Prison sexuality (or prison sex or penitentiary sex) deals with sexual relationships between confined individuals or those between a prisoner and a prison employee (or other persons to whom prisoners have access). Since most prisons are separated by gender, most sexual activity is conducted with a same-sex partner. Exceptions to this are sex with an employee of the opposite sex, as well as conjugal visits.
Prison sexuality is an issue that has been commonly misunderstood and misrepresented due to not only the taboo nature of the subject but also because of the lack of research. Despite having regulations of sexual activity while incarcerated, prison remains a very sexualized environment. Consensual sexual activity is most common in prisons.
Sexual behaviors in prisons are grouped into four categories. The first category is suppression in which an inmate chooses celibacy. This type of sexuality is focused on refraining from sexual activity within the prison. This most often occurs as an effort to stay loyal to one's partner outside of prison. Next category is Autoeroticism which occurs when one takes part in masturbation and pleasuring oneself. This act is looked down upon in prison and can be viewed as self-abuse. Next category is Homosexuality which consists of two types, consensual true and consensual situation. Consensual true refers to those who were homosexual before prison. Consensual situation describes those who have homosexual experiences for the first time in prison. The sexual violence category includes coercion, manipulation and compliance. Manipulation is performed for power or some kind of reward. Compliance is done for safety, protection or out of fear.
In general, prisoner-prisoner relationships would be same sex relationships, as prisons are generally segregated by sex. An exception to this general rule took place in Canada, at Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines prison. There, two convicted killers of the opposite sex, Karla Homolka and Jean-Paul Gerbet, were able to engage in sexual activity through a chain-link fence which was the only barrier separating men and women. This prison is Canada's highest security prison in which inmates of either sex may be sent if considered especially dangerous.
The first research done on prison sexuality was on women in 1913. In 1931, researcher Selling, found that different levels of relationships exist between females in prison (and female juvenile facilities), such as "friendship, pseudofamily membership, pseudohomosexuality, and overt homosexuality". The forming of pseudofamilies have been more common in women prisons. These are families women create in prison that provide them support, bonds and relationships, like a traditional family would. Typically, only the main couple in the family has sexual relations. The women take on masculine and feminine roles to mimic a real family. "Mammy" or "mumsy" is given to the older, maternal woman in the family, while "Popsy" is given to the dominant woman, who is least feminine. These "parents" are typically older and are seen as mentors to younger inmates. Roles within pseudofamilies are flexible and can change with time.
In 1965, Ward and Kassebaum conducted research in Frontera through questionnaires and concluded from staff and inmates that "between 30% and 75% of the inmates had sexual affairs while in prison", 50% of those engaging in same-sex sexual activity. Sexual intercourse between these women were typically for fun and enjoyment, sometimes transitioning into a serious relationship. Furthermore, these relationships occurred between women who were housed together or between women of different races; same-race relations are not as typical. After a survey taken in a study conducted by Propper in 1976, his results for reasons for homosexual relationships include "game playing, economic manipulation, loneliness, the need for companionship, and genuine affection". Researcher, Otis studied what was seen as "unnatural relationships" between interracial women. In 2014, consensual sexual relationships between women in UK prisons were described as "commonplace" by The Daily Telegraph.
In homosexual relationships, sexual types for women include: "butch" or daddy" refers to the masculine female who is dominant. The "femme" or "mommy" is the submissive one. A "trick" is a girl who allows herself to be used by others. A "commissary hustler" is manipulative. "Cherries" have never had lesbian experiences and a "square" will not take part in homosexual acts.
Prison sexuality for males has been studied since the 1930s. Research is lacking on consensual sex because most research done has focused on coercion. Sexual abuse is more common among male inmates. Men sexually abuse others to establish dominance, power and to maintain their masculinity. Men who are physically weaker will offer consensual sex in exchange for protection, security, goods or support.
