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A gentleman’s guide to prison sex

There are more than 2.5 million Americans in the prison system. In an essay written by Daniel Genis, who served 10 years of prison time, he talks about sex and rape between men behind bars. 

Surprisingly, Genis says he “rarely” encountered forced sex but instead describes a world of consensual sex acts between men and relationships that formed out of a human need to be touched. 

Here is an excerpt:

“More common [than prison rape] from what I could see, was an older prisoner taking a young and inexperienced kid under his wing. Most often, this kid has no money and likes to get high; there are many such people in prison, and they tend to burn their bridges early and totally. 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. Now the kid has become a ‘fish.’ They start working out together, then showering together, then there is a massage, and finally, the kid is asked to ‘help’ the older guy out. He’s ‘no homo,’ but he has needs . . .

The potential ‘fish’ are warned immediately, usually by a member of his own race, as prison is still as segregated as it was in the ’50s. However, those inside for sex crimes are fair game to the booty bandits, and everyone knows that. In the through-the-looking-glass moral universe of incarceration, the bugarons are applauded for teaching the rapos a lesson, never mind the fact that they too are rapists.

But the hunger for touch does not always involve sex. 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. It is all an excuse for touch. 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.
Read the full revelatory essay here