – I must have not been paying attention (I can watch the whole thing in 30 minutes since SO MUCH is repeat stuff and random exposition for those who don’t keep up regularly). I thought Michael just got beat up. I bet they don’t explore the topic more than they already did – it will come up a couple more times and then it’ll be forgotten. At least with Elizabeth and with Laura, the rape storylines had major implications for them and others and continued to impact storylines for years and years (and still do).

    Of course – GH has a host of other problems (I won’t go on and on), mainly its glorification of mob violence and its treatment of really bad people as heroes.

  • Taylor Siluwé

    Gave up soaps years ago because they amount to 5 hours a week I can never get back.

    However, this storyline grabs me. Not just for the pervy prison rape fantasy that so many people have (until it actually happens), but because this issue to true to life, happens every single day and yet no one cares because they’re society’s throw-aways, criminals who gave up their rights to freedom and, well, their right to say no when Big Mike climbs into their bunk.

    More shows need to tackle this subject, and hopefully the conservative brain-shackles that have hobbled this issue (and every else) will finally be broken.

  • Sine

    “For those of you (like me) who don’t watch the show, 18-year-old Michael landed in prison for bludgeoning his crazy stepmother to death with an axe handle after she kidnapped his pregnant mom. Michael’s mobster dad burned all the evidence to protect his son but the court convicted Michael anyway. Once on the inside, Michael’s rapist Carter protected him from an abusive guard and later raped Michael as ‘payback.'”

    I know soaps are soaps, but that has to be the most convoluted storyline I’ve ever heard. It’s sad that people get paid to write the stuff, even if it does lead to addressing actual issues with the stay-at-home mom and the slackers-at-work.

  • Kyle412


    Glenn, you obviously don’t watch GH. The character of Robin Scorpio (played by Kimberly McCullough) joined GH in 1985 when she was only 8 years old. The audience saw her grow up before their eyes. In 1994 GH told a wonderful love story betwen Robin and her first boyfriend. Unbeknownst to either of the teens the bf carried HIV and Robin became HIV +. GH has told Robin’s story for 16 years and shown that even though she contracted HIV as a teen she went to college to become a doctor, had struggles falling in love as she dealt with her condition and now is happily married. She is one of the most popular characters on the show and her pairing with Patrick is one of the happiest and most stable relationships on the show. If Michael does test positive he will definitely be part of the storyline just as Robin has for the past 16 years.

  • Taylor Siluwé

    No.15 Sine

    Some ordinary good people who toil 40 hours a week at a job they hate also watch shows with these “convoluted” storyline, not just stay at home moms and slackers. Its escapism. It makes people feel their own miserable lives are less so. And in a world were grown-ass people oppress and kill each other over fairytales, escapism can be a godsend.

  • Lauren

    As an avid GH watcher (My mom has been watching the show since she was 14, I’ve been watching since I was in utero) and a long time LGBT activist, I think GH has the potential to handle this situation quite well. This new kid playing Michael seems to be growing in to his role well. What I think alot of you are missing, since you are NOT followers of the show is the importance of the character Jason. Jason, is not just one of Michaels fathers “mob buddies”. Jason has been taking care of Michael since he was an infant (particularly when Carly, Michael’s mom, had post-partum depression) and arranged with the gov’t to go to jail to Protect Michael. The man who plays Jason has done so for years and years, and the role is more than him as Sonnys (Michaels dad (but not really, but thats another storyline all together) enforcer – he is often the protector of the oppressed – but through gentle empowerment rather than the typical macho guy role.

    Well this turned in to more of a rant than I’d like it to be, but I think a little character background is important before you make any judgements about the show, the plot, or the characters.

    If you live on the east coast, the show is coming on today at 3pm.

  • AnotherGayRyan

    @glennmcgahee: Kimberly McCullough has been playing Robin Scorpio for on and off for years, and the character has been HIV positive since roughly 1995-96. Not saying they do a great job with it at all, but for the record… and HIV diagnosis is NOT a one-way ticket off daytime TV.

  • curtainface


    “it is far more painful and traumatic”

    compared to what, exactly?

  • Lazycrockett

    Meh GH, ATWT is where its at with the all gay love triangle in full swing. Honestly its the best written storyline I’ve seen on a soap in decades.

    Team Lure.

  • Kevin

    An [email protected]glennmcgahee:

    You obviously don’t watch GH. One of GH’s most popular characters has had HIV for 16 years.

  • Hilarious

    The only reason they care is because it’s two men. It’s rather sad and pathetic that they can’t get past that to see the underlying story and truth of what really happens to men in prison.

    These are the same women who killed the gay storyline on OLTL with their letters and threats to quit watching.

    They don’t want to see anything they deem as gay/homosexual on their TV and ABC willingly bends over.

