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Prison Sex

by

Tool



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

At least in its most upfront interpretation, this is about child abuse. In early interviews, lead singer Maynard James Keenan apparently was quite vocal about his dislike for his stepfather, and the video supports this theory quite well. However, the autobiographical nature of this song is purely speculative.
When discussing the release of "Prison Sex" as a single, drummer Danny Carey had this to say: "It will annoy a lot of people... which is half the fun." (thanks, Landon - Effingham, IL, for above 2)
This song is definitely about abuse, but not only from the perspective of the victim. Throughout the piece the lyrics change from the frightening realization of what is happening to the individual to the insatiable appetite to force the same on another. It is about the cyclical nature of abuse and the reason that certain learned behaviors are perpetuated. (thanks, greg - Memphis, VT)
According to Tool guitarist Adam Jones in Revolver Magazine Presents Tool, "Contractually, the record label was supposed to talk to us about any sort of publicity stunt they pulled on our behalf, especially with us paying for part of it. But without telling us, they made little kid T-shirts for the single 'Prison Sex' with our Tool wrench logo on there, which is actually a phallic symbol. So the label was going to send the shirt to all the radio stations because Nirvana did that with one of their songs. And we're going, 'Well, first off, you didn't even talk to us about this.' And they went, 'No, you don't understand. Nirvana did this and it was a huge hit with radio.' And Maynard goes, 'Do you know what that song's about? It's about getting f--ked in the ass as a little kid.' They never sent the shirts out." (thanks, Jamin King - Puyallup, WA)
Tool
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More songs that deal with child abuse or domestic violence

Comments (67):

Thanks Mark. You have made me feel validated and I appreciate that someone else can see outside the box of malevolence. People can change and that is what I think the album Aenima is about... The self-change of a monster into a good and real person. The Dark Passenger can be destroyed... It just takes a bit of will power.
- Jer, Cedar Rapids, IA
Jer, you've probably said the most accurate thing about 'H' on this whole website, man. Well said.
- Mark, Los Angeles, CA
Someone said H. has to do with molesting Devo, earlier on... So, I went through the lyrics of the song H. to make up for it.

First of all, molesting Devo is a riduculous theory... It IS understandable, but ridiculous all the same. Here is why:

Prison Sex: The lyrics are in no way vieled to listeners... The song is about child abuse and becoming the abuser. No way around that. It may have several meanings, but this is the most obvious... Plus, Maynard's blocking of the label's "Nirvana" stunt. And it does make sense.... You're treated this way as a child, you see no other way to master life... The "Dexter Experience" of born in blood. However, there is always an exception to the rule and I believe Maynard explains it with H. Here is how...

Firstly, i'd like to say that Maynard has contributed to loads of charity's... That ISN'T rumor, it's pure fact. Now on the words that explain Devo's situation.

H. What's coming through is alive. What's holding up is a mirror... <- That is the son being born and the son reminding Maynard of himself. Vulnerable at this age. What's singing songs is a snake. Looking to turn my piss to wine. <- The anger and hatred he grew up with is trying to grow and turn into a peaceful experience... Such as the original molester's desire to come to a peace.

They're both totally bored of hate... And killing me just the same. <- A struggle to be the monster he was born into or the father he wants to be. Neither full of hatred but the desire to be accepted.

The snake behind me hisses... What my damage could have been. <- He decided he'd rather give in to fatherly duty than unknown evil intention. The damage could amount to the same on Devo as it did on him. He's not willing to let that happen.

And I feel this coming over like a storm again... Considerately killing me. <- This is fighting off of the monster he was meant to be. He was born to be. But he has decided against it and struggles to fight it... But he wins, considerately killing his monster self.

I am too connected to you... To slip away, fade away. Days away (on tour) I still feel you... Touching me. Changing me. Considerately killing me... <- His son won't let the monster take hold. He won't fade back into the monster he's supposed to be. He still feels his child molding him into a better person... Therefore killing the real monster. The touch is not sexual for the monster. It's a molding of creation. It's a molding of mind and personality and love. Whether the monster wants it or not... The monster is soon to be dead...

