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SEX IN PRISON

...Or what passes for it. There's no need to be an academic to deduce that getting your end away in nick - heterosexually speaking that is - is pretty difficult at the best of times. What's that I hear? So it should be, these are criminals we're talking about. Well, go with me on this one, and I will try to unravel the can of worms that is sexuality in our country's prisons...

MICK

Just before bang-up in every male jail in the country, wank mags are being traded like stocks on the market. It's well up there with burn and the more popular illicit substances that always manage to find their way inside. There's a frenetic five minutes of barter before bang-up that's a bit like trying to get off with any woman still alone in a pick-up club before the music stops. Only, these women are already naked, legs akimbo, two-dimensional and roughly five inches tall.

In Lancaster Castle, the accommodation is mostly dorms, holding between ten and fourteen blokes. At one end of the dorm is a television, and all the bunk beds are arranged so that everyone can see the telly from their bed. Every Saturday night at 10pm, the late movie would begin on Sky TV. You know the ones I mean, soft porn with lots of lift music, crappy acting and simulated sex. Well, these films heralded the outbreak of synchronised wanking in every dorm in the nick. The Castle was humming to the sounds of creaking bunks whilst every pair of eyes lay glued to the telly, watching all that heaving silicone and listening to the fake sighs and moans.

When all you can do is make such paper-thin connections with women, your overall view becomes compartmentalised. There's the Dream Whore, to come and take away all the pent-up sexual energy; then there's the Dream Angel, who brightens every solitary night - your perfect life mate; then there's the Dream Mum, who you need at this point to nurture you through the infantile sense of blind injustice that only a mother can adequately deal with. Your images become distorted, squeezed and stretched to fit your needs. Your emotions become polluted. You can be having a wank and all of a sudden be thinking about your crime and the people involved in it or imagining your own woman being well fucked by your best mate, or even thinking about the screw who didn't send out your visiting order in the mail, which means you won't be getting a visit this week. Add to this potent mixture the common fact that a lot of blokes are dumped while they are inside, and this is the 'con-cock-tion' of repressed feelings that prisoners live with. That's when an element of anger creeps into your wrist; your hand tightens on your tool, and when you shoot your load there's some bile mixed in too. Many's the night when I've had an angry wank and ended up with blisters on my dick. It's with these thoughts that we are released into the community, which may explain why so many men inside are preoccupied with anal sex with women. There's only one hole that can recreate the angry wanks you have in nick. Maybe this is a factor in why men have sex with other men inside.

A certain Spanish tutor from Barcelona inspired me and a lot of other men to become passable in the language - primarily due to her breathtaking looks and presence in a room. For months, she radiated a self-assured, sexually enlightened presence that you simply couldn't help but be uplifted by. Sadly, this example of positively channelled sexual energy is the exception, not the rule. Most of the women a con comes into regular contact with wear a uniform, and if the only regular contact you have with the other half of your species is all keys and locking doors, the sexual thoughts you have are warped by angry frustration. Sometimes, however, contact can go further. I can't really go into too much detail about the cons who are presented with the opportunity to have sex with a woman screw, or a teacher or a voluntary worker, but I'm sure you can imagine time and location are crucial. There's the couple I know of where one con would keep watch at the end of a landing while the woman screw would go into the cell, hitch up her skirt, and bend over one of the lockers for a quick ride. One affair I know of began in a long term jail near York. It came on top when a screw walked into a cell and was greeted with the sight of one of his colleagues being well and truly shafted by an armed robber. The con was quietly moved to another jail, and the woman was asked for her resignation. This was about five years ago. From that day to this, the two of them have stayed in touch. The woman visited the blagger until he was released. They have now moved in together.

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Homosexuality is more prevalent inside. Most people on the out, thanks to every prison film featuring a token rape scene, believe that the judge passes sentence with the added penalty of having your back door kicked in. Just for the record, this particular myth is simply that. It makes good television, but in the real world prison rape is one of the few aspects of prison culture that the screws are on top of - so to speak.

One of the more infamous instances I came across involved three lifers in one of the jails I was at. Two were on the same wing, the other could only see one of the two on the exercise field for four hours at the weekend. The one on the same wing knew that his sexual partner was meeting the other bloke on the field, as did most of the nick. These two would just sit at the point on the field furthest away from both screws and cons, and when there was no one within 100 yards of them they'd do whatever they felt able to do with each other. It was easier for them in winter, when they would take out a blanket and drape it over their legs.

Anyway, the one on the wing alone wanted to move over to the wing where his field fuck lived. Once he was there, he became aware of the other man and up popped the green-eyed monster. To everyone else in the jail this unfolding drama was better than any soap opera, but to the three involved it was their lives - years of which they still had left to serve behind bars.

The time came when the bloke who'd just moved over told his sex partner that he had to choose between the two of them instead of fucking with both them. The con in the middle decided to ignore this ultimatum, and one Sunday morning, (when most people in prison have a lie-in and just stay in bed even though their cell door has been opened) the ultimatum-giver went into the con-in-the-middle's cell, said, "If I can't have you, no one's going to want you," and proceeded to carve his face off.

Being only an observer of this unfolding drama I can't say for sure, but something tells me that love didn't feature in this particular triangle. However, love is alive and well between men in jail, and open acknowledgements of that can cause real problems.

