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Symbolic Violence and Prison Wives: Gender Roles and Protective Pairing in Men's Prisons

NCJ Number
Prison Journal Volume: 91 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2011 Pages: 305-324
Rebecca Trammell
Date Published
September 2011
20 pages
This study described the norms of protective pairing and prison violence.
Donaldson and Kupers describe protective pairing as a form of prison violence in which men protect other inmates in exchange for sex. In this article, interview data with male parolees who describe the conditions under which these relationships occur are used to update our understanding of this behavior. They describe protective pairs in gendered terms and the weaker of the two in the relationship is called a prison wife. This behavior is identified as symbolic violence by Pierre Bourdieu, who argues that the mere threat of violence is enough to control and dominate those in a subordinated social position. Typically, this form of male domination is used to control women. However, men explain that the threat of prison violence force some inmates to perform sexual acts for protection. (Published Abstract)