Considerately.
- Jer, Cedar Rapids, IA
Recent performances of this song contain an extra verse that ends with "I have become my terror, and you my precious lamb and martyr." That's the whole story, right there.
- bmn, Hisuan, Argentina
This song has absolutely ZERO relation to prison as an actual location or the type of abuse that happens in them. I repeat: NOTHING TO DO WITH PRISONS. It's about cycles. It's about how vulnerable little kids are powerless to stop the abuse they receive, and how in their search for some sort of relief and empowerment they sometimes end up mimicking the only powerful 'role-model' they have ever known: the person who abused them. So the cycle continues, someone who was abused has the understandable desire to cast off the weight of those memories but they don't know how to go about it and they end up transferring that weight onto victims of their own. Child abuse is truly "the gift that keeps on giving". All of the discussion here about prisons and "is Maynard gay?" completely miss the point, which is astonishing because the point isn't very subtle... the lyrics and video are almost traumatizing.
- bmn, Hisuan, Argentina
you guys also have to take into account the state of mind maynard is due to exploration of pyscodelics and how that effects the imagination and thought proccess of song writing im going to asume that none of you write music or partake in psycodelics for the right perposes wich is internal exploration of ones own mind through intense psycodelic experiences and merging those with life experiences can cause an intense visualalization of moments in time..in the later years of doing this your mind begins to become highly developed despite scientific exploration because only ones self can truely understand ones self really. so back to my original point i believe the root of this song comes from maynards imagination and thought of child abusers and sodomy cases and the ones that go to jail for this hanus crime
- PorchMonkey, Charelottesville, VA
"only this one holy medium brings me piece of mind" is refering to the fact that most sadomizers go to jail and get there just desserts by being sadomized in jail also called "karma"
- PorchMonkey, Charelottesville, VA
I love TV Tropes take on the song:
Many people think "Prison Sex" by Tool is about just that: rape while in prison. The actual message is much more disturbing. It's about a child who is molested and grows up to himself become a child molester. The prison in the title is the cycle suffering that is created and which the character can't break free from. This confusion could be more due to some of the lyrics being hard to hear.
- Miles, West Linn, OR
I think it could be interpreted as being entirely from the victim's point of view. I know some of the lyrics don't lend themselves to this interpretation, but it could be that instead of the victim becoming the perpetrator, the victim is developing Stockholm syndrome, or has simply come to benefit from this sort of human connection. If you look at it this way, the song seems like the perfect complement to "stinkfist."
- Austin, Glendale, AZ
Yes, just as it is mentioned below this song is about having been raped and now being the rapist. Maynards next album was released after his son Devo H. was born. Most songs on the album are about raping devo. Like in the song pus--t he says "choking this infant here before me". The song H. is named after his son. He says "what's coming through is alive (pregnancy) what's holding up is a mirror (his son is a mirror of him self) what's singing songs is a snake (his penis) looking to turn my piss to wine (making devo drink it)....... the snake behind me hisses what my damage could have been (his father threatening him) my blood before me (his own flesh and blood (devo H.) covered in blood) BEGS me, "open up my heart again"". Maynard later writes in a song momma sed "listen up son of mine, mommas got something to tell you all about growing pains. Life will pound away where the light don't shine son, suck it up son of mine".
- CAleb Vogel, Van Nuys , CA
Was Maynard really sodomized? Everything I read seems to point in different directions. I have never been sexually abused by a person but I feel sexually abused by the media. I think Prison Sex, like many Tool songs, has several layers behind it. My understanding of it is that it starts out from the point of view of the victim, then goes to the perpetrator's point of view and talks about how it's a cycle with the victim being enraged and yet wanting to do the same to someone else. But I can't find any real evidence of whether or not Maynard was abused sexually...