When you're surrounded by blokes - most of whom you'd rather not be surrounded by - you choose the people you associate with very carefully. Once these various associations are established, you have another internal vetting process as to who you feel you can open up to on a deeper level. Drugs, heroin in particular, create powerful bonds between men in nick. A couple of tooters (smokers of smack) will create a partnership when it comes to the obtaining and consumption of the drug. This bond is very close because of the nature of what they are doing - which has to take place behind a closed cell door - and the way quite a few people view heroin addicts in prison. Less barriers (there's enough in nicks as it is) means more unbounded thoughts and feelings. We all have them. We all need to express them. It's that simple. So, by the time you have reached this level with a few fellow cons, you feel you have also given them so much of your time and energy that the dreaded 'L' word has crept into the equation. Yes, there you are, separated from your loved ones yet still possessed of the feelings you shared outside, sharing those feelings with a hairy-arsed con! On some level we are linked to every other living entity. With us humans, and our higher-brain centres, it takes us a hell of a lot longer to establish this deep connection with another human. When this connection is made with a woman we know it as love. When it is with a member of the same sex, it's a best friend.

All this is leading up to my coming out and admitting that yes, while I was inside, there were a handful of men with whom I made this deep connection. The fact that I couldn't just come out and admit this without some kind of defensive justification of my feelings is a big problem faced by thousands of men. Even now, after almost a year of relative freedom, I still feel some kind of fucked up guilt at jibes aimed at my sexuality while inside for most of my twenties. Even though I have only had any kind of sexual experience with women (and only ever felt inclined to), I still get this guilty schoolboy feeling over admitting to myself that I have loved men, in some ways, as deeply as I have loved women - just brotherly as opposed to sexually. Herein lies the problem. Repressing these emotions locks a room in your mind: and you think if you shared its contents with people down the pub, you'd be ridiculed. When this does come up, you can react in one of a few ways. You can rely on a sense of humour and play along with the sexual jibes in a camp way, which is usually a good laugh, because most people - inside and out - can feel the awkwardness of your situation. You can burn with embarrassment for a while, stuck with this vacant look on your face. Or you can react with the kind of indignant anger that can easily turn violent. Personally, I got to know four men quite well who had been locked up for killing gay men. One of them freely admitted to me that a lot of what he did stemmed from his inability to communicate feelings of love that transcended gender. So, when he purposely (albeit subconsciously), put himself in a situation with a homosexual, he beat the man to death rather than open the door to his locked room of deeply repressed emotions.

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People also become homosexual in prison. I saw more than a couple of blokes batting for the other side. From what I could make out as a passive observer, there seemed to be certain parallels in their individual personalities. One of these parallels is a level of awareness that's narcissistic in nature, and feels driven to project a sexy, dangerous image to women and a manly leadership to other men. Remove the opportunities of attracting and fucking women, add the criminal ability to impress and control like but weaker minded men, and you are left with a powerful, manipulative personality who is totally up their own arse. Add to the equation a large number of walking victims - the sort of people who need to be fucked over by their friends - and it's only a matter of time before they act sexually together. In long term prisons, where cons can be on the same landing for years on end, the ones who turn don't want anyone else to find out about it. They have to be discreet. One that I watched over a year, on the same landing as me, was between a queer character in the prison (who was open about his sexuality because he was accepted in the prison population) and a 30-year-old from Manchester who had spent the last ten years trying to live up to his gangster image on the streets and in the cells. The only time they could really get away with anything was as soon as the cell doors were opened in the morning. The openly gay bloke would go into the cell of the other guy with a brew and some breakfast from the servery, then the door would be wedged closed for the next 20 to 30 minutes. You get the picture.

In the main, the level of communication you become used to is determined by this core of repressed sexuality. You can also be certain that most fights in prison stem from the inability to communicate either sexually or verbally. You can hear it in the thousands of threats throughout the day. You know what I'm saying - just look at the England fans in Belgium. I'll bet anyone that a few hundred of those thugs could relate to what is magnified in nick.

I've been out a few months now, but when I was still in an open prison I copped for a Viagra and a friend took me to the nearest whorehouse. 45 furiously-fucking minutes later I emerged free of a whole shitload of raw sexual energy and returned to the nick. Looking back, I am pretty sure this 'release' did me the world of good. The girl in question said that she hoped all her punters were not as demanding as I was that day, and I think it would be safe to assume that that her hopes were realised. After all, what are the chances of her seeing more men who were in the same position as me? In these circumstances, I believe brothels are a vital part of the world in which we all live. These women are there for a specific purpose, a form of communication that men in jail have missed out on. It is a good idea for men to quench this thirst away from the emotional minefield that a full relationship entails for an ex-con. Back behind bars, it is vital that all prisoners are given the opportunity to channel these urges. It would be a pipe dream to imagine that conjugal visits be implemented, but failing this, the only way I can see to address this dangerous balance is by providing more platforms on which peole inside can express themselves creatively. I was lucky in a lot of respects. For one reason or another I had to do a lot of writing. Over the years this acted as a purging process and kept me focused on more positive creative outlets. But I was lucky. Presuming the western world has come as close as is currently possible to engineering a regime that puts people off the idea of committing crime, should it, as a by-product, plant the seeds of a sexually arrested development in the penal imagination? Why not try and channel this repressed sexual energy positively? The alternative is to let things continue as they are, and to keep on releasing men into the community who have a lot of sexual, emotional and psychological scar tissue.

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