The Message Maynard James Keenan Hid In The Disturbing Music Video Of Tool’s ‘Prison Sex’

Tool lead singer and primary lyricist Maynard James Keenan is essentially known for his incorporation of visual arts and incredibly complex music that perfectly reflects the rocker’s intriguing artistry. Throughout his music career that spans over 35 years, Keenan managed to create one-of-a-kind studio albums, tracks, and accompanying music videos, all of which were uniquely represented the musician’s interesting vision.

While there are a number of exceptional music videos that have a story worth telling such as the iconic ‘Schism’ music video, the Tool lead singer once did something extremely special with the music video for ‘Prison Sex.‘ Despite being known for his private personal life, Keenan implicitly reflected on his personal experiences with the lyrics of the song as well as the music video. Let’s take a closer look into the meaning behind ‘Prison Sex’ and the music video.

Fans Think Maynard James Keenan May Be Abused By His Stepfather

There’s no doubt that Maynard James Keenan isn’t one of those rock stars who live their personal life out in the open. On the contrary, the unique rocker much prefers to keep things to himself, especially when it comes to his upbringing. However, Keenan publicly expressed his blatant dislike for his stepfather on numerous occasions, and given his lyrical tendency on subjects such as rape and abuse as well as the philanthropic endeavors including a benefit concert for Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, many fans think he may be exposed to abuse in his childhood.

Obviously, there’s no certain way to know if the rocker actually was abused by his stepfather but there was one time when he opened up about being abused during a live performance of ‘Prison Sex’ on November 29, 1996, in Montreal, Quebec. The lyrics of the songs were written by Maynard James Keenan himself and prior to performing it, he stated that the track is about the first step of the cycle of abuse which is recognizing.

Keenan’s speech before performing ‘Prison Sex’ goes:

“This song is about recognizing, identifying, the cycle of abuse within yourself. That’s the first step of the process: realization; identifying. The next step is to work through it. But, this song is about the first step in the process, which is recognizing.”

Although the Tool icon didn’t directly speak about his own experiences and it still isn’t certain that he was exposed to abuse when he was a child, the brilliant music video definitely means something to those who survived being abused. The video contains disturbing images and brings the upsetting matter to the light combined with Keenan’s artistry.

The Music Video Of ‘Prison Sex’ Depicts Child Abuse

The video for ‘Prison Sex’ which was directed by the band’s guitarist Adam Jones, primarily revolves around a robotic-like doll figure trapped in a room full of cabinets that contain other humanoids. At the beginning of the video, a black figure that represents the abuser takes the doll’s legs and hangs them out of reach of it, yet they move and try to run every time the abuser scares him.

As if the beginning wasn’t heavy enough, the main character is constantly confronted by the larger black silhouette and these confrontations cause the doll to go catatonic during various points in the video. While the doll is unable to move or react, the black figure molests the doll with a paintbrush.

While being abused by the black figure, the doll manages to move only once towards the end of the video, and try to stop the abuser. The big black silhouette, on the other hand, calmly stops the doll’s hand from preventing his actions. This scene especially gave goosebumps to the fans, and it’s fair to say that the video made a fine job of depicting the painful cycle of abuse.

When the music video was first released, it was nominated for 1994’s MTV Music Video Awards’ Best Special Effects category. However, MTV stopped airing the music video after receiving backlash due to its symbolism depicting the sensitive subject of child abuse. Regardless of the execution of child abuse in the video with disturbing images, child abuse does exist and Keenan is applauded for bringing such an important subject to light with his art.

You can watch the music video below.