Home Psychology Masculinities and the Adult Male Prison Experience
Spaces have a fundamental impact upon the prison experience. Many carceral geographers have considered the ways in which spaces are constructed and defined within the prison sphere, from being central to power relations (Sibley and van Hoven 2009), to the importance of vision and relations with others (van Hoven and Sibley 2008), or even as being indistinct with the outside, with incarceration being ‘a dynamic and often contradictory state of betweenness’ (Baer and Ravneberg 2008: 205). What is rarely considered is how these spaces and their use is, ultimately, highly gendered. Prisons in England are, in the majority, spaces designed for adult men (and adult men in the 1800s in a number of cases), and so can be extremely unsuitable for women and young offenders (Corston 2007). They are hardly perfect for adult men in the twenty-first century either.
In addition to their often outdated and security-focused design, what prisons tend to result in for adult men is the imposition of feminine spatial control. In general men and women have different accessibility to different public and private spaces: in the majority of cases, men have access and women are restricted. For example, women are not meant to walk alone on the street at night, whereas men are never challenged for such behaviours; women are expected to remain in ‘safe’ domestic spaces,
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J.A. Sloan, Masculinities and the Adult Male Prison Experience,
whereas ‘boys will be boys’, and men are much less problematised for their location outside the domestic setting, etc.) Yet, in spite of the recognition that the public and private are inherently gendered dimensions, and that this becomes problematised when contextualised in the prison, which is both public and private in nature (Janssen 2005), the masculinity and male use of such male spaces and the impact of that tends to go unnoticed. Even the use of non-spaces can demonstrate masculinities— rough sleeping and homelessness can be symbolic of masculine strength and reliance through the lack of ‘space’ (Higate 2000).
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