I’ve often wonder how women, in the absence of men to serve the role of protector, would interact among one another or how they would fair in the face of danger or in precarious situations. I wanted to gain a different perspective into a female/female interaction when violence or crises arise, especially when space is confined and restricted such that they are forced to rely on one another for survival. Of course there’s no better place than the women’s prison. This curiosity led me to take to research on studies about violence in female-only prisons and I was amazed at how scanty the number of studies I came across on the subject. The ones available are either about sexual violence against women in prison or about female prisoners who are sexually assaulted by correctional staff. Needless to say, there is a need for more studies in this area in my opinion. Anyway, luck would have it that I stumbled across an old qualitative study done on sexual coercion and sexual assault among women offenders. It wasn’t really what I was looking for but nevertheless it was close enough. What held my attention when I was reading the journal is that it included in it first account, a letter, of a female prisoner. The study study examined themes of sexual coercion and sexual assault among women offenders that surfaced in prison letters written by an incarcerated woman during her time in prison.
Common observation suggests that women aren’t only keenly aware of male protective instinct and they never fail to utilize it at the opportune times, but they are also aware that it’s men’s nature to be willing to prove themselves this way. Part of man’s protective instinct is why the military in any society vastly consists of men. This protective instinct is why a man would throw himself in front of the bus to save a woman or a child. It is the same reason why one man, without hesitation, would club another man to death if he perceive violence against a woman. It is also why he is the default guard to go see about the noise downstairs at 2am as the wife lay cozily under the blanket. It’s why Jack gave Rose the only life Jacket he had on that sinking titanic ship. It’s why he let her beloved princess remain on the plank while his body disintegrate in hypothermia.
Nature made man the mule that must continue to be of service, not to himself mind you, and not only with his fine-tuned mind, but also with his body. He is ready to physically defend woman and ensure her safety at all cost. However, what happens when HE is not around? What happens in an instance where a woman has other women, and only other women, to turn to? What happens in a confined place and space where it’s only and all women?
In the study done, Velmarine, the woman serving 25 years for felony provided her first account of her experience in prison by maintaining weekly contact through the mail for five years. She detailed her own experiences of sexual coercion and rape in prison, as well as observations of others inside various prison units as she has transferred between four or five different female units.
“In the mix” is a prison phrase that describes as well as differentiate the women who participate in substance use, homosexual activities, as well as other sexual experimentation and it is claimed that 75 to 80 percent of women in jail or prisons at the time this study is done have been or are currently “in the mix.” One of the reasons provided is that the passive nature of women make them susceptible to peer pressure which make sexual coercion in most female prisons prevalent. Unlike men, women are easily submissive and in prison, it’s even more so, but there are reasons for this, “many incarcerated women hold a strong desire to belong to some sort of group. This need for belonging is not for protection, like in men’s prisons, but for companionship and to combat loneliness, which makes doing time seemingly less painful.” Unlike male prisons where forming gangs serves as a way to ensure protection, women have little to no need for it because in a secluded guarded building (guarded mostly by men) their protection is ensured, hence why gang formation is rare in women prisons and is prevalent in male’s. However, female in-group bias and collectivist mindset is ever present, which dictates all their actions, so even though they don’t form gangs they form groups whose purpose to provide emotional support when doing time goes rough. In the free world, this is even more observable. Unlike men, women are rarely individualists. Naturally, they like to clutter and hold on to one another for emotional support when needed. Men seldom don’t do this because deep down somewhere in a man’s psyche, he is well aware that he is alone in the world and he must face its conundrums alone.
However, my subject of interest in the study is the lesbian relationship between but Butch/Studs and Femmes, “In this study, the heterosexual “jailhouse turnout femmes” were more often sexually aggressive than studs. One cause of Jailhouse turnout aggression was the perception that studs should always be involved with someone. Thus, studs should not ignore sexual advances from femmes.”
Two things here, gentlemen. Since there are very few Butch/Studs compared to the vast number of Femmes in prison, it makes sense that the femmes would be the sexual aggressor in vying for Stud’s attention. Secondly, this Butch/Femme relationship with femme being the sexual aggressor would, in my estimation, be the mirror image of a non-gynocentric society. In a society where the needed attention females strive for is denied by men, women automatically becomes the aggressor. Even though Velmarine’s didn’t describe herself as a Stud, she assumed the title in her description of her experiences, “I felt pressured to select a black sexual ‘playmate” to avoid pressure from such women as Carolyn, an unattractive, odious, obese and tall, black woman. Carolyn would openly begin masturbating whenever she thought that I may have been looking in her general direction.”
If this is the case, one is forced to wonder though, with the Stud serving as the role of a man in this confined environment, how is “he” treated by the femme and how is he treated differently by prison authorities in comparison to the Femmes, “Sometimes, verbal threats and sexual harassment by femmes can lead to physical altercations (e.g, property destruction, scalding with hot liquid, assault) of a stud. One of the results of this situation is that studs, perceiving the need to uphold their reputations, may spend more time in a restriction dorm or solitary confinement for fighting. These situations occur, in part, because effeminate-looking heterosexual women may be favored by correctional staff over other women perceived to be gay or masculine looking. In any case, it appears that femmes currently have many advantages over studs.”
How fascinating. Even in prison, women aka femmes hold significant advantages and are favored by correctional officers over “men,” aka studs.
Velmarine lent credence to this by saying, “forceful persuasion is used by the femmes against the “studs” for participation or sexual favors if the stud is unwilling. Currently, femmes tend to attack their studs for suspected infidelity or what they term as disrespect, e.g, flirting with other femmes. I’ve often observed the “stud” (often but not in all cases) back away from the femme that turns her attentions to another ‘stud.’”
Just like the hammer is a tool in the hand of a carpenter, women’s natural tendency to lie and deceive, is a tool women use to their advantage no matter the cost to the man. This fact displayed itself among women inmates, “Studs who ignore femmes who express sexual interest in them means rejection in the form of personal disrespect. As a result of the perceived disrespect, some femmes unite as a group and in retaliation, they become involved in sexual extortion – fabricating stories to correctional officers that a stud is causing them problems. The Stud broad might receive a disciplinary report.”
Furthermore, there seem to be a continued parallel between the role of a man and how a man is viewed in relation to woman in society and the role of Studs and how Studs are viewed in relation to the Femmes in prison, “If a feminine-looking woman is physically attacking a tomboyish or masculine-looking woman, that is seen as alright.”
With this in mind, it’s funny how female nature fail to adjust and recede even when dealing with like minded females, that in a prison full of women women are still these abusive manipulative creatures. In this particular instance, one interesting pattern seem to suggest itself that the more masculine/tomboyish a woman is, the more susceptible she is to be the victim, almost like a man, of a more feminine woman and her overtly expressed natural instinct. Likewise, the more masculine a female seems to be the more reserved and the farther detached she is from a more feminine woman. Perhaps it’s the reason why the reason why masculine women prefer the company of men than women.
ALARID, L. F. (2000, December 04). SEXUAL ASSAULT AND COERCION AMONG INCARCERATED WOMEN PRISONERS: EXCERPTS FROM PRISON LETTERS. Retrieved April 24, 2017, from http://www.prearesourcecenter.org