Hooking Up: Protective Pairing for Punks
by Stephen Donaldson
Note: this advice article was written for incarcerated heterosexual male survivors of prisoner rape, but provides a good description of a unique form of sexual relationship which is an important part of the culture of confinement.
As long ago as 1826, shortly after the building of the first penitentiaries, Louis Dwight described the practice prisoners now call "hooking up" and we call protective pairing, an informal arrangement which has remained ever since the collective response of prisoners to the problem of ongoing sexual assault in confinement. There is historical evidence for similar relationships among the ancient Romans, medieval Vikings, and the Caribbean pirates of the 17th C. In most joints the overwhelming majority of rape survivors who remain in or go back to general population do become hooked up as members of such pairs, however distasteful they may find the idea, because they believe it to be the least damaging way to survive in custody.
One reason why this custom has survived for so long is that the alternatives for the known rape victim are usually even more unacceptable. These are a series of very serious and bloody fights, and maybe a lot more time; suicide (a permanent "solution" to a temporary problem); repeated exposure to gang-rapes; paying someone for protection; and permanent consignment to "protective custody" in Seg. This last option, p.c., may not even be safe, staff may not allow you to stay there indefinitely, and solitary can drive you crazy if endured for too long. If you're short or only in jail for a short time or a real hermit, you might as well do the rest of your time in p.c. and you don't need to read this. Otherwise, as the authors of Men Behind Bars: Sexual Exploitation in Prison, who studied the problem at length, concluded: "For the majority of these `targets' the best and safest coping strategy is to `hook up' with a jocker." Still, it is your choice as to which path, none of them good, you want to take.
This brochure is written for those rape survivors who are in and want to stay in population, or who are in p.c. and considering going back into population; who are considering getting hooked up or are already hooked up; and who are punks (we do not use the term "punk" as a put-down, just as the most common and widely understood term for prisoners, usually straight or bisexual youths, who have been forced or pressured into an unwanted passive sexual role), rather than gays. Much of this information also applies to queens, but since gays usually have more experience and fewer problems relating sexually to males, this is written specifically for punks.
General description of protective pairing
Prisoners take hooking up very seriously, for it involves a commitment on the part of both partners, which neither can break (as long as they remain hooked up) without major consequences. The quality of these relationships ranges enormously, from virtual slavery and complete exploitation at one end to a mutually supportive, tender and human exchange of affection at the other.
The senior partner, or "man" in prisoner slang (also called "daddy," "old man," "jocker," "pitcher," and other terms), in a protective pair is most often not a rapist himself, though he may take advantage of the consequences of a rape by offering protection to a new punk. Sometimes a rapist will try to hook up with his victim. In any case he obligates himself to provide complete protection for his punk or junior partner (also called "kid", "boy," "sweet boy," "fuckboy," "catcher," and other terms) from further sexual assaults from anyone else, from violence, from theft, and from other forms of disrespect. Usually as soon as it becomes known that you are hooked up (and the news will spread like wildfire), everyone else will back off and stop hassling you, and deal with you only through your "man." Any "daddy" who fails to protect you will be seen as weak and may thereby make himself a target for sexual assault. Sometimes two or more buddies will share the "daddy" role, and in many joints a whole gang will take control of a punk.
These "pitchers" are usually straight, sometimes bisexual; they consider their punks to be substitutes for women, and they usually do not consider their own penetrative sexual acts or their relationships with punks to be "homosexual," just masculine, though they may think that what you have to do for them is "homosexual." In a broad sense, they habitually treat their punks the way they are used to treating their women on the Street.
The punk has to give up his independence and his control over his own body to his "man" as the price for this protection. He has to put out sexually in a passive role, giving up head or ass or both. This deal is never totally voluntary for the punk: it is often coercive, the alternatives are frightful, and it is motivated above all by the need to survive in a place where the punk has been marked as a perpetual target for gang-rape and other forms of abuse. But it is still very different from a series of violent gang- rapes, and, in the age of AIDS, far safer. We call these relationships "survival-driven" from the punk's perspective.
