Sex in Prison: 50 Shades Of Sexuality

Human sexuality is as fascinating as it is complex. This complexity is due, in large part, to its pliability and ever expanding diversity. Even what is considered “normal” by social and moral standards varies with time and geography. What is acceptable or at least tolerated in one country can result in a prison sentence in another. It’s difficult to comprehend that we live in a country that has accepted homosexuality to the point of a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling allowing same sex marriage and still other countries, being gay, is punishable by death.

It seems just as we begin to understand enough to label, classify, and categorize sexual identities and behaviors they diverge, creating sub-categories with there own set of rules and ideals.

It is in the spirit of this diversity and divergence that I introduce a small but growing group of men, and I’m certain women as well but I cannot confirm, who identify as heterosexual, yet participate in homosexual activity. These men are commonly and sometimes derogatorily referred to as GUMPs (Gay Until My Parole).

The men identified as GUMPs vary greatly in age, race and social backgrounds. They range from criminals to lawyers. But there are two common threads: One is that most of them tend to be alpha males, in the sense that they are more aggressive and dominant not only towards their prison sexual partners, but other inmates as well. Second, claiming to be heterosexual men, they often have wives or girlfriends at home. And unfortunately, because the Bureau of Prisons prohibits all sexual activity among inmates and staff, it does not provide condoms. Without the benefit of prophylactics in prison, the spread of disease is almost a certainty. Then upon release, these GUMPs potentially spread these diseases to their spouses.

Prohibition of sexual activity in prison is strictly enforced and penalized. Beginning with mandatory segregation from the general population to the SHU (Special Housing Unit) during an investigation. Followed by penalties ranging from extended SHU time, to phone, email, or commissary restriction lasting anywhere from one month to one year. In the closed system that is prison, a place where, by definition, the occupants and their behavior is regularly monitored, it is difficult to do anything unnoticed.

This of course poses a problem for the men who identify as part of this group, because most of them prefer to keep their behaviors secret, not only from family members, but fellow inmates as well. They offer the explanation that their sexual escapades, while in prison, are merely a form of masturbation or release and means nothing beyond that end.

They claim to have no feeling for their sexual partners and see it only as a business transaction for which they are only one of many clients.

While these GUMPs identify as heterosexual, their partners typically do not. Most of the men who provide the services for which these GUMPs seek, identify as homosexual or bi-sexual and are not only comfortable with the act itself, but are also compensated with “prison currency” (U.S. Postal stamps) or items from the prison commissary. The rates for which vary greatly.

The attempt at secrecy for social and penal reasons creates a difficult situation for the inmate, such as where to secretly engage in these practices. Taking a known homosexual into your cell alone is just not an option if you’re trying to hide the activity. The only known places that are out of direct line of sight of security cameras and staff are the communal bathrooms, located in the education and indoor recreation departments. Often a third party will be employed, as a lookout, to stand near the entrance and warn of the approach of staff or other inmates.

Sexual activity is very common in prison. There are men who openly admit to homosexuality prior to incarceration, some who claim, because of an extended or life sentence, they have “switched teams.” And then there are those who participate in homosexual activities as only a means of release. Whatever the cause or reason there is certainly no doubt that sexual behavior continues behind prison walls.

Humans are sexual beings, and despite the original design of our genitals for procreation, we have varied sexual appetites that tend to adapt to meet our needs.

 

 

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