Heterosexual men in prison view their homosexual acts as being "situation specific" and do not consider themselves bisexual. These men describe how they imagine being with a woman while taking part in sexual activity with a male inmate. During masturbation, they picture past sexual experiences with women. They take part in homosexual activity due to having no “heterosexual outlets”.
A dominant sexual partner in prison is called "daddy" while their submissive partner is called "kid" or “girl”. The dominant partner has their mate take on the feminine role in order to feel more masculine and powerful.
Prisoners and other relationships
Around the world many prisons offer conjugal visits to the partners of inmates, in which prisoners are permitted to spend time in private rooms with their partners in a prison-facilitated environment. Conjugal visits are restricted to only inmates with good behavior, and in some jurisdictions this is only permitted for married couples, while others allow domestic partners.
Relations also occur between correctional staff and inmates. Due to the power dynamic of staff over the inmates, tight quarters and restriction of sexual relations, prisons are in a vulnerable position to staff members. Personnel of the staff include: security staff, teachers and counselors, medical workers, contractors and religious workers. Although not allowed, many times this would be the only opportunity for inmates to engage in heterosexual relations.
A government report in the UK in 2014 found that female prisoners in England and Wales have been coerced into sex with staff in exchange for alcohol and cigarettes.
Prison rape (US)
Prison is a community sexologically characterized by overt masturbation and by homosexual couplings that may be consensual, coercive or assaultive (rape). Prison rape, like rape on its own, is defined differently from state to state but is understood to be non-consensual or unwanted sexual contact between individuals. Prison rape can be between inmates or inmates and staff of the prison. This is a form of sexuality because these individuals use their capacity for sexual feelings to intimidate or control their victims which causes sociological properties of the prison to change.
Prisoners have two overarching reasons to rape a victim, one is to satisfy their overt sexual and need based desires that self pleasure can not. The second is to use the assault as a sort of intimidation factor to grant the rapist power in a place where these actions generally go unpunished. In prison, the phrase "a**-hole bandit" is used to describe such an inmate that would rape another (in the male case). There seems to be no shown correlation that men who are abusive to their partners outside of prison are more likely to be rapist in prisons. Such men are not known to have history of sexual assault before prison.
In 2003, for the first time ever, the United States government moved to protect prisoners from sexual violence. With pressure for human rights groups, the US house of representatives and senate unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to protect prisoners from sexual violence.
Multiple types of forced sexual contact happen in prison. A few are listed. "Kids" are kept in servitude by an owner and are a sign of the owners prestige and power. "Gumps" are used as prostitutes by a gang or group of inmates who sell the gumps sexual favors for money and prison currency. Gumps tend to be in their position because they volunteered for it at one time for purposes of coming into their sexual orientation in prison or for survival in the incarceration system. Punks are individuals who hesitate to participate in homosexual behavior, but are turned over by coercion.
According to the 2001 Human Rights Watch report "No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons", sexual slavery is frequently posed as a consensual sexual relationship inside prisons. Rape victims are often intimidated into feigning consent to sexual activity, to the point of becoming "slaves" and the figurative property of their rapists.
The potential for rape activity has been seen to be more prevalent across race lines. HRW also stated that many studies report the prevalence of rape perpetrated by black prisoners against Caucasian prisoners.
Prospective slaveholders will sometimes use intimidating innuendo, as opposed to overt threats of violence, which the prospective slave unwillingly accepts, thereby disguising the coercive nature of the sexual activity from even the enslaver. Victims might not even see themselves as being coerced, if the abuse is negotiated as repayment for a debt. The trauma of the sexual violations often affects men as it threatens their sense of masculinity, gender identify and sexual orientation. The HRW report contains an account in which an inmate is feeling this way. It is argued that in prison, consent is inherently illusory.
