Southern Africa: If sex between men happens in prison, why not outside?

Date: May 15, 2012
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Johannesburg, 14 March: Isn’t it ironic that most men who spend time in prison have sex with other men?

Criminals are (arguably) the ballsiest lot of the male human species. Their veins said to stand erect with testosterone – in fact, they probably sweat the stuff. Their blatant disregard for rules places them above any other law-abiding man on society’s hierarchy of manliness.

I mean, the true measure of a man is his ability to do whatever the hell he wants. No rules!

These types of men think they’re invincible. They spend months – years even – living like the world belongs to them. They’re the man, they’re invincible. Until they get busted and sentenced to many years in prison. Bummer.

So it’s bye bye unlimited amounts of stolen cash. Farewell to the endless stream of women. Bye bye booze and drugs. Hello burnt pap, iron bars and Brokeback Mountain-style sex.

For as long as I can remember, any hint of homosexual behaviour made one less of a man. That’s the reason my caterer mother never taught me how to cook. The kitchen was not my place as a man. I was yelled at for talking with my hands, making friends with girls and, a lot later in life, kissing boys (by the way, I liked it – eat your heart out Katy Perry!).

Now, I know there’s this whole theory behind man-to-man sex in gaol, and in mining hostels and other such places where men spend days on end with other men. It goes something like this: Men have sex with men within such settings because of the testosterone flowing through their veins which increases their libido and (due to the absence of females) they end up releasing all of their sexual energy among themselves.

Apparently this is not gay behaviour.

In that case, call me Queen Elizabeth. I’m sorry, but having sex with a man is having sex with a man. It is homosexual intercourse; it’s as gay as Elton John and there is no two ways about it.

A 2001 Wits University study found that sex between men in Southern African prisons is very common. It also noted that long term sexual relationships between prisoners are normal.
It’s still hard to digest though, the whole “jailhouse rock” thing and how it is any different than sex between men outside prison walls.

It hit home one day when my father went off on a homophobic tangent. I said to him, “Oh please, man. They used to naai you in your bum when you were in jail. You just think you’re so much better.”

My thoroughly annoyed father, who had been in prison for five years, looked at me and replied, “You must get your facts straight. Nobody naaied me, I naa . . .”
He didn’t finish his sentence and didn’t need to. Besides, I didn’t believe him anyway. The fact that he’d had gay sex didn’t shock me so much as his idea that because he was on the “giving” end of these sexual encounters it made his behaviour less gay. It was as though he was saying: I was still the “man.”

The man? Please, if I am a sissy for sleeping with men, then he is one too – and so is every guy who’s ever had sexual thoughts about other men, or acted on those thoughts.

But it isn’t having sex with another man that makes him a sissy, it’s the fact he was not able to own up to it. I couldn’t stand that he pretended that another man did not sexually excite him. Why was he suddenly ashamed? I mean, what ever happened to the real man who did what he pleased no matter what anyone said or thought?

What happened to that man with no respect for the rules or the norms – not to mention the law? What happened to that man? Or rather: that “man.”

As men, we are taught to be proud and brave. We are taught (incorrectly) that the world is ours. We are made to believe that anything we do is ok. So why isn’t it ok for me or any other man to be attracted to men? I am man. I choose to act on my impulses and to sleep with other men. Why should I feel ashamed? And yes, I’ll admit it; I sometimes do.

Is it religion or society or biology or a mixture of all of the above? Or is it that all the out sissies (including me) are too scared to man up?

Either way, I have a feeling that daddy dearest and I have a lot more in common than either of us would like to admit.

*Not his real name.

Iyam Gueye is a free lance writer in South Africa. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, bringing you fresh views on everyday news.


3 thoughts on “Southern Africa: If sex between men happens in prison, why not outside?”

Marius says:

I dismiss the fact that Iyam Gueye blame testosterone for criminal behaviour. I dismiss her ability to measure testosterone value by means of bulging veins. testosterone is a vital hormone for good male health in all areas of the body. It is an unlikely cause of criminal behaviour. Criminal, dominate and aggressive behaviour are socially and culturally inherent. The roles of men in society that developed out of gender stereo types where a man needs money, be wealthy to earn a beautiful woman’s love. Men are aggressive to provide protection (security) as a husband and an object often owned by the national military. This creates the obligation for men to be hard, tough and to gain power by all means. Testosterone has nothing to do with it. I suggest she do more homework before making assumptions to boost negative attitudes towards testosterone. It is discriminative.

Bill Royce says:

Thank you for this insightful article. As a gay man, I have had “jail sex” fantasies for years but I never spent more than a few hours in jail.

I would be curious to extend the leitmotiv of the article to include other male-only venues, such as the Navy (or parts of it), “The Wild West” in the United States and others.

I do claim that I have had sex with several men who were straight, married men in all other respects. They just like a good blowjob, like the rest of us.

What this tells me is that the lines differentiating “sexual orientation” are less clear than we used to think.

Lungani says:

As far as I can remember, in Africa what a man penetratesbwith his dick does not define his sexuality. As teens webwould fuck anything from a goat to a fair looking boy. We were men wanting to satisfy rheir libido. I am not gay but yes I did all that. In other continents I am not sure but in Africa dssperately fucking a man definitely not the case.

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