Bottom line, Tool is such a great meaningful band with real anger and raw emotion in their songs and each member contributes and improves their songs. They are each so admirable. Best band ever.
- Sierra, Melbourne, FL
i thinkits about child abuse to, or anal rape like mynard said, anyone notice, the lyrics hands bound head down and my eyes closed my throat wide open? or s--t blood and cum in my hands? "you know it hurt me but i guess im still alive but signs tell me other wise "at the end he says"my lamb and martyr tis will be over soon you look so preciou"s not sure wat the lamb and martyr is...
- Spencer, Edmond, OK
Ok, well the great thing about Tool is that all of their songs can appear as one thing on the surface, and have a competely different meaning when looked at from a different perspective. However you look at it, its about a cycle of abuse. How you choose to look at that is complely up to. It could esily be about child abuse, but knowing maynard, its not likely. I think this is just about a cycle of abuse in general and how when someone puts you through something, you want to do the same thing and continue the cycle. "Do onto others what has been done to me"
"I need you to feel this" is talking about how he wants someone to feel what he went through
- Mariah, Colorado Springs, CO
For the people who say Maynard doesn't have a son.. he does. His name is Devo H. Keenan (born August 5, 1995) who is the cellist for the band Ashes Divide.
- Shannon, Burlington, ON
No denis. if you read the Tool issue of revolver he states that the record company was going to do a shirt for this song, but Maynard said no because the song is "about getting f*cked in the ass as a kid." And, lacie I heard Maynard is Bi. But it doesn't stop me from listening. Keep an open mind when you listen to music.
- Victoria, Memphis, TN
song kicks ass. go mormans!
- nate, provo, UT
child abuse is a simple easy guess based on the apearance of the lyrics but anyone who listens to tool a lot can tell you that SIMPLE AND OBVIOUS is the exact oposite of how maynard presents the subject matter of a song. this isnt CREED you guys!!!

I have personaly heard maynard say that this song is about SELF ABUSE and how people tear them selves apart be it because they arent satisfied with who they are or their apearance!!!! not him being sexualy abused!

i think the video is symbolic of a person picking away at themselves mentally and emotionaly.

to further reinforce this in an old interview maynard was asked about his relationship with his parents and in his response he indicated that he had an active and good relationship (this question was proposed due to the dark subject matter in their older songs i.e. prison sex)
- matt, auburn, WA
I heard Maynard say this song is about addiction in concert.
- Dennis, LA, CA
The first time Maynard sings the lyric "relief in sodomy" he is actually singing "release inside of me" Every time after this first use of the lyric Maynard sings "relief in sodomy" very clearly. That first time he uses voice inflection to bend the lyric to make it sound like one thing but it is really something else. Maynard is a master at using his instrument, his voice, in amazing ways. The chorus from "Swamp Song" comes to mind. This happened to him. This song is about him. I don't have a website or news article to back me up. But human empathy tells me it is about his own experience. He says things that only a survivor would know or understand.
- ray, san jose, CA
There's no question that this song is about child abuse and the cycle of violence. The "prison" in question is metaphorical. Notice that at the beginning of the video the small mannequin has it's legs hung on the wall, symbolizing that it is unable to run away.

