Prison Sex

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For the prison phenomenon, see Prison sexuality.
"Prison Sex"
Single by Tool
from the album Undertow
Released 1993
Format Compact Disc, vinyl
Recorded 1993
Genre Alternative metal, progressive metal
Length 4:55
Label Zoo Entertainment
Producer(s) Tool and Sylvia Massy
Tool singles chronology
"Prison Sex"
Music sample
The intro to "Prison Sex".

"Prison Sex" is a song by American heavy metal band Tool. The song was released as their first single from their debut album Undertow. The song is unique for its use of modified drop-B tuning.

Music video[edit]

The video for "Prison Sex" was created with stop-motion animation techniques, and was directed by the band's guitarist Adam Jones (who had previous experience in art direction and animation, including work on the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park) and was edited by Ken Andrews. The video was removed from the MTV playlist due to its disturbing content. "Prison Sex" was also nominated for 1995's MTV Music Video Awards' Best Special Effects category.[1]

The video primarily revolves around a battered white humanoid, robotic-like doll figure trapped in a room full of cabinets that contain other humanoids, such as a caterpillar with the main humanoid's face, a jar with a bee inside, a robotic character with a little child's face that twists and turns, and a being made out of what looks like meat and feces. During various points in the video the main character is confronted by a larger black humanoid who causes the doll to go catatonic. While catatonic, the black figure molests the doll via a paintbrush, fondling parts of the doll, and then some. In the beginning of the video, the black figure severs the doll's legs (even though they still move by themselves) and hangs them out of reach of the doll. By the end of the video, the doll subjects itself to the abuse by painting itself. In the final shot, it is revealed that the doll was in its own cabinet the whole time when the black figure closes the cabinet door.


With the release of the 1994 single "Prison Sex" and its music video, directed and created by Adam Jones, MuchMusic called the band into question by deeming the video too graphic and offensive,[2] later running an episode of its Too Much 4 Much series to discuss the video.

MTV stopped airing the "Prison Sex" video after a few viewings — due to a symbolic dealing with the sensitive subject of child abuse.[3] Maynard James Keenan, who wrote the lyrics, has been quite clear about his antipathy towards his stepfather during early interviews about the song.[4]

Before a live performance of Prison Sex on November 29, 1996 in Montreal, QC, Keenan had this to say:

"This song is about recognizing, identifying, the cycle of abuse within yourself. That's the first step of the process: realization; identifying. The next step is to work through it. But this song is about the first step in the process, which is recognizing."[5]

Track listing[edit]

UK version[edit]

  1. "Prison Sex (Album Version)"
  2. "Undertow (Live)"
  3. "Opiate (Live)"
  4. "Prison Sex (Radio Edit)"

German version[edit]

  1. "Prison Sex (Album Version)"
  2. "Intolerance (Live)"
  3. "Undertow (Live)"
  4. "Opiate (Live)"

Australian version[edit]

  1. "Prison Sex (Album Version)"
  2. "Intolerance (Live)"
  3. "Undertow (Live)"
  4. "Opiate (Live)"
  5. "Prison Sex (Radio Edit)"

Promotional radio version[edit]

  1. "Prison Sex (Radio Edit)"
  2. "Prison Sex (Album Version)"

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog
Germany 1993 Zoo Entertainment CD 74321-19049-2
UK Vinyl 74321-19432-1
UK CD 74321-19432-2
Australia 1994 CD 74321-19049-2
UK Promo vinyl TOOL-002


  1. ^ Toolshed article by Adam Morrison — publication: Circus magazine
  2. ^ Roman Sokal (2001). "Stepping Out From the Shadows". Retrieved March 6, 2006. 
  3. ^ "A Tool for the Truly Cool - Big hit of Lollapalooza tour gears up for second album". San Francisco Chronicle. 1994. Retrieved March 2, 2006. 
  4. ^ Kabir Akhtar. "F10." (TXT). The Tool FAQ. Retrieved March 2, 2006. 
  5. ^ "Tool - Prison Sex (Live In Montreal, QC - 11-29-'96)". 1996. Retrieved July 2, 2011. 

External links[edit]