Despite its prevalence, sexual expression among inmates is currently prohibited in United States prisons. Recent scholarship, however, has advocated allowing certain types of sexual expression in women's prisons. The advocates of such a position differentiate between different types of sex within the correctional system: sexual expression that the system has no interest in prohibiting and should not bar, and sex acts that the system does have an interest in prohibiting and should continue to regulate. This position is based on the dual assumptions that, first, women in prison as a collective unit would benefit from some types of sexual expression, and second, that the government has a legitimate interest in prohibiting others. This paper will examine both assumptions with the intent to determine what intersection exists between these interests. Recognizing that much of the research in this area has focused on male prisoners, rape, and/or staff abuse, this paper will primarily examine women prisoners engaged in consensual sex with other female inmates. Overall, it will reject the argument that any type of sex should be officially permitted within prison, due to the destructive nature of both prison relationships and the prison itself and to the impossibility of consent to any prison relationship.
Joanna E. Saul,
Of Sexual Bondage: The 'Legitimate Penological Interest' in Restricting Sexual Expression in Women's Prisons,
Mich. J. Gender & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjgl/vol15/iss2/3