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Evolving Nature of Prison Argot and Sexual Hierarchies

NCJ Number
The Prison Journal Volume: 83 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2003 Pages: 289-300
Christopher Hensley; Jeremy Wright; Richard Tewksbury; Tammy Castle
Date Published
September 2003
12 pages
This study examined the sexual roles and sexual hierarchy that exist in prison culture at the beginning of the 21st century.
Prison settings have their own culture, norms, and expectations that are unique to the correctional setting. Inmates must learn these norms and expectations in order to survive in such a facility. One aspect of prison life is a sexual hierarchy that forms among the inmates. Central to sexual roles and hierarchy is the sexual argot, or labeling, that defines an inmate’s position within the prison society. Despite the fact that prison argot and sexual hierarchies are consistently found within prison settings, scant research is available that focuses specifically on argot labels and sexual hierarchies. As such, the authors conducted 174 face-to-face interviews with male inmates who were housed in multisecurity-level correctional facilities in Oklahoma. The purpose of the interviews was to collect information about prison sexuality, especially prison argot and sexual hierarchies. Results indicate that three traditional sex roles previously outlined in the research literature continue to exist in prison subculture (wolves, fags, and punks). Results also outline important departures from previous research, especially in the structure of the institutional hierarchy and in the refinement of the traditional roles of wolf, fag, and punk. Sexual argot roles continue to be a powerful defining force in prison subculture; the argot that characterizes prison subculture is one of the most important elements of prisonization. References