A punk often is able to choose his protector from among various candidates, especially if he is willing to put up a fight (even knowing he'll lose) or is not in a particularly rough joint, and he may be able to establish a relationship of mutual concern, which is a far cry from the pure exploitation of the sexual assaulter. It must be understood, however, that the "pitcher" makes the rules and the "catcher" follows them. In a particularly tough joint, a punk may be no more than a slave, but usually the relationship allows you some leverage or room to maneuver and have your wishes considered, as long as you respect the basic rules of the relationship.
While a jocker will never tolerate open rebellion, he usually seeks to get along with his punk and avoid an atmosphere of constant tension. He would rather relax around his punk, and over time he can and often does develop genuine affection for him and allow a considerable degree of give-and-take in the non-sexual aspects of the partnership. But the sexual part is pretty fixed and you can't really hope to get out of it.
It may be very hard for you to deal with belonging to somebody else and having to substitute for a girl and satisfy a guy sexually, but at least you only have to do it with one guy or a small number, rather than anybody who can catch you. Your risk of infection with the AIDS virus is greatly reduced, often to zero (see SPR's AIDS and the Rape Survivor). You don't have to fight at all and can avoid physical injury, and it is some comfort knowing that a dead punk is of no value to anybody. Often hooking up will improve your financial situation as well, since a jocker is expected to see that his punk gets the canteen necessities of life.
Hooking up means you have definitely become a punk and will be considered a punk for as long as you stay in the joint, so if you decide to hook up, you might as well get used to that status. Your "old man" will control all sexual access to you, and will expect you to do what he tells you. Some daddies share their punks with their buddies. Others will make you turn tricks for canteen goods, drugs, or other favors.
You may well be given duties other than sex: for example, doing laundry, cleaning his cell, making up his bunk, fixing coffee for him, or giving him backrubs.
The advantage of protective pairing with one guy is that the two of you can get to know each other very well, especially if you cell together (which is to your advantage), and that makes for a more human relationship. You are less likely to be seen as an object to be used and exploited, and more like a junior partner. Much depends on the jocker, because guys vary enormously in the way they treat punks: some beat their punks and mistreat them, others get very affectionate and take good care of you, and there is everything in between.
A small partnership among 2 to 5 jocks who are friends and cooperate harmoniously with each other is pretty secure for you, and means you aren't as dependent on the whims of one person, but such arrangements are not as common and may not be stable.
The advantage of hooking up with a gang or tip is that their protection from people outside the gang is a pretty sure thing, and they can keep you in canteen goods. The disadvantage is that you have to sexually service the entire gang, which may seem like just a gentler form of gang-rape, and it is harder to develop a personal relationship because your time and attention are so divided. In some joints, gangs may be so strong that you have no choice but to accept a gang's claim on you. Many gangs will force punks into prostitution.
If one of the other prisoners does try to put pressure on you after you've hooked up, tell your daddy about it right away; he'll handle the matter.
The whole compound will know as soon as you get hooked up that you are someone's kid. It's an essential part of the system, so don't fight it. All the booty bandits and other jockers have to be warned off. It isn't always verbal, and a lot or all of the staff may never find out. For instance, you may eat all your meals together with your "old man"; people will notice and draw the right conclusion. Once you are hooked up, you will be respected to the same degree that your jocker is respected. Nobody will be allowed to hassle you or dis you, for that would be seen as the equivalent of dissing your jock. Once you are hooked up and seen as belonging to someone, a rape by anyone else is cause for a very serious fight, so it is rare.
It works best if you are housed together with your jock because then he can protect you better. If you're in different blocks, it's hard for him to look out for you. If you share a double cell with each other, then nobody can enter that cell without permission from him or you, and you'll have more privacy and plenty of time to talk with each other and keep misunderstandings from arising. On the other hand, if you share a double with someone else, strange guys may not refrain from entering it, and it can lead to tensions between your partner and your cellie.
The attitudes of the keepers towards pairs vary a great deal. Most veteran guards and administrators are realistic enough to recognize that protective pairing minimizes the violence in the joint, and that you don't really have much in the way of alternatives, so they won't press the protective pair very hard, often not at all. But officially they still consider your sexual activity a violation of disciplinary codes, so you have to be discrete and careful to keep sex out of sight of the cops. See our handout on dealing with staff. Rookies often try to enforce every rule in the book, and cops may be prejudiced and homophobic and go out of their way to catch you. And sometimes you'll run into higher ranking officers or staffers with a homophobic bee up their ass about sex between prisoners and you'll have to really watch out. You don't want to get caught having sex, so you should always pay attention to security and don't be foolish. Fortunately, security is mainly your "man's" job and you can generally leave it up to him to make sure you don't get busted. It doesn't hurt to remind him of that duty from time to time, since horny guys sometimes do get carried away and start thinking with their dicks instead of their heads.
