Hooking Up: Protective Pairing for Punks
by Stephen Donaldson
Note: this advice article was written for incarcerated heterosexual male
survivors of prisoner rape, but provides a good description of a unique
form of sexual relationship which is an important part of the culture of
As long ago as 1826, shortly after the building of the first
penitentiaries, Louis Dwight described the practice prisoners now call
"hooking up" and we call protective pairing, an informal arrangement
which has remained ever since the collective response of prisoners to
the problem of ongoing sexual assault in confinement. There is
historical evidence for similar relationships among the ancient Romans,
medieval Vikings, and the Caribbean pirates of the 17th C. In most
joints the overwhelming majority of rape survivors who remain in or go
back to general population do become hooked up as members of such pairs,
however distasteful they may find the idea, because they believe it to
be the least damaging way to survive in custody.
One reason why this custom has survived for so long is that the
alternatives for the known rape victim are usually even more
unacceptable. These are a series of very serious and bloody fights, and
maybe a lot more time; suicide (a permanent "solution" to a temporary
problem); repeated exposure to gang-rapes; paying someone for
protection; and permanent consignment to "protective custody" in Seg.
This last option, p.c., may not even be safe, staff may not allow you to
stay there indefinitely, and solitary can drive you crazy if endured for
too long. If you're short or only in jail for a short time or a real
hermit, you might as well do the rest of your time in p.c. and you don't
need to read this. Otherwise, as the authors of Men Behind Bars: Sexual
Exploitation in Prison, who studied the problem at length, concluded:
"For the majority of these `targets' the best and safest coping strategy
is to `hook up' with a jocker." Still, it is your choice as to which
path, none of them good, you want to take.
This brochure is written for those rape survivors who are in and want to
stay in population, or who are in p.c. and considering going back into
population; who are considering getting hooked up or are already hooked
up; and who are punks (we do not use the term "punk" as a put-down, just
as the most common and widely understood term for prisoners, usually
straight or bisexual youths, who have been forced or pressured into an
unwanted passive sexual role), rather than gays. Much of this
information also applies to queens, but since gays usually have more
experience and fewer problems relating sexually to males, this is
written specifically for punks.
General description of protective pairing
Prisoners take hooking up very seriously, for it involves a commitment on
the part of both partners, which neither can break (as long as they
remain hooked up) without major consequences. The quality of these
relationships ranges enormously, from virtual slavery and complete
exploitation at one end to a mutually supportive, tender and human
exchange of affection at the other.
The senior partner, or "man" in prisoner slang (also called "daddy," "old
man," "jocker," "pitcher," and other terms), in a protective pair is
most often not a rapist himself, though he may take advantage of the
consequences of a rape by offering protection to a new punk. Sometimes a
rapist will try to hook up with his victim. In any case he obligates
himself to provide complete protection for his punk or junior partner
(also called "kid", "boy," "sweet boy," "fuckboy," "catcher," and other
terms) from further sexual assaults from anyone else, from violence,
from theft, and from other forms of disrespect. Usually as soon as it
becomes known that you are hooked up (and the news will spread like
wildfire), everyone else will back off and stop hassling you, and deal
with you only through your "man." Any "daddy" who fails to protect you
will be seen as weak and may thereby make himself a target for sexual
assault. Sometimes two or more buddies will share the "daddy" role, and
in many joints a whole gang will take control of a punk.
These "pitchers" are usually straight, sometimes bisexual; they consider
their punks to be substitutes for women, and they usually do not
consider their own penetrative sexual acts or their relationships with
punks to be "homosexual," just masculine, though they may think that
what you have to do for them is "homosexual." In a broad sense, they
habitually treat their punks the way they are used to treating their
women on the Street.
The punk has to give up his independence and his control over his own body
to his "man" as the price for this protection. He has to put out
sexually in a passive role, giving up head or ass or both. This deal is
never totally voluntary for the punk: it is often coercive, the
alternatives are frightful, and it is motivated above all by the need to
survive in a place where the punk has been marked as a perpetual target
for gang-rape and other forms of abuse. But it is still very different
from a series of violent gang- rapes, and, in the age of AIDS, far
safer. We call these relationships "survival-driven" from the punk's
A punk often is able to choose his protector from among various
candidates, especially if he is willing to put up a fight (even knowing
he'll lose) or is not in a particularly rough joint, and he may be able
to establish a relationship of mutual concern, which is a far cry from
the pure exploitation of the sexual assaulter. It must be understood,
however, that the "pitcher" makes the rules and the "catcher" follows
them. In a particularly tough joint, a punk may be no more than a slave,
but usually the relationship allows you some leverage or room to
maneuver and have your wishes considered, as long as you respect the
basic rules of the relationship.