While this interpretation of the song is pretty clear, it is possible that it also has a religious connotation. Taking a vulnerable child and using your position of authority over them to force your religious beliefs on them while they are still to young to question things and figure it out for themselves could be interpreted as child abuse. But this is precisely the way that the majority of people acquire their religious beliefs - which are the same as their parents. They, in turn, pass those beliefs on to their own children.
- Mark, Outback, WY
The video is incredibly unpleasant and disturbing but it certainly makes you think. Excellent song indeed.
- Shelby, Idiotville , KY
I got as far as the post about Maynard not doing this to his son...but, as most of us agree, it's about abuse, and it's cyclical nature. I'm not quite confident about him not doing this to his son. If you look at the song H., which came out after this album, you can see that he is saying he was a bad father for a long time, but now, he has changed. Both songs are very deep and emotional for me, any other thoughts on this perspective?
- Joshua, State College, PA
this was the song that got me listening to tool, its about abuse its actually a combanation of two people his preacher and his step father, it is from a childs perspective. i can tell you this song killed me the first time i listened really to the lyrics. i cried for hours, its really hard to see yourself in others. this song is his way of releasing the anger every sexual abuse victom feels. we all have our ways his was drugs for a long time. and im sure this was a really hard song to write. he's not gay he's said he has bi leanings though but i dont remember what interview i saw that on...
- kassandria, steubenville, WA
1
Some tool songs are about religion! have you ver actualy listening to the lyrics of 10,000 days (wings for marie pt 2). it's about his outrage at god for letting his mother suffer for so long, he's sayin that she has led such a great life and suffered so much yet still kept her faith, so she deserves to be an angel. "give me my wings?"
2
prison sex has nothing to do with sex in prison, the term prison sex is definitly just another way of saying sodomy.
3
Tool Rock! :D
4
i think this song is about child abuse/molestation. i doubt it was maynard who actually did this to his son, it's written in the perspective of the victim. it seems like it's written about the cycle, "do onto others, what has bin done to you" etc.
5
Tool Rock :D
- sean, wxford, Ireland
Hey Neil from Boulder Colorado, here's some reseacrh for you: http://toolshed.down.net/bio/maynardbio2.html
He has a son named Devo.
- Cvas, Ridgefield, CT
Ok, the thing is we can look at one thing from a lot of perspectives.Let us first take a more global view of the meaning of the song.Take From and his definition of a S&M character that is a today's world deasise(i mean not just about S&M perversion, but characteristics that are a part of all of us, more or less).This global cycle must be broken, we se this attitude "Do unto others, what has been done to you" all over and over again if you look closely enough in famillies and institutions, government, schools, boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, and in more extreme meassure in prison sex(sodomy).One who is a victim later chooses to be the opposite and prey becomes the hunter.What is wrong with this picture?Yes, ofcourse he is no longer a victim, at least he thinks so, and this is better than ever before, but reality is that he did not brake the cycle, and maya blinded his eyes(third eye, if you will) i mean he is still the victim of the cycle, and thats just f***ed up.I think that Maynard meant to say something like this(there is another song that i like called The Grudge, wher it's said how can this problem be resolved), but this also comes down to how deep can this song go in Maynard personal issues.He might had been abused, not just methaphorical but in sexual sense by his stepfather when his mother got paralyzed, just an assumption.
- Urosh, Novi Sad, Serbia
This is one of Maynards more clear cut songs. It's about the cycle of abuse to which so many humans can succumb. It's about how a person may eventually seek solace in performing the evil to which they once fell victim; perhaps to make sense of why it happened to them. Rape/sexual abuse is the vehicle through which he makes this point.

The song is nothing to do with prison.
- Mark, Mason City, IA
"In the cover of one their cd's shows them all watching another man plesure himself."

What CD is this? O.o
- Kinn, Sex, NY
Tool has released like 3 albums in the 15 years they've been around, which clearly indicates the amount of though they put into their songs. The song "prison sex" has a much deeper meaning than what is shown on the surface.
- Jason, Richmond, VA
I think that a lot of tool songs are religion based. I think a lot of the early songs did somewhat bash religion, but I don't think that Maynard is against religion, but against organized religion and the perversion it has become. Also some earlier songs kind of show a resentment for Jesus because of all the evil things in the world today. I am a musician so I listen to tool for the musical and lyrical values.
- Derek, Ruston, LA
i love the video for this song
- brian, alluhrst, NJ
The video for this song scares the s**t out of me.
- Alex, Philadelphia, PA
Every one has their own opinion and I respect that but this song is mainly about child abuse and manyards childhood with his stepfather.I guess you guys can say it's about religion and I really don't see how but like I said you have you're own opinion and I respect that-Kudd_88

