One of the first things we think about after leaving the pen is when we're going to have sex. It's is usually up there with the first thing we want to eat--maybe higher. In the years of incarceration, it is the deprivation of sex that is a part of the 'punishment' that society inflicts when it sequesters the prisoner. The yearning for sex is a part of the tension one feels in prison, which is manifested by pornography and other forms of sexual imagery.
But once one leaves prison; what then? Is this a question any longer? Has freedom really answered the dilemma of sexuality or even repression? Has the repressed person transformed into a new, more understanding being in regards to sexuality, or has mysoginy, carelessness, or ambivalence taken over?
Help me in answering some of these and other questions.
Boy Idris -- You have brought up a traditionally difficult topic in our society in general and infused some thoughtful questions about repression and the connection to freedom and the role of sexuality in our lives. I am wondering about your last question - the connection of repression to transformation vs carelessness and ambivalence. Can you explain that more. Are you meaning - that by choice someone has brought themselves to a considered decision in their lives or that through repression in a way 'desensitized' or not in connection with their feelings or needs?
I really think that this last question is the meat of the entire topic. It's generally accepted that prison does "something to you", and that "some-thing" has an effect on everything, including one's attitude toward sex and sexuality. Former prisoners are desensitized; we are in a way that keeps connecting to others very hard, very self-centered. So carelessness and ambivalence are really just manifastations of desensitivity.
I am responding in my own way to this very same lack of concern (which desensitivity really is) by writing this; another may not wear a condom, or not convince her partner to wear one. True, these example apply to folk not recently released from prison too, but I certainly don't believe that government sequestration (prison) is responsible. On a psycological level, there is shame and guilt; there is a desire to "make-up" for lost time; there is a feeling that one's time on the street is short, and that "these people violate you for anything" and put you back in prison.
There is one other thing that I wanted to touch on, that is mysoginy. Among male prisoners is this idea of abandonment that fuels a not-so-subtle hatred for women and serious relationships. I know this first hand. Again, one could argue that people on the outside feel these same negative emotions, but the accelerant for this fuel is the lost years. "I did my bid alone, f*** them" is a common conversation.
I was a little apprehensive about writing this, because I didn't think it related to the Dharma. But like Dogen Zenji taught that in Zen, nothing is mundane, and in the totality it all has karmic effects.
very interesting questions you are both posing here...the desenstitization, misogyny getting solidified through imprisonment and abandonment, etc. for me, since I've never been in prison...it's important to try to understand what is informing someone's behavior or communications, etc. so conversations like this one...on 'difficult' subject that generally don't see the light of day in a forum such as this... are important to bring to the table, so thanks idris and i hope that others will step up to share their thoughts on a subject that may seem 'uncomfortable' so that we can all understand more ways to empathize and help shift these conversations out from under the covers, so to speak, and into the light of understanding and awareness.
I wanted to be clear about how passion and expectation are manifestations of the 'thirst' or suffering. It was from this point of view that i related it to the Dharma. Also, as a matter of one's progress after incarceration, it could only help to explore this critically.
Thank you for starting this discussion. As someone who had a partner in prison (we got together before his arrest, maintained a relationship through incarceration, and continued afterwards for some time) I have often thought about this topic in the context of prison dharma work, but have not been sure how to talk about it.
My experience was that there were a lot of expectations for both of us around sex after he got out of prison, and that for both of us the expectations were unrealistic. It was not just the craving and desire around frustrated sexuality (for both of us) but also the time inside changed the nature of our relationship -- the financial and emotional support that had been two-way became very much one-way. We both had a lot of pent up emotion around it and I think we looked to sex after he got out as a way to release some of that feeling, particularly the anger we had about the situation and our powerlessness in it. It took a while in the relationship before the sex could be two-way again, rather than each of us trying out of frustration to connect or to get release.
Although what we experienced was, obviously, directly related to prison I don't know that it was much different than any other context. It's been over 10 years since I was the partner of a prisoner, but the same kinds of issues come up -- anger arises, and how do I neither repress nor indulge in it? When sexual desire comes up, how do I express it in an appropriate way with my partner, not using sex for manipulation, to escape, to deal with boredom, out of desperate urge to connect, etc.?
When I sit in meditation and feelings come up, the instruction from my teacher is neither to express (indulge) the feelings nor repress them -- but rather sit it, experiencing it directly without having to say something about it, "figure it out", make a plan for how to deal with it, try to get away from it, or otherwise do anything. In life off the cushion sometimes expressing it in an appropriate way is the thing to do, but expressing it appropriately means I have to have enough basic sanity to not be led around by the intensity of the feeling.
How is it for you now, with a bit more time passed?