While a jocker will never tolerate open rebellion, he usually seeks to get
along with his punk and avoid an atmosphere of constant tension. He
would rather relax around his punk, and over time he can and often does
develop genuine affection for him and allow a considerable degree of
give-and-take in the non-sexual aspects of the partnership. But the
sexual part is pretty fixed and you can't really hope to get out of it.
It may be very hard for you to deal with belonging to somebody else and
having to substitute for a girl and satisfy a guy sexually, but at least
you only have to do it with one guy or a small number, rather than
anybody who can catch you. Your risk of infection with the AIDS virus is
greatly reduced, often to zero (see SPR's AIDS and the Rape Survivor).
You don't have to fight at all and can avoid physical injury, and it is
some comfort knowing that a dead punk is of no value to anybody. Often
hooking up will improve your financial situation as well, since a jocker
is expected to see that his punk gets the canteen necessities of life.
Hooking up means you have definitely become a punk and will be considered
a punk for as long as you stay in the joint, so if you decide to hook
up, you might as well get used to that status. Your "old man" will
control all sexual access to you, and will expect you to do what he
tells you. Some daddies share their punks with their buddies. Others
will make you turn tricks for canteen goods, drugs, or other favors.
You may well be given duties other than sex: for example, doing laundry,
cleaning his cell, making up his bunk, fixing coffee for him, or giving
The advantage of protective pairing with one guy is that the two of you
can get to know each other very well, especially if you cell together
(which is to your advantage), and that makes for a more human
relationship. You are less likely to be seen as an object to be used and
exploited, and more like a junior partner. Much depends on the jocker,
because guys vary enormously in the way they treat punks: some beat
their punks and mistreat them, others get very affectionate and take
good care of you, and there is everything in between.
A small partnership among 2 to 5 jocks who are friends and cooperate
harmoniously with each other is pretty secure for you, and means you
aren't as dependent on the whims of one person, but such arrangements
are not as common and may not be stable.
The advantage of hooking up with a gang or tip is that their protection
from people outside the gang is a pretty sure thing, and they can keep
you in canteen goods. The disadvantage is that you have to sexually
service the entire gang, which may seem like just a gentler form of
gang-rape, and it is harder to develop a personal relationship because
your time and attention are so divided. In some joints, gangs may be so
strong that you have no choice but to accept a gang's claim on you. Many
gangs will force punks into prostitution.
If one of the other prisoners does try to put pressure on you after you've
hooked up, tell your daddy about it right away; he'll handle the matter.
The whole compound will know as soon as you get hooked up that you are
someone's kid. It's an essential part of the system, so don't fight it.
All the booty bandits and other jockers have to be warned off. It isn't
always verbal, and a lot or all of the staff may never find out. For
instance, you may eat all your meals together with your "old man";
people will notice and draw the right conclusion. Once you are hooked
up, you will be respected to the same degree that your jocker is
respected. Nobody will be allowed to hassle you or dis you, for that
would be seen as the equivalent of dissing your jock. Once you are
hooked up and seen as belonging to someone, a rape by anyone else is
cause for a very serious fight, so it is rare.
It works best if you are housed together with your jock because then he
can protect you better. If you're in different blocks, it's hard for him
to look out for you. If you share a double cell with each other, then
nobody can enter that cell without permission from him or you, and
you'll have more privacy and plenty of time to talk with each other and
keep misunderstandings from arising. On the other hand, if you share a
double with someone else, strange guys may not refrain from entering it,
and it can lead to tensions between your partner and your cellie.
The attitudes of the keepers towards pairs vary a great deal. Most veteran
guards and administrators are realistic enough to recognize that
protective pairing minimizes the violence in the joint, and that you
don't really have much in the way of alternatives, so they won't press
the protective pair very hard, often not at all. But officially they
still consider your sexual activity a violation of disciplinary codes,
so you have to be discrete and careful to keep sex out of sight of the
cops. See our handout on dealing with staff. Rookies often try to
enforce every rule in the book, and cops may be prejudiced and
homophobic and go out of their way to catch you. And sometimes you'll
run into higher ranking officers or staffers with a homophobic bee up
their ass about sex between prisoners and you'll have to really watch
out. You don't want to get caught having sex, so you should always pay
attention to security and don't be foolish. Fortunately, security is
mainly your "man's" job and you can generally leave it up to him to make
sure you don't get busted. It doesn't hurt to remind him of that duty
from time to time, since horny guys sometimes do get carried away and
start thinking with their dicks instead of their heads.