The basic fact of the matter is that most males, when separated from females, and especially when they're young and full of sex hormones which make them horny all the time, can become sexually aroused at the thought of penetrating anyone, regardless of their real sex. The nerves which produce pleasure in the dick don't ask if it's a girl's mouth, a boy's mouth; an ass or a pussy. For these guys to be turned on and horny doesn't really require any kind of feminine qualities in you, though the jockers usually prefer to imagine such qualities so they won't have to think of their attraction as homosexual. That's why they'll try to tell you you have feminine qualities even if it's not true.
When locked up, men get bored with beating off and lonesome and start looking for someone else to provide sexual relief. Also there's an unexpressed human need for touch and intimacy and prisoners don't recognize any other way to meet that need. It is also a question of men feeling a need to confirm their own sense of their masculinity, which they feel is somewhat compromised by the fact that they're locked up, by functioning in their accustomed male sexual roles as penetrators and dominant controllers. Prisoners all have to constantly take orders from the authorities, which makes them feel like slaves of the state. As a compensation they like to find a way to be the boss with someone else and give orders themselves. Sex is a vehicle for a jocker to express all these non-sexual needs.
At the same time only a very small fraction of prisoners the queens enjoy being sexually passive, taking care of another guy's dick. This tremendous imbalance between the demand for catchers by most of the fellows and the very small or nonexistent supply of available willing partners is extremely important to understanding the way prisoners relate to each other. There's no way to increase the supply of queens, so all the effort goes into trying to "turn out" new punks. Unfortunately, the main means by which they turn out punks is rape and the threat of it.
Jockers frequently loan out their punks to their friends, usually as a way of ensuring their loyalty to him or to reinforce his position as a leader. In a way, this is good for you, since the more backup he has, the safer you'll be. And when he's not around, you can turn to his friends in an emergency. Sometimes it is just a way to repay a favor. Jockers know you won't get pregnant by someone else. They may, however, be afraid that you could get infected with AIDS and for that reason keep you, or at least your ass, to themselves. You should encourage them to do so.
Since many jockers have very little money, those who are poor are very tempted to use you as an asset with which to make money or get canteen goods. In fact, some jocks (especially professional pimps from the Street) will hook up with a punk for no other reason. In effect they continue their pimp trade on the inside. Avoid them if you can. When you're put "on the block," your old man lets other guys know that you are available for a price and the other guys negotiate with your "owner" and then he tells you what to do and with whom and when. If you have a chance to negotiate with a jocker over this, try to get a veto over particular customers, and especially try to limit it to head jobs, in order to keep the risk of AIDS low. Some jockers will keep everything they get this way to themselves, more will share it with you 50-50, and there is every possibility in between. If you can possibly do so, find a jocker who will not rent you out at all.
Jockers will almost never switch roles with you or let you penetrate them, and they may get very upset if you even suggest it. Some of them may be willing to jerk you off, but most don't want to be reminded that you even have a dick. It is very important to them that they stay within what they consider the "man" role. They may, however, be willing to consider other human needs of yours, such as the need for affection, for touch, for comforting, and they will often try to see to it that you are as comfortable as possible while having sex. Within the rules of the game, most jockers try to get along with their kids as well as possible, so as long as you live up to your part of the deal they won't get mean or hurt you. If you make them happy, you are even likely to find that over time, they'll become grateful, and try to keep you relatively happy, too. But don't expect that gratitude will ever go to the extent of relieving you of your sexual obligations.
Jocks can treat you like a slave and sell you to some other jock whenever they get tired of you or run out of money. They can also fall in love with you and get very jealous of anyone else. It takes all kinds. Some of the jocks who play the gorilla game and act extremely tough, callous, and cold-hearted will relax once they get hooked up and learn to trust you and show a whole different and unexpected side of themselves.
