Masculinity as Prison: Sexual Identity, Race, and Incarceration

Russell K. Robinson

University of California, Berkeley

September 9, 2011

California Law Review, Vol. 99, p. 1309, 2011

The Los Angeles County Men’s Jail segregates gay and transgender inmates and says that it does so to protect them from sexual assault. But not all gay and transgender inmates qualify for admission to the K6G unit. Transgender inmates must appear transgender to staff that inspect them. Gay men must identify as gay in a public space and then satisfactorily answer a series of cultural questions designed to determine whether they really are gay. This policy creates harms for those who are excluded, including vulnerable heterosexual and bisexual men, men who have sex with men but do not embrace gay identity, and gay-identified men who do not mimic white, affluent gay culture. Further, the policy harms those who are included in that it stereotypes them as inherent victims, exposes them to a heightened risk of HIV transmission, and disrupts relationships that cut across gender identity and sexual orientation. Thus, this Article casts doubt on the claim that the policy is intended to and actually protects gay and transgender inmates. Moreover, it interrogates the Jail’s failure to protect many other categories of inmates who have been shown to be vulnerable to sexual assault in jails, including those who are young, first-time offenders and those with disabilities. The Jail’s policy ultimately reflects and reinforces problematic social assumptions about masculinity, including the notion that gay men are not “real men.”

Number of Pages in PDF File: 100

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Date posted: December 19, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Robinson, Russell K., Masculinity as Prison: Sexual Identity, Race, and Incarceration (September 9, 2011). California Law Review, Vol. 99, p. 1309, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1974678

Contact Information

Russell K. Robinson (Contact Author)
University of California, Berkeley ( email )
310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-3932 (Phone)
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