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. Keenen offered a more concrete explanation before a live performance in Montreal on November 26, 1996, when the Tool frontman said the song is about recognizing cycles of abuse in oneself. After recognizing the cycle, the next step is working through it, "But, this song is about the first step in the process, which is recognizing."
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."
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.
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