  • Lamar

    @curtainface: Compared to vaginal rape, cos it’s you know … tighter on a man.

  • anonymous

    It boggles my mind that female soap characters, some quite young, have been raped so frequently and in some cases hooked up with their own rapists but a rape of a male causes more controversy. Prison rape is a real issue and a realistic male rape story has never been done before. My only issue with the story is that I’m not sure the GH writers can handle it with the proper sensitivity.

  • FrancoisTrueFaux

    @PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS: If not over the top, then ham-fisted. Could they have jammed that storyline into the season finale any more bluntly? I love Brothers & Sisters but as of late, the writers seem more focused on things happening than the effect of those things happening on the characters.

  • LanceLegion

    I have long believed that while political action is very, very important, one of the most powerful ways to change the world is through popular culture. If this GH story line opens the conversation about prison rape then some good has already been accomplished.

  • Sexy Rexy

    Personally, I think a soap opera is the wrong venue to deal with something as serious as rape. Like the woman said, she watches them to escape from reality. I’d rather see an A-list movie or a first-class documentary on the subject than watching them deal with it on one of those godawful daytime soaps.

  • Michael

    I’m adding my two cents here regarding the Michael prison storyline.
    I’m a pretty open minded guy. Marine, straight but hardly a prude & yeah I watch GH. People have sex in this world, some by choice, some by arrangements and some against their wills. People are often uncomfortable when presented with a scene or situation they cannot relate to, hence all the mothers and others up in arms about Michael’s possible prison rape. I thought GH did an excellent job not showing the actual attack. The psychological impact of having it occur off-scene is much more powerful and much more professional/tasteful. To compare GH to HBO’s OZ is plain ignorant. OZ was specifically about a special program for inmates within a specially designed prison. The show itself attracted many actors who wanted to expand their credentials and test their limits as actors. The American public needs to stop whining about everything it doesn’t understand, appreciate or has not experienced. Many of you are just too spoiled to appreciate what you’re being exposed to via media television. Story lines are supposed to be inspiring, heart wrenching and emotional. They are designed to make you think, to make you look and appreciate that you are not that character. Does the actor benefit? Sure if they work hard to make you believe the storyline. The current GH Michael prison storyline is well written. The fact that people are talking about it both good and bad proves it’s stimulated peoples thinking. GH wins this debate.

    A huge misconception is that anal sex is gay sex. Plenty of heterosexuals engage in anal sex too people & there are plenty of homosexual identified guys who do not engage in anal sex and in fact are completely against anal sex.

    I’ve had plenty of gf’s when I was younger think that anal sex was a good alternative to saving their virginity. When people mix religious views w/personal views and try to call them “morals” they miss the boat entirely. Life is hard. Prison life is harder & no one, male or female deserves to be raped, particularly children. GH has always pushed the envelope regarding its story lines. That’s why it’s an award winning show & both the writers and actors should be commended for their efforts and dedication.

    For the person who commented about european soaps/shows being better… you must have more of an appreciation for boring, long and drawn out stories that are equally if not more out of this world. Just because their shows are filmed to appear like a movie doesn’t make them any better. The reason why their actors appear so dedicated is because they don’t expand their resumes and act in other shows, movies or programs. They are 1 dimensional. True, American Soaps can get annoying and too many commercials but hello that’s capitalism at its best. Those commercials/sponsors pay their salaries.

    I don’t know what world some of you people live in but I could make millions if someone made a soap about my life… from divorce, secret adoptions, paternity tests, reunited w/biological parents, father a cop, mod connections, military experience, young marriages, multi marriages, patriarchs dying, parents dying, siblings popping up out of thin air, rapes both male and female & other scandals, etc.

    The days of leave it to beaver are over. The sooner some of you realize that and understand that Art imitates LIFE, and not the other way around, the quicker you will understand what drives soaps to write these story lines and why they have been and continue to be a popular staple in the american tv culture.

    For those that use soaps to escape reality… that just says a lot about your own life if you have to use a soap on TV to escape your life… you forget they are a vehicle for entertainment. Clearly many are products of creative minds but if people are talking about this show and in particular this storyline, then GH did what it set out to do. Stir the pot. They get my vote of confidence.

  • Uh Huh Yeah Right

    GH nor any American soap knows how to handle anything well. I find it offensive that soap writers/fans thinks its okay to sensationalize a sensitive issue just because it was acknowledged. It seems people are saying that it’s okay to improperly hand certain social issues in a soap opera because at least they are acknowledging it unlike other networks. I disagrees. GH dealing with prison rape does not work when its done to further reinforce GH’s skewed moral compass and it’s done with weak storytelling. How did Carter get into Michael’s cell? Prison’s in 2010 are not what they used to be. The plot holes and contrivances of the story or so apparent that it degrades any of the integrity behind this story. If Jason gets away with vigilante justice, it just reinforces this hissy fit immature notion in our culture that it’s okay to kill someone for doing something horrible.