The basic fact of the matter is that most males, when separated from
females, and especially when they're young and full of sex hormones
which make them horny all the time, can become sexually aroused at the
thought of penetrating anyone, regardless of their real sex. The nerves
which produce pleasure in the dick don't ask if it's a girl's mouth, a
boy's mouth; an ass or a pussy. For these guys to be turned on and horny
doesn't really require any kind of feminine qualities in you, though the
jockers usually prefer to imagine such qualities so they won't have to
think of their attraction as homosexual. That's why they'll try to tell
you you have feminine qualities even if it's not true.
When locked up, men get bored with beating off and lonesome and start
looking for someone else to provide sexual relief. Also there's an
unexpressed human need for touch and intimacy and prisoners don't
recognize any other way to meet that need. It is also a question of men
feeling a need to confirm their own sense of their masculinity, which
they feel is somewhat compromised by the fact that they're locked up, by
functioning in their accustomed male sexual roles as penetrators and
dominant controllers. Prisoners all have to constantly take orders from
the authorities, which makes them feel like slaves of the state. As a
compensation they like to find a way to be the boss with someone else
and give orders themselves. Sex is a vehicle for a jocker to express all
these non-sexual needs.
At the same time only a very small fraction of prisoners the queens enjoy
being sexually passive, taking care of another guy's dick. This
tremendous imbalance between the demand for catchers by most of the
fellows and the very small or nonexistent supply of available willing
partners is extremely important to understanding the way prisoners
relate to each other. There's no way to increase the supply of queens,
so all the effort goes into trying to "turn out" new punks.
Unfortunately, the main means by which they turn out punks is rape and
the threat of it.
Jockers frequently loan out their punks to their friends, usually as a way
of ensuring their loyalty to him or to reinforce his position as a
leader. In a way, this is good for you, since the more backup he has,
the safer you'll be. And when he's not around, you can turn to his
friends in an emergency. Sometimes it is just a way to repay a favor.
Jockers know you won't get pregnant by someone else. They may, however,
be afraid that you could get infected with AIDS and for that reason keep
you, or at least your ass, to themselves. You should encourage them to
Since many jockers have very little money, those who are poor are very
tempted to use you as an asset with which to make money or get canteen
goods. In fact, some jocks (especially professional pimps from the
Street) will hook up with a punk for no other reason. In effect they
continue their pimp trade on the inside. Avoid them if you can. When
you're put "on the block," your old man lets other guys know that you
are available for a price and the other guys negotiate with your "owner"
and then he tells you what to do and with whom and when. If you have a
chance to negotiate with a jocker over this, try to get a veto over
particular customers, and especially try to limit it to head jobs, in
order to keep the risk of AIDS low. Some jockers will keep everything
they get this way to themselves, more will share it with you 50-50, and
there is every possibility in between. If you can possibly do so, find a
jocker who will not rent you out at all.
Jockers will almost never switch roles with you or let you penetrate them,
and they may get very upset if you even suggest it. Some of them may be
willing to jerk you off, but most don't want to be reminded that you
even have a dick. It is very important to them that they stay within
what they consider the "man" role. They may, however, be willing to
consider other human needs of yours, such as the need for affection, for
touch, for comforting, and they will often try to see to it that you are
as comfortable as possible while having sex. Within the rules of the
game, most jockers try to get along with their kids as well as possible,
so as long as you live up to your part of the deal they won't get mean
or hurt you. If you make them happy, you are even likely to find that
over time, they'll become grateful, and try to keep you relatively
happy, too. But don't expect that gratitude will ever go to the extent
of relieving you of your sexual obligations.
Jocks can treat you like a slave and sell you to some other jock whenever
they get tired of you or run out of money. They can also fall in love
with you and get very jealous of anyone else. It takes all kinds. Some
of the jocks who play the gorilla game and act extremely tough, callous,
and cold-hearted will relax once they get hooked up and learn to trust
you and show a whole different and unexpected side of themselves.
You have to understand that for jockers the world of confinement is one of
constant competition, with everyone looking for a weakness. So guys put
up a false front which never admits any vulnerability. But this makes
them less human. When they get hooked up, they have someone to relate
to, who is no longer an actual or potential competitor. Especially when
you've accepted their claim, they can feel you're on the same team. Thus
they can relax, and become very gentle if they want, and as they learn
to trust you and you show you can keep confidences to yourself they may
tell you things about themselves that they would never tell other
jockers. They may share their own anxieties and fears and their deepest
feelings, and they will listen to you as you learn to trust them and can
talk about your own feelings. Thus you have a good chance at developing
a human relationship where each of you really cares about the other and
you work together to keep the relationship smooth. Generally the older
the jocker is, the more likely he is to want to develop a real
partnership with you rather than just get his rocks off.
