5 Reasons Men Go “Gay for the Stay” in Prison

gay for the stay
Gay for the stay explained

Why men go gay for the stay as told by a straight man

By: Kevin R (Guest Contributor)

In our popular culture, we often hear terms like gay for the stay in the context of prison. But what does that phrase really mean? Moreover, if a man shares a sexual relationship with another guy in jail, do labels really apply?

The answers are more complicated than you think.

I should know – I’m a straight man and former prisoner of the main Atlanta correctional facility (not the camp). My sentence was for 60 months involving a non-violent crime; one that I’d rather not disclose.

During my time as an inmate, I saw and did a lot. As a guy that’s been married to a woman for nearly two decades, never in my life did I think I'd have sexual contact with another man – ever.

But that all changed a year into my sentence. You see, I found myself having intimate relations with other guys.

The fact is when you are in prison, you experience a series of physiological and psychological things that are transformative. At least for the short term.

But I’ll talk more about that in a moment. For now, I’d like to offer some context.

gay for the stay prison
Men who go gay for the stay

According to data published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are an estimated 1.53 million prisoners held in state and federal facilities across the United States.

Of that number, the vast majority of inmates are persons who identify as men. At the Federal level, male prisoners make up over 90% of the population. That's a LOT of men locked up.

I could go on forever and a day about incarceration rates, demographics, average length of stay and all the rest. But I suspect you aren’t reading this article to learn all that.

Instead, you probably want to know what gay for the stay means and why some guys do it. Well, I’m about to tell you based on my time in prison.

In this article, you will learn:

  • A working definition for “gay for the stay”
  • The psychological and physiological changes that happen as part of incarceration.
  • Gay for the Stay Q and A
  • Why some straight men choose to go “gay for the stay”
  • Resources for greater understanding.

Let’s jump right in!

Definition: Gay for the stay

Gay for the stay is a term used to describe an incarcerated man, who typically identifies as straight but will engage in sexual and/or romantic behaviors with another guy.

Below you’ll find 5 primary reasons men go “gay for the stay” in prison from my experience. Remember, all of what follows is consensual, meaning  it doesn't involve force or prison rape.

Gay for stay in prison
We all need human touch

1. Hunger for Touch

One of the major reasons a man will turn to same sex behaviors in prison is because of a deep hunger for touch.

This is a psychological phenomenon that has been well researched. It turns out that in the absence of touch, people are susceptible to depression.

To cope, men in prison often pat each other on the back and gently rub each other's necks – and sometimes hug – just to have human contact.

But for some that’s simply not enough.

After months or even years of being in a jail-cell, some guys need more – something more tangible.

In these instances, consensually, such men will seek out physical relations with other men to satisfy sexual needs.

It is the primary reason I did it.

2. Emotional Bonding

To a lesser or greater degree, some incarcerated men will engage in romantic relations with another guy because they desperately miss having an intimate, emotional connection.

It’s almost never about the sex, although that’s part of it. Instead, it’s about having a bond with someone that cares about you. In prison, finding anyone who gives a crap about your life is rare.

When it does happen, you learn to hold onto it.

I just want to stress these types of relationships aren't forced and shouldn’t be confused with terms like “prison b*tch”.

The truth is, the longer a man is jailed, the more likely he is to have unmet emotional needs. The loneliness in prison can be overwhelming.

gay for the stay federal prison
Men form bonds in prison

3. Onanism

This is a term used to describe masturbation. In medium-security prisons, where guys live in small dormitories, the last toilet stall is commonly reserved for JO.

If someone drapes a white towel over the top, that's means stay away – someone is getting busy.

In maximum security prisons, where inmates live in tiny cells with open bars, there’s a way to hang a sheet so nobody can see in.

And sometimes – depending upon the incarcerated individual, a man will choose to engage in onanism in full view of others. If two cells are facing across from one another, it is not uncommon for joint onanism to take place.

This is a visual form of “touch” that satiates a primal, physical need without actually touching. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen. I saw it many times with my own two eyes.