You have to understand that for jockers the world of confinement is one of constant competition, with everyone looking for a weakness. So guys put up a false front which never admits any vulnerability. But this makes them less human. When they get hooked up, they have someone to relate to, who is no longer an actual or potential competitor. Especially when you've accepted their claim, they can feel you're on the same team. Thus they can relax, and become very gentle if they want, and as they learn to trust you and you show you can keep confidences to yourself they may tell you things about themselves that they would never tell other jockers. They may share their own anxieties and fears and their deepest feelings, and they will listen to you as you learn to trust them and can talk about your own feelings. Thus you have a good chance at developing a human relationship where each of you really cares about the other and you work together to keep the relationship smooth. Generally the older the jocker is, the more likely he is to want to develop a real partnership with you rather than just get his rocks off.
Choosing a daddy
This usually has to be done pretty quickly or events will overwhelm you and you may get gang-raped or forced to hook up before you can make a choice. But if you want to have a choice, as soon as you decide to hook up you should tell the other prisoners; the word will get around fast and guys will then start to talk with you about it. It can get pretty hectic.
The relationship begins when a jocker puts a claim on you, and you accept or recognize the claim, either voluntarily or under duress. If more than one guy wants to claim you, you'll usually get to choose, but sometimes the jockers will settle the matter among themselves and you'll just be stuck with the winner. If you have some time before you have to make a commitment and you can keep your head straight about it, you can often get more than one guy to become interested in you; this allows you more choice and greatly improves your bargaining position. Often there is such a strong demand for punks that jockers start competing for you right away in any case. Since the character of your partner will be the most important factor in shaping your further experience behind bars, and jockers range from assholes who only abuse and exploit their punks to lonely fellows looking for someone to really care about, it is important for you to try to get a choice.
If you have any negotiating room at all before committing yourself to someone, discuss what he expects from you in detail and try to work out the most favorable arrangement. Even put it in writing! Probably the single most important thing has to do with avoiding AIDS: get him to agree not to fuck your ass without a condom or let anyone else do so. If he insists on fucking your ass, try to get him to not let anyone else do it, to "keep your pussy for himself alone." A lot of jockers like the idea of keeping "pussy" to themselves even if they'll make you give head to their friends or for pay.
Spend as much time as you can with the jockers who want to hook up with you; ask them lots of questions and judge for yourself how sincere they are. Ask other prisoners (especially punks and queens) about their reps. The more information you can get, the better your choice will be. Once you make it, you are pretty much stuck with it.
You'll want to know if the jocker wants to "put you on the block" (which unfortunately is pretty common), whether he has ever shot up drugs (and therefore might carry the AIDS virus), whether he'll settle for head or insists you give up your ass as well, whether he'll allow anyone else to fuck your ass or keep it for himself, whether he'll loan you out to his buddies, whether he wants to cell with you, and what the relationship means to him.
Check out how serious the guy is. Protective pairing is a very serious matter for him as well, since it obligates him to put his life on the line if necessary to keep you from harm, and if you are foolish or stupid and fuck up, he may have to suffer for your mistake. Ask him about any previous catchers he's had and how they managed together and why they split. If any of them are still around, talk with them. Ask him what he feels his responsibilities would be and what yours would be. Also ask about canteen arrangements.
Jockers may well insist on having sex with you before putting a claim on you. It's not an unreasonable demand, since sex is such an important part of the deal, and if he's willing to limit himself to head it makes sense for him to find out if you can satisfy him that way. But make sure you're both serious first, or anybody could use it as an excuse to go up in you. You can tell a lot about a jock by how he behaves with you sexually. If he breaks contact with you right after he comes, it may be a sign of discomfort and guilt on his part or that he sees you as just a piece of meat. On the other hand, if a jock stays with you for a while after he comes, even stays inside you, it may be a sign that he likes your company and is attracted to you as a person and not just a sex object. Also, if a jock shows affection with you, such as stroking your body or hair, it is a good indication that he wants to treat you as a human being.
Ask jockers how they treat their women, because most jockers treat their punks the same way. If they form real partnerships with their women, they are more likely to do the same with you.
