Monday, March 1, 2010

1. Stereotypes and Myths

Male prisons are sexually sterile vistas, barren save for the unfocused testosterone washing down the landings. The popular imagination fills in the blanks in their knowledge with extrapolation and myth. This isn't a criticism you understand; male prisoners do precisely the same in our imaginings of women's prisons. In our mind's eye they are one long lesbian adventure and we refuse to listen to anything that disabuses us. It is a persistent myth (I hope) that the mop-handles in their prisons are specially made, rectangular.

Showering is not a fraught experience, with large shaven headed men giving the younger contingent the eye. We don't leap on each other for want of a woman to rest upon. Honest. In all my years, I have only once been in a prison where a gay rape took place. I thank God I'm not in America.

Woman staff are not a source of perpetual lechery. Well, so many of them pose a serious visual challenge to even the most desperate of men. The prettier ones are a source of covert interest, are cautiously watched as they walk the landings and wove into a thousand fantasies. But no more. Male prisoners would, as a general proposition, protect female staff. They are more at risk from their colleagues in the Staff Mess.

We are not driven insane, reduced to acting like monkeys masturbating in a zoo, by the sight of a pert ankle or graceful neck. Whilst we appreciate beauty, we are not mindlessly captured by it. Despite this, female civilian staff are lectured on 'appropriate dress' standards. Miniskirts in prison are exceptionally rare, but always appreciated! Especially on women.

Contrary to popular perception, we are not drooling, sex starved animals, desperate to catch a glimpse of the female form or the scent of perfume left in a woman’s wake.

We deal with our sexuality in more subtle, and more base, ways that may be appreciated whilst enmeshed in a structure that characterises our sexuality in a malign way.

This week’s posts, starting below, are hoped to give a broad overview of this hide landscape. Sexuality is a powerful inherent part of each person’s individuality and it pervades our social and economic lives.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I may be one of the first prisoners to write on this subject. Even academics ignore it. I hope I don't reveal too much!


  1. The issue has seldom been dealt with. Congratulations, Ben, on being sincere and tactful.

  2. Hannibal Lecter: Now then, tell me. What did Miggs say to you? Multiple Miggs in the next cell. He hissed at you. What did he say?
    Clarice Starling: He said, "I can smell your cunt."
    Hannibal Lecter: I see. I myself cannot. You use Evian skin cream, and sometimes you wear L'Air du Temps, but not today.

  3. Obviously you are more an expert on prison than I, but it's worth pointing out that a lot of same-sex activity is extremely well hidden and ignored by straight people even in the outside world. So it may be that it happens more than you think (but still, admittedly, less than most people out here think!!!)

  4. I can confirm, that the broom handels in a womans prison are normal, and the broomhandels are the least of the prison's problems.

    No-one femail ever bothered me for sex, never jumped on the other bus, but it does go on, and the girls are quite open about it, some are gay end of, some just filling in while they are in jail, and go back to men when they are out. (men love the idea of two women so don't see what the problem is) But no-one bothers you if you do don't want to get involved.

  5. Speaking of broom handles. Back in 1970 in Walton Prison a lifer asked me to remove part of a broom handle which had been sucked up and was protuding beneath his skin at his front. I declined his offer and suggested he go to the prison hospital. Later I heard that the offending object was placed in the Black Museum in the prison along side all the other objects retrieved over the years.

  6. Quite a long time ago I used to enjoy watching TV, nowadays there is so much rubbish I rarely bother, but thank God for Ben's blog it is just as interesting if not more so than a good soap of yesteryear. One of my favorites was 'Prisoner Cell Block H', wow, what a show, this post and comments thread is reminiscent of those good days when TV was interesting. Keep 'em coming!