Behold the strange and sad case of Donny the Punk.
An activist for gay rights, Donaldson founded a “homophile” society at Columbia University. “Homophile” was used in place of “homosexual” to put a greater emphasis on love as opposed to sexuality. He went on to found more chapters of gay rights organizations at other universities, and continued his activism throughout the 1970s, also experimenting with LSD and founding a “psychedelic church” for guiding first-time acid users. Somehow he managed to join the Navy even after all of this, and served honorably, though he was discharged when his orientation became publicly known. He at least got an honorable discharge.
Then he began identifying as bisexual rather than gay, and began a campaign of activism for bisexuals’ rights. He joined the Quakers and renounced his affiliation with earlier gay rights groups.
As a Quaker, he protested what he saw as the evil of the American prison system. Here is where his story takes an unfortunate turn. After being arrested at a protest - “against the bail system, under which the privileged, the white, the middle class escape the pre-trial confinements which go automatically to the poor and black.” In a horrifyingly ironic twist, he wound up getting orally and anally raped by an estimated 45 black male inmates at the jail where he was held. He
Unbelievably (or perhaps, believably,) Donaldson did not want to punish the men who raped him. He said:
Ultimately, he brought neither civil or criminal charges against his rapists. The injuries to his rectum were so severe that he required surgery at the Washington D.C. Veterans Hospital.
Apparently, the gang rape had a profound effect on Donny - it led to him ultimately accepting the role of “punk” and even enjoying it. During his subsequent incarceration, he assumed a sexually submissive role to four Marines, who provided him with protection and snacks in exchange for blowjobs and “pussy” (their term for anal sex.) Later, when he was released from prison, he actually deliberately got himself arrested again - he wanted to continue being a “punk”. He wanted, in his own words, “to find myself being wanted and needed, to find the warm security I had experienced with the Marines in the county jail.”
His attempt at being arrested again was a success and he was gang-raped again, this time by a group of black inmates who paid five dollars for him. But this time he apparently didn’t like it anymore, being “paralyzed with terror” and abandoning his Quaker beliefs, fighting back against his attackers. Then he entered into a consensual sexual relationship with another inmate - and found a newcomer who he coerced into being his own punk. The rapee was now the rapist. Donny wrote: “For the most part, the exhilaration of demonstrating my masculinity, of conquest, of sexual release swept those reservations aside. Somewhere deep in my soul, I suppose, there lurks a jailhouse rapist.”
Eventually after his incarceration was finally over (and after several more incidents of being arrested and jailed) he became an activist against prison rape. He eventually died of AIDS in 1996 - the disease supposedly contracted at his first rape in the DC jail. (I did not realize that AIDS was common in 1973.)
What an utterly bizarre case. Was this man afflicted by some form of mental illness that drove him to put himself in situations where he would be raped? Is there a technical term for the kind of condition he had, or was it simply a very twisted and tangled inner psyche that was the product of his own horrific experiences? A form of “Stockholm Syndrome?” I’m not sure exactly what to say about this other than that I was quite disturbed to read it.