Choosing a daddy
This usually has to be done pretty quickly or events will overwhelm you
and you may get gang-raped or forced to hook up before you can make a
choice. But if you want to have a choice, as soon as you decide to hook
up you should tell the other prisoners; the word will get around fast
and guys will then start to talk with you about it. It can get pretty
The relationship begins when a jocker puts a claim on you, and you accept
or recognize the claim, either voluntarily or under duress. If more than
one guy wants to claim you, you'll usually get to choose, but sometimes
the jockers will settle the matter among themselves and you'll just be
stuck with the winner. If you have some time before you have to make a
commitment and you can keep your head straight about it, you can often
get more than one guy to become interested in you; this allows you more
choice and greatly improves your bargaining position. Often there is
such a strong demand for punks that jockers start competing for you
right away in any case. Since the character of your partner will be the
most important factor in shaping your further experience behind bars,
and jockers range from assholes who only abuse and exploit their punks
to lonely fellows looking for someone to really care about, it is
important for you to try to get a choice.
If you have any negotiating room at all before committing yourself to
someone, discuss what he expects from you in detail and try to work out
the most favorable arrangement. Even put it in writing! Probably the
single most important thing has to do with avoiding AIDS: get him to
agree not to fuck your ass without a condom or let anyone else do so. If
he insists on fucking your ass, try to get him to not let anyone else do
it, to "keep your pussy for himself alone." A lot of jockers like the
idea of keeping "pussy" to themselves even if they'll make you give head
to their friends or for pay.
Spend as much time as you can with the jockers who want to hook up with
you; ask them lots of questions and judge for yourself how sincere they
are. Ask other prisoners (especially punks and queens) about their reps.
The more information you can get, the better your choice will be. Once
you make it, you are pretty much stuck with it.
You'll want to know if the jocker wants to "put you on the block" (which
unfortunately is pretty common), whether he has ever shot up drugs (and
therefore might carry the AIDS virus), whether he'll settle for head or
insists you give up your ass as well, whether he'll allow anyone else to
fuck your ass or keep it for himself, whether he'll loan you out to his
buddies, whether he wants to cell with you, and what the relationship
means to him.
Check out how serious the guy is. Protective pairing is a very serious
matter for him as well, since it obligates him to put his life on the
line if necessary to keep you from harm, and if you are foolish or
stupid and fuck up, he may have to suffer for your mistake. Ask him
about any previous catchers he's had and how they managed together and
why they split. If any of them are still around, talk with them. Ask him
what he feels his responsibilities would be and what yours would be.
Also ask about canteen arrangements.
Jockers may well insist on having sex with you before putting a claim on
you. It's not an unreasonable demand, since sex is such an important
part of the deal, and if he's willing to limit himself to head it makes
sense for him to find out if you can satisfy him that way. But make sure
you're both serious first, or anybody could use it as an excuse to go up
in you. You can tell a lot about a jock by how he behaves with you
sexually. If he breaks contact with you right after he comes, it may be
a sign of discomfort and guilt on his part or that he sees you as just a
piece of meat. On the other hand, if a jock stays with you for a while
after he comes, even stays inside you, it may be a sign that he likes
your company and is attracted to you as a person and not just a sex
object. Also, if a jock shows affection with you, such as stroking your
body or hair, it is a good indication that he wants to treat you as a
Ask jockers how they treat their women, because most jockers treat their
punks the same way. If they form real partnerships with their women,
they are more likely to do the same with you.
As a new punk you won't know diddly-squat about your sexual duties, so
here are a few practical tips: to avoid AIDS, learn to suck dick. In
fact, learn it so well you can do deep throat and he'll forget all about
your ass. The trick is relaxation, not easy at first, to be sure, when
you feel the whole thing is absolutely disgusting, but for your own
good, you need to learn to relax using any technique that works for you.
In order to avoid gagging, wait til your stomach is empty (1½ hrs after
meals), so there's nothing to barf. If you do throw up, do it on the
floor and not him! Train yourself gradually. Meditate, say mantras,
anything that gets you to relax. Stop thinking of the dick as an
invading foreign object; if you can get over that perception, you'll be
OK. Try to take deep breaths whenever you can and breathe through your
nose. Practice holding your breath like a swimmer. If he fucks your
skull so hard you think you're about to pass out from asphyxiation, you
should grab his legs and signal your distress. Most likely he'll be
about to come and won't let up, but it'll be over real soon.
