A month ago I received a phone call from a friend in a rural prison who told me about an inmate who'd almost died from self-inflicted wounds while partaking in a drug fuelled S&M romp. The act was dismissed by prison authorities as a suicide attempt. But when I visited the jail, my sources whispered details about an underground BDSM scene.
Prison is a public institution that has been designed to discipline, punish and rehabilitate. It is not a place for hedonistic self-discovery. But having said that, inmates have forever been pursuing the limits of pleasure through the purest means available to them; sex. And the dominant sexual theme among the inmates I spoke to was sadomasochism (S&M).
For these inmates, prison has returned their sexual proclivities to what Foucault describes as the “art of eroticism"—a creative method for exploring pleasure that harks back to traditions of the ancient East. It's a sharp contrast to our enlightened age of “scientia sexualis,” where we claim to be sexually liberated, when in reality we have politicized the act of sex.
A report conducted by the University of New South Wales found that only 2.5 percent of sexual activity in prison is forced. In fact, of the 30,000 condoms distributed monthly across the Australian prison system, almost all recipients claimed they were using them consensually. Furthermore, male inmates are reported to have more sexual partners and are more sexually active in jail than the general population outside.
Whether it is a Freudian gesture confronting their past or challenging the boundaries of pleasure in confinement, I wanted to know what drove these inmates to extreme forms of sexuality while in prison. VICE sat down with four current prisoners to find out.
Serving 11 years for armed robbery
I grew up with my uncle in Traralgon (Eastern Victoria). In the 1980s, it was just farmland. Real rural shit back then, apparently you can buy Red Rooster, they've got a TAB and all-you-can-eat restaurants now. My old man bailed on us when we were young, so my uncle took us in on his property. We didn’t go to school, just sat around the house a lot.
My uncle fucked around with us a bit. I don't really want to go into it. It was hard and he was a pisshead. My nan ended up getting us out of there years later, when we were about 15. I started fucking around in school. I got in trouble a bit. I was into guys and girls it didn’t matter to me really, even back then. I had a hard time with sexual relationships though until I was in prison. I met a Macedonian guy and we really got along, eventually we started hooking up.
He was really full on and I liked it because I always struggled with my sexuality. I felt awkward about it. He took control. Back then I wasn’t even sure if I liked it. He helped me confront it. I needed someone to take me and I liked to just be going along with it. He would tie my hands to the bedpost and punch me in the ribs until I went hard. I liked being kicked in the stomach until I was winded and left gasping for air. Like inhaling really hard, it makes you feel like when your blowing up balloons and all the air get pushed down your throat when you let go. I didn’t realise I liked being choked until years later. I liked cumming while I was inhaling really hard. But it was really hard to time right.
Sometimes he would lay me on the bed and sit on my back with his knees digging into my shoulders. He would put an empty pillow case across my throat and pull back as hard as he could. He would then get deep inside me while pulling up unexpectedly. He choked me until I saw everything turn yellow and feel like I was passing out. Sometimes I wanted to pass out and be used by him. He would invite another guy in sometimes who would put cuts along my hips with a shiv another inmate had given to him for a blowjob. But it wasn’t very sharp so he had to hack at the bony bits on my waist. That hacking felt rough because it made me really focus.
Sometimes my throat would get weird burns from the fabric of the pillow case because he was pulling harder with his right hand and it would slide across real fast. My body took days to recover sometimes and I had corrections ask me if everything was alright a couple of times, they thought I was a bit nutty because I kept telling them how much fun I was having. My partner left about a month ago and time has certainly started to weigh down on me. The sex made me feel like I mattered. I felt alive, even though it might have looked like I was dying. it doesn’t make sense now while I’m talking to you but in jail it’s different, you need to keep assuring yourself that you exist in society and that you matter to someone.
Serving five years for aggravated burglary
When I got charged this time, I was lucky to get re-classo’d (re-classified) into a minimum security prison. And I met someone who had grown up around the similar type of environment. He’s a lot older and heavier than me. I matured quite early on in life. From things I’ve seen. I would ask him to smother me with all his weight. And because he’s the head billet, he got me a gig in the kitchen. I stole boxes of glad wrap. And he would wrap me in it from head to toe. Totally smother me in it. And cut open near my mouth and nose. I felt like it was freeing and really fulfilling. He would invite other guys we knew in for blowjobs while I was tied up.
