Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

Exploring the Dynamics of Masturbation and Consensual Same-Sex Activity within a Male Maximum Security Prison

Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

Exploring the Dynamics of Masturbation and Consensual Same-Sex Activity within a Male Maximum Security Prison

Article excerpt

The study of consensual sex in male prisons has largely been neglected by researchers and has lacked the attention it deserves. Social scientists have historically focused academic attention and deliberation on sexual coercion instead of consensual homosexual activity in prison (see for example, Bowker, 1980; Lockwood, 1980; Nacci & Kane, 1983; Sagarin, 1976; Saum, Surratt, Inciardi, & Bennett, 1995; Scacco, 1975; Struckman-Johnson, Struckman-Johnson, Rucker, Bumby, & Donaldson, 1996; Tewksbury, 1989b; Wooden & Parker, 1982). According to Saum et al. (1995), this may be due to the nature of the homosexual acts. Saum et al. argue that "consensual sex is seen as less of a threat to inmate or institutional security than rape and thus does not demand the attention of more violent behavior" (p. 415). The purpose of this study is to assess the frequencies and characteristics of male practitioners of autoerotic and consensual homosexual behavior in a male maximum-security prison.

Homosexuality can be defined "as the feeling of sexual desire for members of the same sex, or the experience of having sex with persons of the same sex, or a combination of both feeling and the experience" (Cass, 1979, p. 219). It is more difficult to define what a homosexual is. As the renowned sex researcher Alfred Kinsey wrote in 1948:

   People do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and
   homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. Not all
   things are black or all things white. It is a fundamental taxonomy that
   nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents
   categories and tries to force facts into separate pigeonholes. The living
   world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we
   learn this concerning human sexual behavior the sooner we shall reach a
   sound understanding of the realities of sex. (p. 639)

Thus, Kinsey assigned people varying positions on a continuum from one extreme being exclusively heterosexual (a score of 0) to the other extreme of being exclusively homosexual (a score of 6). In 1948 and 1953, Kinsey found that 29% of Americans--37% of men and 20% of women--have had some homosexual experience to the point of orgasm between adolescence and old age. These people were plotted from 1 through 6 on the Kinsey scale. Those who were 4, 5, or 6, whom Kinsey referred to as predominantly or more or less exclusively homosexual, consisted of 10% of the American population--13% of males and 7% of females. Those who were exclusively homosexual represented 2.5% of Americans--4% of males and 1% of females.

None of those numbers accurately reflect the true number of homosexuals. Each reflects only the overt or physical aspect of homosexuality, namely, the experience of having sex with members of the same sex. Kinsey ignored the other, covert or mental aspects of homosexuality--the erotic feeling, desire, fantasy, or attraction for members of the same sex. Thus, many people who had homosexual feelings, but had not acted on them, were not included in his estimates. If Kinsey had asked his subjects about both their sexual desire and experience rather than experience alone, he would have perhaps found even higher percentages of Americans being homosexual in one way or another.

Strangely enough, even today, more than 40 years after Kinsey's studies, most sex researchers continue to focus on sexual acts alone to find evidence of homosexuality, although there are conflicting studies. For example, the Janus report found that 5% of women and 9% of men were engaged in an ongoing homosexual relationship (Janus & Janus, 1993); while other studies have found about the same proportion of Americans being exclusively homosexual as Kinsey did, namely, between 2% and 3% (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994; Michael, Gagnon, Laumann, & Kolata, 1994). However, most research on sexual orientations and identities has suggested this figure to be significantly higher. …

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