The first few times you get fucked in the ass, it hurts bigtime. If you
have to get fucked in the ass, again try to relax as much as possible
and get him to slow down. It will hurt less, and if it keeps happening
you will get used to it and it won't hurt at all. Be sure to use some
kind of greasy stuff (vaseline, hair cream, etc.) as a lubricant, and a
condom if at all possible. If you are hooked up, your jocker will
usually try to minimize any pain that might be involved. After all, he
wants to keep your resentment and complaints to a minimum.
A dick up your ass may well physically stimulate your prostate gland, and
you may experience that as pleasurable. You may even get a hard-on while
being fucked, just as a physical reaction. And some punks will find the
sexual experience arousing. Many guys have some homosexual feelings even
though they are basically straight. You don't have to put a label on
yourself just because you have a variety of feelings.
Punks sometimes agree to switch out with each other or "take turns"
sexually, since this is about the only way you can take a penetrative
role instead of a passive one. As a punk you come under a lot of
pressure to act less masculine, and you will naturally resent this
pressure inside and feel a strong need to act in masculine ways whenever
you can get away with it. This need can make the urge to experience what
a lot of people call "the male role" in sex very powerful. It is an
understandable compensation, a way of proving to yourself that you're
still a man, so if you do it, don't feel guilty about it. If you want to
take turns with another punk, it is best to clear it with your jockers
first. The jocks usually don't object since they know the other punk is
not a rival for them.
When your "man" treats you bad and you want to get out of the situation,
it's a tricky situation, but it's not hopeless. Maybe he's dissatisfied
too and is willing to let you go, in which case you are back to square
two. If he wants to keep you, he may get violent to do so. You can check
in to p.c. and get transferred as one way out. Another way is to let
other jockers know that you want to switch and encourage one of them to
make a deal with your current jock to take you over. He may buy out your
contract, so to speak. Sometimes if he wants you badly enough he'll
fight your current daddy in order to get you.
A punk who successfully breaks away from his jocker and becomes
independent is called a "renegade." There are also some independent
punks who never hook up. Unless such punks have learned to fight well,
they usually end up with another jocker.
Human beings are remarkably adaptable creatures. It is true that if you
become a punk and are locked up for a long time, you will get somewhat
used to the punk role. This varies a lot from one punk to another. Some
still hate every sex act after a decade of doing it every day. Others
focus on other aspects of it and find some value in those aspects. Some
treasure the security it brings. Many punks who have good relationships
actually become fond of their jockers. It is not even so uncommon, in
the unusual conditions of confinement, for two straight guys to fall in
love with each other over time. Psychologists generally consider
adaptation to be a healthy reaction to a situation which you cannot
change, so don't worry about it if you find yourself adapting to the
role. Once you are out you can reverse the process and work on
reclaiming the full expression of your masculine identity.
Unfortunately, many (if not most) jockers will try to get their punks to
be as feminine in appearance and behavior as possible. That is because
they are more comfortable pretending they are relating sexually to some
kind of female than to another male. But they also know that you are a
punk, not a queen, and that such things don't come naturally to you. You
should ask about such things before accepting a claim, and make it clear
that retaining your masculine identity is important to you. Some jockers
don't care; I was hooked up once with a guy who let me grow a moustache!
Most will still call you "him" and use your male name. Others may insist
that you shave your legs and grow long hair and get a feminine nickname.
No matter what you have to do, remember that it is all an act and you
can go back to your normal behavior as soon as you get out.
Sex is a very complex experience. It has many aspects which have nothing
to do with lust. Being penetrated is an intense experience; it can give
you an adrenaline rush. Being touched can be a pleasant experience,
regardless of the sex of the person touching you. Being held has been a
comforting experience for most people since they were babies, and it can
seem very protective in an environment where gang-rape is a grim
reality. Being desired can seem like a tempting alternative to being
ignored, especially if you've been ignored all your life. Intimacy
itself can be very powerfully attractive if you feel isolated and
lonely. It is quite possible that you may delve further into these
feelings, which are general human feelings. That doesn't mean you are
sexually turned on to the guy, it doesn't mean there's lust or sexual
arousal or homosexual inclinations. Besides, if experiences alone
determined a person's sexuality, we'd all be in love with our hands.
That's a lot of advice, but if it's a whole new world for you, you'll need
it. Good luck finding a decent man, and remember you will leave it all
behind (except for a much better understanding of men and of women!)
when you walk out the front gate.