In several surveys conducted by U.S. Department of Justice, female rapes in prison are significantly higher than that of men. 36.7% of females under the age of 18 were sexually assaulted in some way before admission into the justice system. The number for males under 18 was 14.4%, which is less than half the percentage as females. That same number skyrockets when all men and women are considered. 57.2% of all females and 16.1% of all males report to having experienced some form of sexual assault. When considering the relationship between the inmates and the predator, 95.4% of federal woman inmates and 86.3 male inmates report having known the suspect beforehand. The surveys also indicated that women were abused by family members and social acquaintances, whereas men were mainly abused by family members alone.
In news media
The printed news media in the historical era emphasized the issue of prison rape by establishing a social problem and blaming the U.S. correction system. According to major newspapers, the U.S. correction system not only involved the correctional personnel but the inmates who engaged in homosexuality. Later in the contemporary era, print news media shifted the United States' focus on prison rape from a framed-problem perspective to a political rights and civil rights issue within the U.S. correction system.
The issue of prison rape gained national attention in the press thus creating an open door for new perspectives on how to understand and eliminate the issue. News media contributed to the U.S. government's initiative to intervene in the matter.
Inmate contraceptive access
Even though the state law prohibits all sex acts, sex still takes place in prison whether widely consensual or violently coerced. Health advocates believe that condoms should be available for everyone to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases and since sex is going to happen in the prisons, it should be safe.
As of September 2013, condoms are available inside prisons in Canada, most of the European Union, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and the US state of Vermont. In September 2014, a law was passed in California when Governor Jerry Brown signed the Assembly Bill 966 also known as the Prisoner Protections for Family and Community Health Act to require the state to hand out condoms and make them available to inmates in 34 of its prison facilities. This bill protects the prisoner’s health as well while being cost effective. For the state, condom distribution is a low cost method to prevent the transmission of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases since individual HIV treatments are costly.
As of September 12, 2016, A bill passed stating that birth control and hygiene products are allowed for women inmates to use if they are prescribed by their physician. All foms of birth control approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be made available to all inmates capable of becoming pregnant.
Many of these incarcerated individuals with drug-related crime have participated in unsafe injection or have sexual risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted or infectious diseases. Even though correctional administrators deny it, sexual activity and drug use take place in prisons. HIV/AIDs and sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted by unprotected sex and sharing contaminated drug injection equipment in these correctional facilities. Many prisoners are infected while incarcerated which can affect their personal health, spread infectious diseases to other inmates, and eventually their sexual partner in the community. Because the rate of STD’s is much higher in prison, some prisons provide voluntary HIV testing and counseling to educate and reduce HIV risk behavior. Some prisoners refuse to voluntarily get tested for HIV because they fear their results will not remain confidential among the staff and that they will be discriminated.
Health is a priority for many prisons, especially when prisoners return back to their communities once their sentence is complete.
Social constructionist approach
Some explanations for prison sexuality include the social constructionist theory by Groth. He implies that sexuality is not only an "inherent part" of a person but also that it may be a "construct of that person's society". Additionally, he mentions that you cannot classify the prisoners sexuality as heterosexual or homosexual during their prison time because it could not be accurate; their sexuality is on hold meanwhile because they act rather on personal needs than interpersonal needs. This, however does not fully conclude that this is the sole reason for prison relationships because they also feel the genuine connection that can turn into a serious relationship.
A similar perspective was penned by Donald Clemmer, who in 1940 theorized that inmates engaged in homosexual behavior partly as they, "were deprived of a heteronormative sexual identity". As sexuality has been historically separated into heterosexual, or homosexual categories, this deprivation model of an inmate satisfying their needs at the cost of changing from heterosexual to homosexual fits with the social constructionist theory.
In 1958, Gresham Sykes created the deprivation model. In this model, heterosexual inmates struggle with deprivation and create a prison subculture. Inmates are deprived of their sexual needs and desire some activity, resort to masturbation, consensual or coerced sex.
John Irwin & Donald Cressey created the importation model in 1962. With this model, inmates create a unique prison culture based on values from the outside. The social constructionist model is made up of social situations and values.
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