    I feel bad for Michael, I really do. If my child were raped, I would want the SOB dead. But feeling that hatred is one thing. Readily acting on it, is another and that’s where GH lost it’s right to tell this story. They are not going to explore this story with any kind of genuinely good writing, and it’s going to be used to once again throw attention off the fact that Jason is the villian of the show. He mopes around feeling so guilty, along with Sonny, about the way Michael has turned out, but they don’t plan on taking any action to set it right like quitting the business and setting better examples. They just lecture to Michael and we’re supposed to feel sympathy. Sonny and Jason are anti-heroes and hence all notions of right or wrong can’t help but be automatically distorted.

  • Angie

    @Uh Huh Yeah Right:

    I totally agree with you. All of these comments about how the GH writers can make this into a realistic storyline. I don’t think so. Will Micheal be raped over and over again until he learns to accept it, be murdered, or kill himself? Do other inmates have a knight in shining armor riding to the rescue? Will other inmates who are really subjected to this type of abuse be released from prison when the storyline dictates? My guess before summer is over. Again I DON’T THINK SO! There is nothin realistic about this storyline and I will join those who will not watch the show anymore. The PTB at GH knew beforehand that this storyline would be controversial and I hope it pays off for them, but as for me I have better things to do with my time.

  • Taylor Siluwé

    No. 29 · Michael

    Well said. And furthermore, the days of Leave it to Beaver were always a sham. Life was never so simple and perfect.

  • Daddy Grace Fish Sandwich

    I stopped watching Soaps years ago. I use to watch “All My Children” and “One Life To Live”.

    Rape is a serious problem in all male prisons. No one deserves to be raped. If I had to be raped, let it be by Alex O’Loughlin, Eddie Cibrian, Alex Rodriguez, or Derek Jeter.

    Just my luck, I would get raped by someone who looked like Andy Rooney on CBS Sixty Minutes. LOL LOL

  • Andrea

    It took me a while to get through that first episode since I knew where it was going but I made it through and I’m glad.

    This storyline has the possibility to be explosive – although I have the feeling it will fail since it’s General Hospital. They’ll either give Michael HIV or they’ll suddenly brush it aside and you’ll never hear about again.

    I said the same thing about how I don’t watch soaps for reality but I’ve changed my mind.

    And I love Chad Duell.

  • K

    I knew they were going this route with Michael.

  • MaDonna

    @Lamar—First off, let me say that no rape is more traumatic than any other. Rape is rape. And it is very traumatic and very painful for the victim. I know. I was raped several years ago and the scars that were left behind still ache to this day. It is sad that male/male rape is not being treated seriously by rape victim support groups and I hope that it changes soon. So maybe GH putting a story out there about it will open the public’s eyes and help people to see that it is something to be taken very seriously. I sincerely hope that GH treats the storyline with respect and dignity and not just as a way to increase ratings. I’m watching with interest as I have been a loyal GH fan all my life.

  • Aldo

    @Lamar: Did you just say male rape is more traumatic than female rape? …….

  • Sharon

    I don’t understand why prisons can’t keep rape from happening. I don’t approve of a sue happy nation but I would sue a prison as I didn’t sign up to be raped, just to serve time.

  • Mike

    Forget the rape storyline, I miss 15 years ago (or even longer) when General Hospital actually had the majority of their stories IN THE HOSPITAL. Now you see it like 5 minutes a day, if that.

  • snore

    To the women who started this thread because of her nephew. A soap is a soap, ridiculous, outrageous, and far fetched as always. No one ever knew for sure that he was raped till this Monday 1/31/11. The show is fictional, not about ur nephew. He’s eighteen, I’m sure he knows the difference.


  • snore

    Oh, and btw, I have been sexually abused, by family members, most my childhood, but never raped. My parents always took the other persons side. We watch GH together and although it makes me uncomfortable to watch that stuff in front of them, it gives them an outside view. And for myself it gives me a chance to grieve a little, although I have gotten closure on my past. I don’t think GH went too far. I think if you have been there, it can be an outlet. As far as the innocent 18 yr old, most likely it’s fictional, like a movie.

    Thanks for listening.

  • rn

    just started watching GH again and today heard “Carter rapping me” while Michael was talking about the things that have been happening to him and his sister and family. I didn’t know they had gone to that story line. I actually like that this soap is touching on realistic plots even with a dramatic “creative liberties”. I understand how it can be unsettling but I thought Christina’s (his younger sister – who is still pursuing an older man) beatings were terrible and a step into reality for a soap, this plot is just furthering that I think.

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