peace out
- jason, sturgeon, MO
And I also forgot to say that MAynard does have a son, his name is Devo, and the song "h"(devo's middle name) is about him, check it out.
- Hayden, Knoxville, TN
You know just because Maynard sings the song doesnt mean its about him... and Maynard is actually not married and has no kids in concert he brought his boyfriend out and is bisexual you all should do research before you talk about tool the songs have way deeper meanings than you think
- Neil, Boulder, CO
ok people. Maynard isnt gay, he has a wife and at least one child. Secondly name me five songs that are clearly about religion. Most of thier songs are just bashing some one or some idea. Tool isnt here to bash christianity.
- kevin, Independence, MO
And in the song "do unto others what has been done unto me". People who are molsted as childern normally do it to other when they are old. It is all a mental thing (not mental like stupid, you know)
- Emmalee, Lexington, United States
Child abuse? You have to be more forward.. it is molestation, the song clearly says (well not "clearly") "I have found some kind of temporary sanity in this.. with shi*t, blood, and cum on my hands." And (I will have to find the website again)this one website states that it has nothing to do with Maynard.. it is just a song about someone he knows or something like that.
- Emmalee, Lexington, United States
ok, the very first time i heard this song it really hit me. i absolutely love this song and the effect it has over me everytime i listen to it. i most definitely believe the song is about child abuse.. and not about sex that goes on in prison!! did u ever think that a child who is abused feels like they are in some kind of prison and are in a trapped state with no escape?
- karen, ssm, Canada
If you ever talked with someone who has ever raped or molestead someone it was a taught act.So thats what "do unto others". In the cover of one their cd's shows them all watching another man plesure himself.
- jack, colfax, NC
I see the use of Prison Sex as graphic example of human behavior that Maynard is trying to bring to light. This behavior is demonstrated by the play on the golden rule "Do unto others what has been done to you. Do unto others what has been done to me." Prison Sex is used as an extreme example to show us what we do in life, and how we treat others based on how we were treated, and to try to get us to break that cycle.
- Pablo, New York City, NY
When I first listened to it, I hadn't seen any explanations for it and I thought it was about somebody being raped and then them doing it back for revenge, and I guessed that they were both men in prison because of the title.
- Jess, Liverpool
I can think of songs by Tool that are'nt about religion - Take Forty Six & 2 for instance, its about genetics, and don't get me started on Stinkfist.
- Danny, Sydney, Australia
I believe this song is about being in a turbulent - just flat out dysfunctional relationship. "Prison Sex" is like a metaphor for getting emotionally abused time and time again from the perspective of Maynard. In the end... you just got F*CKED over.
- M, West Melbourne, FL
This song and every other Tool song is about Religon. There is no deeper meaning to any of the songs. They all bash religon
- Eric, Detroit, MI
I don't believe this song is about child abuse, I'd say it is about exactly what it's name suggests: sex in prison
- Brett, Adelaide, Australia
hm......this song is something more... deeper.......this is a song in which anyone can find his suffering...some directly and some in metaphorical way......and it is surthent that Maynard had some problems....but what were they it will only him know...and it should stay that way...he is so special because he sufferd...
- elizabeta, rijeka, Croatia
I think that this is an awesome song, and it has an extremely sick meaning to it, and all these posts are certainly on the right track. just a thought: its definately about continuing the chain: "do unto others, what has been done to you."
- Jordan, Ringwood, Australia
Everyone overlooks the fact that it could refer to the cycle of abuse within prisons. A young inmate overpowered exacts his revenge in an attempt to ameliorate his on humilation and suffering. That's what I'm getting out of it anyway
- Greg, Greenwood, IN
i watched a segment on channel V about tool and the guy said when he was talking to Maynard about this song there were hints of abuse that MJK suffered as a child from his step father
- mel, sydney, Australia
If you want my honest opinion, given the way Maynard feels about Christianity, I feel he is talking about the rape of Christ. The religious references (i.e. "My Lamb and martyr") would indicate to me that he is showing that religion has the capacity to rape you (mentally and physically). The part about "coming full circle" to me, is saying nothing more than you have the power to not let religious restrictions dictate your life.