We played “stacks on” in school a lot. All the boys would point out a target, chase them down and jump him. Then everyone would just jump on top of him and smother him. I always loved that game and it was around then that I realised I wasn’t interested in girls. It used to turn me on and I would think about it. I never told anyone though, it’s a tough when you're raised in an environment that only cares about heroin.
My parents were both smack heads while I was in high school. I was alone a lot. There was a bakery on Nicholson St that sold sandwiches for a dollar. Whenever they sent us to our room and we saw few of those sandwiches stacked up, we knew they were gonna have mates over and lock us in. We never watched them shoot up or anything like that. My Dad had been inside a few times. We lived in the flats. They did their best to keep us away from all that lifestyle, but we knew even from a young age. We were locked and bored in our room. Sometimes I think I’d prefer to watch them and be allowed around the house to watch footy with my old man on a Friday night but those days are gone now.
Matty C, 42
Serving nine years for commercial trafficking
I couldn’t really get off when I first got here. It’s not the kind of thing you think about. You’re just sort of stuck thinking about how you got here. Thinking about little things you should’ve and could’ve done differently. Then you blame others. Then you think the worlds out to get you. Then you get lonely and shit yourself. I would try really hard to focus in the shower while I was having a wank. I could get hard but nothing was really going for me.
I’ve never really been into kinky shit on the outside. I’m not one of those freak shows that watches his girl get banged up by their mates and all that. I'm not gay. One day I got really frustrated in the shower so I turned all the cold water off so it just let out hot water. It started to really fucking burn. And it really got me going. The hotter it was the better. When we were locked in at night, I’d sometimes put the kettle on and douse my cock with it.
I got bunked with a junkie from Frankston who had been in and out since he was 19. And after a few weeks of chatting and buying him as much buep (buprenorphine) on the yard as I could afford, I asked him to blindfold me and pour the boiling water on my cock while I was having a toss. Neither of us are gay. It’s the only way I could really get myself charged. It turned me on not knowing when I was going to be burned, it gives you this feeling in your stomach like when the first sheila that tells you you're cute or shows you her tits or something.
He would then put his kettle on so we would have two to play with. I’d get on all fours on the floor, start having a wank while he would pour this boiling water in my arse. In my mind it felt like the tongue of a woman, it felt cold and soft. I would be in pain for days afterwards, one night I got blisters in my anus so my celly (cellmate) poured really cold water on me which really fucking stang. But the thrill was sensational.
Serving seven years for recklessly causing serious injury
There was a bloke doing 20 years who would put money in my account whenever I turned on his cellmate. He span a story to me saying that his celly was a dog (informant) and had lagged some blokes he knew in Beechworth. I half believed him. But I needed the money and I was sick of Mum filling my account. So we locked him in the cell. I told him to stand up and have a dig. He didn’t. So I kicked him in the face while he was sitting on the bed and I just let him have it. He was taking the beating and enjoying it.
I kept yelling up to the Italian, “Oi this cunt's had enough!” and he wasn’t responding. I was getting fucking tired. I weigh 120 kilos and this cunts just mute the whole time. I moved out so I could see him, because he was in the doorway beside the shower, and he was holding the post bending his knees behind the bed, the cunt had his pants down pulling his dick. I went off the richter but it was all a bit fucking shocking.
I seen the bloke on the yard and everyone knows the Italian in the system, he has been around and is well respected. So I just ignored him and whenever I seen him I just nodded like nothing happened. I started knocking around with some asians and got back on the puff (Methamphetamine). I fucked up and racked up a bit of a bill. The Italian heard about it and pulled me aside at the gym to offer me more work. Work as in beating up dudes for him to have a pull to. I had no choice.
The Italian was straight up though, he never told anyone what happened, he actually gave me a bit of cred because I just wrecked the bloke in the cell for him. So people started thinking I was mean. I told a few people about him having a pull as a laugh but that’s just normal shit here I guess. This place is full of sickos. At least he didn’t go all out in him. I wouldn’t have helped him do that.
So we made a deal, he was going to sort out my tick with the asians and I would smash the "informant" in his cell. We never spoke about him pulling his shit though. It was like an unsaid thing. The weirdest part about the whole thing was the rat, if he was a lagger (informant), why didn’t he hit the buzzer and lag? He could’ve fucked us both over. But he never did. He was into it. He just copped it every week. One night, I thought realised both these sick fucks are in on this together and maybe they’re getting off on me. But I was probably just being a paz (paranoid) on the pipe.
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