While the phrase “don’t drop the soap” has no clear etymology, it has long been associated with jails and used in pop culture.
What does “drop the soap” mean, anyway? When you drop a soap, you have to bend over to pick it up. This leaves you in a vulnerable position for sexual assault by a fellow inmate.
That’s the simplest way to put it. If you are still confused, let’s dive deeper into the topic. Before you proceed, let me caution those who are sensitive that this article contains topics related to assault and violence.
What Does It Mean to Drop the Soap?
As explained above, an inmate makes himself vulnerable to getting raped when he needs to pick up a dropped prison soap.
If you are wondering how this is even possible, it is because prisoners shower in communal bathrooms. Given this fact, it is worth noting that the expression is often used specifically on male prisoners.
Don’t drop the soap meaning changes depending on the context.
According to Urban Dictionary, it can be a warning for someone to be careful while in prison.
Now that I have explained what happens if you drop the soap, let’s discuss when the phrase was mentioned or referenced in pop culture.
Although it is hard to trace the origin, we know for sure that the phrase has been used several times in movies.
In a film Empire Records aired in 1995, Berko tells his friend who is going to prison, “Don’t drop the soap, Warren.”
Over a decade later, art student John Sebelius created a jail-themed board game that drew criticism. As Fox News reports, the game is called (you guessed it) “Don’t drop the soap.”
Players will pass through six different locations to be granted parole. However, they must avoid dropping the soap.
Apart from the movie and board game, the expression even became a joke and a meme shared across the internet. If you ask me, however, it is never cool to make fun of people who get sexually assaulted.
Did the victim really pick up the soap while he was in the communal bathroom when the assault happened?
Contrary to what the phrase says, sexual assault and rape do not start with someone who dropped the soap. There are many factors that lead to these awful crimes being committed. In fact, they are quite rampant within adult correctional facilities around the world.
Even though the people may be guilty of the accusations against them, they deserve a safe space where they can serve their sentence. It is a basic human right as emphasized by the Just Detention International.
Even if a guy drops the soap, it should not be a reason for him to be assaulted!
Because we’re seeing memes and movies that mention dropping a bar of soap in prison, one could not help but ask, “What does “drop the soap” mean?
Upon doing my research, I realized that there is not much written about the etymology of the phrase. Hence, besides sharing the meaning, I wrote about instances where the expression was used.
Furthermore, I hope that this article has also made it clear why joking about prisoner rape is problematic.