As a new punk you won't know diddly-squat about your sexual duties, so here are a few practical tips: to avoid AIDS, learn to suck dick. In fact, learn it so well you can do deep throat and he'll forget all about your ass. The trick is relaxation, not easy at first, to be sure, when you feel the whole thing is absolutely disgusting, but for your own good, you need to learn to relax using any technique that works for you. In order to avoid gagging, wait til your stomach is empty (1½ hrs after meals), so there's nothing to barf. If you do throw up, do it on the floor and not him! Train yourself gradually. Meditate, say mantras, anything that gets you to relax. Stop thinking of the dick as an invading foreign object; if you can get over that perception, you'll be OK. Try to take deep breaths whenever you can and breathe through your nose. Practice holding your breath like a swimmer. If he fucks your skull so hard you think you're about to pass out from asphyxiation, you should grab his legs and signal your distress. Most likely he'll be about to come and won't let up, but it'll be over real soon.
The first few times you get fucked in the ass, it hurts bigtime. If you have to get fucked in the ass, again try to relax as much as possible and get him to slow down. It will hurt less, and if it keeps happening you will get used to it and it won't hurt at all. Be sure to use some kind of greasy stuff (vaseline, hair cream, etc.) as a lubricant, and a condom if at all possible. If you are hooked up, your jocker will usually try to minimize any pain that might be involved. After all, he wants to keep your resentment and complaints to a minimum.
A dick up your ass may well physically stimulate your prostate gland, and you may experience that as pleasurable. You may even get a hard-on while being fucked, just as a physical reaction. And some punks will find the sexual experience arousing. Many guys have some homosexual feelings even though they are basically straight. You don't have to put a label on yourself just because you have a variety of feelings.
Punks sometimes agree to switch out with each other or "take turns" sexually, since this is about the only way you can take a penetrative role instead of a passive one. As a punk you come under a lot of pressure to act less masculine, and you will naturally resent this pressure inside and feel a strong need to act in masculine ways whenever you can get away with it. This need can make the urge to experience what a lot of people call "the male role" in sex very powerful. It is an understandable compensation, a way of proving to yourself that you're still a man, so if you do it, don't feel guilty about it. If you want to take turns with another punk, it is best to clear it with your jockers first. The jocks usually don't object since they know the other punk is not a rival for them.
When your "man" treats you bad and you want to get out of the situation, it's a tricky situation, but it's not hopeless. Maybe he's dissatisfied too and is willing to let you go, in which case you are back to square two. If he wants to keep you, he may get violent to do so. You can check in to p.c. and get transferred as one way out. Another way is to let other jockers know that you want to switch and encourage one of them to make a deal with your current jock to take you over. He may buy out your contract, so to speak. Sometimes if he wants you badly enough he'll fight your current daddy in order to get you.
A punk who successfully breaks away from his jocker and becomes independent is called a "renegade." There are also some independent punks who never hook up. Unless such punks have learned to fight well, they usually end up with another jocker.
Unfortunately, many (if not most) jockers will try to get their punks to be as feminine in appearance and behavior as possible. That is because they are more comfortable pretending they are relating sexually to some kind of female than to another male. But they also know that you are a punk, not a queen, and that such things don't come naturally to you. You should ask about such things before accepting a claim, and make it clear that retaining your masculine identity is important to you. Some jockers don't care; I was hooked up once with a guy who let me grow a moustache! Most will still call you "him" and use your male name. Others may insist that you shave your legs and grow long hair and get a feminine nickname. No matter what you have to do, remember that it is all an act and you can go back to your normal behavior as soon as you get out.
Sex is a very complex experience. It has many aspects which have nothing to do with lust. Being penetrated is an intense experience; it can give you an adrenaline rush. Being touched can be a pleasant experience, regardless of the sex of the person touching you. Being held has been a comforting experience for most people since they were babies, and it can seem very protective in an environment where gang-rape is a grim reality. Being desired can seem like a tempting alternative to being ignored, especially if you've been ignored all your life. Intimacy itself can be very powerfully attractive if you feel isolated and lonely. It is quite possible that you may delve further into these feelings, which are general human feelings. That doesn't mean you are sexually turned on to the guy, it doesn't mean there's lust or sexual arousal or homosexual inclinations. Besides, if experiences alone determined a person's sexuality, we'd all be in love with our hands.
That's a lot of advice, but if it's a whole new world for you, you'll need it. Good luck finding a decent man, and remember you will leave it all behind (except for a much better understanding of men and of women!) when you walk out the front gate.