Thursday, December 15, 2016

Prison Walls & Eros - Part 2: The Ridiculously Sublimated

    The male heterosexual imperative isn’t as persuasive a force as we’re led to believe: we depend on media saturation and extensive social engineering to prevent men from naturally slipping into varying degrees of the homosexual experience. The truths and mythologies of male-to-male relationships within the most overtly segregated male institutions – schools, seminaries, the military and prisons – are rarely ever taken seriously beyond the assumption that no good will come of men being deprived of pussy. That assumption of course is entirely point-of-view dependent: for much to mull over there's always 1967's Fortune And Men's Eyes for theatrical references to everything from the high camp of sodomy and rape through the sentiments of Will Shakespeare himself. 

 Prior to punk rock and the 1970's re-framing of sexual politics, the specific 'punk' of prison sex was a behind-bars fixture: young, dressed up and made up to advertise his sexual availability. At a price, he was as much predator as victim since he was often of quite ruthless character. Not 'queen' nor 'fag', it’s highly debatable as to whether or not his place in the prison hierarchy was most subordinate. To arbitrarily define and dismiss him as someone who “assumes a submissive female role at the bottom of the inmate gender hierarchy” isn’t as informative as it purports to be. While acknowledging the system in which he functions, he isn’t necessarily the poster boy for a feminist degradation narrative. He may very well as a man experience his role as intensely physically satisfying, and that's just for starters.

The archetype of the prison 'punk' is mid-50s Elvis Presley: an obviously made-up and flamboyantly dressed longhair with wide hips tilted slightly forward just like a lurid stripper. He didn’t disturb males of decent society for no good reason: if you hadn’t spent time in the slammer yourself (and simply knew what Elvis Presley was), then the striptease drum features would probably get you where you think. He wasn’t a non-threatening joke-queer like Liberace who laughed at himself: he was something else again…something dangerous, with heavy makeup and hair dye and silks and satins in defiance of repressed and suited conformity.

While much has been made of the fact that he further popularized 'race music', the gender nuances of the young and raw Elvis Presley have become obscured by time and revisionist history. His self-invention as a punk for the masses can probably be attributed to the exhibitionist naiveté of a mama’s boy following intuitive gender callings, while hopped-up on pharmacy-grade speed. He hadn’t had the experience of incarceration, but was hypnotically attracted to the flashy drag and not-quite-male sexuality he promoted.