In “A Drop in the Mercury“, Thelma has a distorted vision of what life would be like in prison. For the most part, she understands the hierarchical systems involved, and, that she wouldn’t be able to survive in that kind of environment. She longs for chaos. She longs for a perpetual state of arousal — emotional and mental arousal — that prison seeks to quell and altogether destroy.
Most people are familiar with the derogatory images and ideas (moreso than porn, I think) associated with women in prison: babes behind bars, raving horny chicks turning to lesbianism, women being “worse than” men in prison because of the violence, etc.
This image is an example of the classic stereotype we know and love, one that still “robs” a woman of any ability of being genuinely aggressive, hostile, or anything else “unfeminine.”
But what’s it really like to be a woman in prison? Let’s start with some facts.
It sucks. As it does for a man in prison. Who the fuck wants their rights taken away? Their families? Their children?
The number of women in prison is on the rise. By the early 90’s, female prisoners were 9.3% of the nation’s incarcerated population. The majority of women in prison, as with men, are women of color, from poor backgrounds or generally “low” social standing. An overwhelming amount of women in prison are also mothers of children under the age of 18.
The subculture that develops evolves from a number of factors. In “Prison: Prisons for Women – Prison Subcultures“, an interesting set of definitions for ways of life in womens prisons is described. In short, many of the subcultures that evolve come from women trying to preserve the identities they had before landing in prison. Some seek to stay out of trouble, others don’t care and continue the violent lives that led them in prison to begin with. Others still adapt to survive, and end up becoming people they weren’t before they ended up in prison, in order to not be harmed or killed.
One’s sex life of course changes once in prison. A common thing is the development of “studs” and “femmes”, the personas of a more masculine and ultra-feminine woman, as described in this ABC story “Inside a Maximum Security Women’s Prison.”
This video touches on the spiritual and emotional journies of women in prison, as they near the end of their sentences or are just beginning them: