A fate we’ve also convinced ourselves involves a high degree of rape. Sex in prison is a far more tangled dynamic than that, and it only makes sense.
But you might be surprised at how much rape is actually observed by inmates. For those whose lives become defined by incarceration, desire and sexuality take on complicated forms.
Men in prison slap each other on the back and rub each other’s necks and hug and give elaborate handshakes and do strange exercises in which the men use each other’s body weight. The condition of being a prisoner, in a point made by Foucault in his brilliant Discipline and Punish, is that of a sexless thing, and much of the experience of incarceration is the prisoner’s reflexive effort, as a human being, to resist that state.
Consensual sex between incarcerated men happens all the time.
Solitary, at least in New York State, is not solitary at all but á deux, as it is cheaper to house men this way.
And so the older man, who has usually already served major time, feeds the kid, and gets him a little something to smoke or snort.“Don’t you know what they do to pretty boys like you?” asks every stereotypical cop in every bad crime show.Rape does happen, and all over any prison there are signs with a number to call to anonymously report it, which I always thought was less a matter of sodomy than of legal liability.But more common, from what I could see, was an older prisoner taking a young and inexperienced kid under his wing.There are rules against it, as it is considered an “unhygienic act,” and you can go to the Special Housing Unit (aka the Box) for it.Which is ironic, because then you will be locked in a room with another man for 24 hours of the day, with barely any supervision.It’s the punchline of countless jokes, the socially accepted way of casually discussing a violent and horrifying act.“Don’t drop the soap,” someone might say with tongue firmly planted in cheek.(AIDS testing is suggested but not mandatory in prison, and, statistically, the incarcerated population has a much higher rate of infection.) In any case, it is only the receiver in the act who is considered gay.But the hunger for touch does not always involve sex.