Everybody who's seen a prison movie or watched Locked Up knows it's all about respect in prison. You've heard about how if you don't show respect you'll be full of holes and have a lock embedded in your head. If you really and truly envision this, it becomes an absurd comedy. (I really wish I had a dictionary to write down the correct definition of respect to really drive this home. Before you go any farther look it up. I'm gonna guess on it.)
Respect, to me, is a mutual understanding and a general get-along-ness a pair of, or group of, people acquire for each other after learning each has something of value to offer the other. By 'value' I assume you know that I don't mean monetary value. I mean intellectual and or industrial. Some shit like that.
When you hear people complain that they don't like someone but they respect them they are lying. They fear that person but can't or won't admit it. That person has or knows something that is potentially harmful or threatening to the other. Plain & simple, tits & ass, black & white. It's fear, a quasi-respect that I'd like to talk about.
There's many ways to get the shit kicked out of yourself in prison. No end of things. The subtleties are of a culture all to itself. In regular society, small almost undetectable facial gestures convey the whole spectrum of emotions, conveying feelings and intents before a word is even spoken. In prison, you spend your whole day deliberately trying not to look at people. Every intent is displayed through action. ABSURD action. Think of those brightly colored birds who dance around each other for hours in a brightly-decorated pseudo-threatening display. It takes forever because one bird is scared and the other is glad of it. Funniest of all is that, by the end of it, neither one gets laid because the female said 'fuck it' and let the raven hit it. AM I RIGHT, FELLAS!? Huh, huh? Moving on.
In prison there are so many alpha males that civility is unattainable. These men would like to be respected, but few have anything to offer so they confuse the word with fear, which they can offer, even if it's just brightly-colored feathers. These men will puff up their chests and walk around as purposefully as possible, ideally with a couple of smaller dudes in tow. Now say I'm walking down this hall and I bump into one of his feathers, (i.e. his massive freight-truck arm). Correct protocol here is to say 'excuse me'. this would be called 'showing respect.' Now, I say it isn't. There isn't anything mutual here. Had the situation been the other way around I would not be shown the same respect. Dick and nuts to me. So, in turn I would be obliged to say something disrespectful to show I should have deserved the respect of an 'excuse me.'
So, now the feathers are out. In most cases after some words it would be decided that I will get and 'excuse me' next fucking time. You see how absurd this is getting?
The scenario could have become a fist fight very quickly, but more times than not it wouldn't. What is being confused for respect is this throwback's want for recognition. He wants you to acknowledge that he is there, that he matters. The thing is he doesn't care if you want the same thing.
Now, in most cases everyone who walks by each other too close will say excuse me, It's a general acknowledgement. I see you, I know you exist. If you're not on your toes, if you're not aware of your surroundings, it's possible to get hit in the face with a lock,
Another funny idea of respect in here is the politics of a fight. Now, don't get me wrong. A lot of times there are no politics. One minute you've got your dick in your hand pissing, the next minute you're snoring on the ground with your pants around your knees because you jumped ahead in line for the microwave. It happens and usually you wont see it coming. When it comes to fighting, it's just like anywhere else: nobody wants to be punched in the face. It sucks and it hurts. Most people stabbed or punched here never saw it coming. Getting the upper hand is essential, especially when 80% of the guys are lifting weights all day.
When there is a face to face conflict more times than not it wont end up with fists flying. What you're really establishing here is fear. You;re letting this man know that you have no problem mashing his potato and he in return is letting you know that scrambling your egg wouldn't bother him any. It's all barking through the fence. This guy knows you're not easy prey and if he's going to get honest with himself he's come to terms with the fact that he'd probably get punched in the face during the fight, and we've already established that nobody likes to get punched in the face. You now have a mutual fear for each other. Congratulations! This also serves as a warning to others that you, in fact, will be taking no shit. Does it work? Sometimes. Depends on how convincing you are. You can bark all day long but if you're 130lbs and your voice cracks at any time you might want to think about locking up or hitting the weight pit.
To tell you the truth, if you're built like that and sound like that this is all a non-issue. You've already, I'm sure, seen a couple of dicks up close. You've been approached by a predator and were found wanting. Maybe. Maybe you found respect at the end of a sharpened toothbrush. Yeah, he respects the shit out of you now.