POTD 1/11/12 The Pursuit of Sexual Freedom for the Imprisoned

Ok, it isn’t technically the 11th anymore where I am, but I spent the whole day sequestered working on the Dark Odyssey WinterFire 2012 scheduling grid.

Dave Johns has written a compelling and somewhat distressing article for Slate.com about American prisons attempting to restrict or prevent prisoners from masturbating, noting that:

In fact, a number of state prisons regard jerking off as a rule infraction. American University law professor Brenda Smith, who conducted a 50-state survey of prison masturbation policies in 2006, says restrictions are “well-entrenched” in the correctional environment.

It isn’t a straightforward (so to speak) issue, and it is hard to deny that the need of female guards to a workplace free from harassment (or as free as I imagine female prison guards ever get) should be taken into consideration, among other salient issues.  However Johns points out that there are factors that favor permitting self-gratification, as long as it done in a discrete way:

…some experts on prison sex contend that anti-masturbation and anti-porn policies in prisons are counterproductive because they effectively drive inmates to engage in risky sexual behavior

The prison culture in America has a long and established anti-masturbation viewpoint, even resorting to forced infibulation of male prisoners through via the insertion of a ring the the foreskin to prevent them from masturbating.

He also notes that the sex-negativity of some guards and prison officials can put prisoners in the position of being punished for masturbation even when clearly not attempting to engage in “exhibitionist” behavior:

…inmate Terry Lee Alexander was sitting alone on his bunk masturbating when a female deputy who was monitoring him from a central control room more than 100 feet away took exception to Alexander’s “blatant” exertions and wrote him up. Alexander was charged and convicted of exposure, with the jury determining that a cell is “a limited access public place.” The same deputy had also filed reports on seven other locked-up masturbators. When Alexander’s attorney asked the deputy in court if she had considered calling a SWAT team to halt his client’s activity, she replied, “I wish I had.”

Discussions about the multifaceted issues and injustices surrounding the prison system in the U.S. rarely touch on this delicate subject, but maybe they should. I can think of fewer victimless activities than discrete masturbation, and no reasons beyond institutional puritanism or cruelty to deprive people of its simple and harmless pleasure.

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One thought on “POTD 1/11/12 The Pursuit of Sexual Freedom for the Imprisoned

  1. This is a contender for possibly the most sadistic rule in history! Masturbation is not merely a ‘pleasure.’ It reduces stress, aggression and the risk of heart disease and migraines, strengthens the immune system and increases longevity (Queens University, 1997.) It also dramatically reduces the risk of prostate cancer (La Trobe University, Melbourne 2008.) The urge is instigated by androgens (male hormones) and physically catagorized in men by a relentless build up of semen in the testes.
    Long term supression of release will not only be an unimaginable torture for the individual, but will cause untold health problems and ultimately, impotence. This prison rule is not only heinously cruel, but dangerous, arbitrary and totally counterproductive to the harmonious atmosphere the prison system ‘claims’ it is trying to cultivate.
    Bottom line – sadism for the sake of sadism.

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