- Hunter, Seattle, WA
I've heard Maynard was gay but i dont think its true he has kids... thats why when you see him he is always wearin like wigs and disguises because he doesnt want people to know who his kids father is to protect them
- Amanda, MIneral Ridge, OH
Obviouslly this song can be interputed for what it is, an abused person finding solace in abusing. But I feel that it also represents being able to find release in anything, sex, drugs, alcohol... The rape is a metaphor for finding comfort in anything, that one thing that makes you feel complete.
- Serge, Portland, ME
This song is played by the antagonists point of veiw. The antagonist is someone who has been sexually abused as a child and have put the memory far back into there mind. Now they have something eating away at them, so they take care of it by molesting a child.
- Bethany, Trabuco Canyon, CA
Zac, Cmon, dude, there is usually nothing mutual about prison sex. Hands bound, head down, eyes closed how mutually gratifying does that sound to you? It's forced upon you much the same as a child is abused. There is a lot of symbolism in this song with regard to control. Having none, having it all and losing it. Its a pretty powerful song.
- Mercury
- Mercury, Oswego, NY
One fact missed is in the last verse, when he sings, "I have found some type of temporary insanity in this, s--t blood and cum on my hands, I've come round full circle... my lamb and martyr, this will be over soon, you look so precious." While at the beginning of the song, he was the one violated, he is now doing the violation.
- Glenn, Mildenhall, England
personally i think youre all wrong
even though they arent heavy duty christians but if you look through its only about being forced into anything. this song has no mutuality suggestions in it. i think it just that people who listen to tool are often intelligent people, however somelisten for the musical value and some listen to the mesage. it's a just that we all think differently. see past the mesage and listen to wut these guys work the hardest for and youll see that its just another song telling us not to seel out . . .
- Ben, Clemmons, ND
sodomy
- john, detroit, MI
The song is good. End of story. However, the meaning isn't as good(At least not in it's implications). The song is about child molestation, and the need to do it again yourself, "Come full circle" is part of that. However, the difference between what everyone else put and what I'm saying is this: It isnt about Maynard PERSONALLY getting molested... just molestation in general.
- brian, Mayfield Heights, OH
Mutual sex? the hands bound would suggest otherwise
- Matt, Belfast, Ireland
Maynard is talking about child abuse but just because the song is about child abuse doesn't necessarily mean it is HIS story. Anyway, when he's talking about coming "full circle" he's describing the way the abused becomes the abuser once he grows up and does to others what has been done to him.
- Heather, Trenton, NJ
The song is about being molested as a child, and then molesting children yourself as an adult. That's why in the video, the little guy is molested by the big black figure (painted with a paintbrush, etc), and then the little guy keeps a little guy for himself to molest. No matter how hard you try, the only sanity is to molest. To come full circle.
- Shaun, Dayton, OH
i think this song is about child abuse becaus the fact that every sight i've been to has said this usally i don't belive those fan sites but in this case i do
- lisa, redlands, CA
Lacie, I do not think Maynard is gay but I do believe he is very sexually open minded and Bi-Sexual. This song is about Being in prison and 2 guys have mutual sex to fulfill each others sexual urges.
- Zac, Drexel, MO
maynard has said that this song is not about him being abused, anyway, I don't belive maynard being so rigid about his personal life would put his story of sex abuse in a song...
- lorena, Mexicali, Mexico
someone told me that this song was about maynard being gay ... i dont think i believe it ... i hope its not true... has anyone else heard this ?
- Lacie, Mt.Pleasant, TX
I think the song is also about child abuse..and we all know what goes on in prison...saudomy..thats why the song is called prison sex. When Maynard says "only this one holy medium brings me piece of mind" I belive he is talking about his dead stepfather and he can only come to terms with the child abuse by talking to a medium.
- mary, Baton Rouge, LA
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