But in prison, you never, ever snitch about such things. If you do, you’ll get marked real fast. Instead, you learn to keep your mouth shut.

gay for stay in jail
Prison economies work on barter

4. Gay for Pay

Prostitution does happen in prisons. A lot of people don’t this but there is something called a prison economy. Most inmates come in without money. Worse, their families don’t, won’t or can’t send them cash.

As a result, some men trade sexual favors in exchange for things from the commissary. In prison, that’s how it works. An example might be orally servicing a fellow inmate in exchange for five or ten dollars’ worth of buying power at  – you guessed it – the commissary. Some people call this gay for pay.

In these situations, the sexual act is always transactional and always agreed upon.

Oh, and they also happen to be brief. Very rarely is anything anal involved.

5. Created Family

This final way some straight men go gay for the stay in prison relates to created family. Most people think of this scenario with shows like Orange is the New Black and lesbian relationships.

While the comparison may be accurate, such situations also happen among some men in prison.

Different than “gangs”, created families are where an older male inmate imparts his wisdom to younger, less experienced inmates. He’s often thought of as the “father figure” or “dad”.

Hoping to please different members of the family, a straight man will sometimes engage in sexual favors within this group. I recognize this may seem bizarre and even smacks of incest.

All I can do is tell you what I’ve seen – and more than once.

Below I am going to do some Q and A on prison life and gay for the stay. I've also asked that a video be posted that lets you know 10 things about going to federal prison.

I hope nobody reading this every had to deal with something like this but if you do, this is a good resource.

Preparing for Prison Video

Gay for Stay Q and A

Q: Do straight men really have consensual sex in prison?

Yes, it happens more than people think. But there’s lots of men who identify as straight who don’t. It just depends on the person and situation.

Boredom, loneliness, wanting to be touched and just a need for human contact are all part of it.

Q: Aren’t gay men segmented away from other guys in prison?

If they go public with their sexual orientation, they can be but there's is no guarantee. From what I saw, some gay men were highly desired by straight men.

Q: What are the typical behaviors straight guys engage in prison?

Well, it's not being a booty bandit, that's for sure. I know that might not fit what's in movies but the stereotypes aren't true. Mostly, it's oral or hand action.

For guys who are locked up for long periods of time, they do (sometimes) have a boyfriend. They may engage in more than what I described above but it's not like they talk about it with other.

Q: Can’t you have money in prison?

Technically, cash is forbidden in prison but it does exist. If you get busted with it, even a small amount like $5.00,  you can be (likely) sent to solitary.

Q: Is it quiet in prison?

Prison life is very loud. You can have 50 to 100 guys in a room at one time. They laugh, yell, holler and sing. Like I said, it gets really loud. Some guys use earplugs to cope. I used to.

But the noise can work in your favor if you are having a private conversation. By whispering, the outer noise makes it impossible for people to hear what you are saying. The key is whispering.

Q: What happens to a prison boyfriend after you are released?

Most people who go to prison want to forget they were there in the first place. In my experience, if a guy has a “prison boyfriend”, the relationship ends the moment someone is given his walking papers.

That’s not to say guys don’t stay in contact. Some do. But from what I saw, most people let that go once they get out.

I let my prison “friend” go.

male prison rape
Prison boyfriends usually don't stay together after someone is released

Gay for Stay Wrap Up

I’d like to share here there are gay men in prison. In fact, there’s a lot. And hardly any of them fit the stereotypes we see on television and in movies.

Moreover, straight men in prison have been known to secretly form bonds with guys who identify as gay for the reasons I've described above.

If you want to learn more about what life is really like in prison, I highly recommend the book: Inside: Life Behind Bars in America.

I hope you found what I’ve shared here useful. Thanks for reading.

Resources for greater insight:

A Gentleman’s Guide to Sex in prison

Corrections One Website

Prison Life Magazine

MV would like to thank Kevin for sharing his experience with readers.