Sunday, September 02, 2007

Should I have no sympathy?

Would you want to have sex with this man in a bathroom?

The big story at the moment in America is the resignation of US Republican senator, Larry Craig, who was caught engaging in a bit of foot tapping for gay sex in an airport toilet by a police sting. Craig's political record on gay rights suggests he liked to play the homophobe, with a strong stance against same-sex marriage and voting not to include homophobic hate crimes in new anti hate-crime legislation.

I can (just about) understand it when some Republican comes out with a load of homophobic bile - the Republican parts of America are somwhat isolated, ruled by Bible-bashers who believe in Creationism and rarely leave their own states, let alone own a passport. Anyone a bit different usually has the good sense to leave to a costal city the minute they can afford the bus fare. So diversity isn't usually a concept they encounter. But for someone who is gay (or bisexual) to publicly support homophobic legislation - my first thought is that the bastard deserved all he got - and the American media have pounced upon this story in a gleeful way - the Republicans have washed their hands of him, while Democrat reporters are loving the sleazy scandal. An article on the news last night lovingly talked about the "language of bathroom sex", giving us all a little schooling on the rules on how to get sex in a toilet. Puns are flying around galore.

But while I don't have any (or much) pity for Craig, I'm concerned about the way that the story has been reported - what is missing from the debate. Nowhere in the American media have I seen anyone argue that police entrapment - particularly in cases of men having sex in bathroom stalls, is both morally repungent and a waste of taxpayer's money. Really, in a case like this - who got hurt? Who is the victim? You could argue that some innocent young chap or lad might have a pass made at him - but in the huge majority of cases, gay men who engage in this sort of activity are incredibly careful to ensure that anyone they try to get involved with, is of a similar mindset. It is unsurprising that Craig thought that a policeman, sitting in a stall, not bothering to leave after a few minutes, was lingering with sexual intent.

And almost all the gay men I've talked to about this, have said that at some point in their lives they've cottaged or cruised in parks. Most haven't done it much, for some it is practically a full-time occupation. I'm sure a lot of gay men watching the news will be thinking "There but for the grace of God..." I wonder how many members of the media are crowing about Craig's disgrace, having engaged in cottaging, taken drugs, paid for prositutes or had affairs...

The media, the police and the politicians all assume that having sex in a bathroom stall is a crime, rather than a case of inappropriate behaviour. Those who engage in it should not be criminalised - but instead quietly advised to visit a gay sauna or club or go on the internet or something - there's really no need for men to be having sex in toilets any more - there are far safer and less public locations for it. Having sex in a toilet creates a link between grime and sex - reinforcing the idea of gay sex as something dirty and furtive, when it isn't. It's a vicious circle: while homophobia exists, gay men will always be forced into living a double life - resulting in them engaging in this sort of sex, which them reinforces the attitude that gay men are dirty deviants, which strengthens homophobia... If only there was some way to cut the circle... Tolerance perhaps?

There is also no acknowledgement in this story about the complexity of sexuality - nobody seems to be bothered about why this man was prepared to risk his marriage, his reputation and his career over a few minutes of casual sex. Instead, the media stories simply reinforce homophobia - another closetted gay hypocrite is disgraced - one in a long line of many. Perhaps Republicans should hook up prospective candidates to a machine that measures penis length and show them gay porn, as a way of ensuring that these scandals bother them no more?

Or perhaps gay Republicans should finally learn the unequivocable lesson - why on earth would you want to belong to a club that hates you? Sadly, for the Democrats - crowing over the humiliation - I'd be far more impressed if they tried to at least offer a bit of compassion and commentary on homophobic police practices. They may be a better alternative to the Republicans - but I'm glad I'm not eligible to vote for either of them.


mike said...

A sound and sober analysis... and sadly, having followed this little scandal-ette from afar, the first time that I've heard most of these points raised.

matty said...

I agree. I have often said that I find no joy or pride being an American citizen. Quite the opposite.

Were it not that I lived in the gay bubble of San Francisco --- I am fairly sure I would have already made the jump to Canada. ...something I think is probably in my future anyway.

You won't see that sort of debate or discussion happen in the US --- other than in local gay newspapers. I doubt that even Advocate will touch much on that -- as it is essentially no more than a silly fashion magazine now anyway.

The US police run on entrapment. It is how it works. I can almost hear the people in the area where I grew up (southeast Texas) --- "Oh, thank God they caught him! He could have hurt a child! What a biggot! Let's hope God forgives him! ...etc"


But, I have to say I love it when these type of evil men get caught.

Does that make me bad?

Now, if only John Travolta would really slip up! LOL!

Clare said...

I agree that a gay/bi man supporting homophobic legislation is rubbish, and the way this has been reported is even more rubbish, but of course the reason such hypocrites exist is partly because of self-hatred caused by internalised homophobia... still. Rubbish.

I'm intrigued by this phrase though: "foot tapping for gay sex"... it's one I haven't come across before and initially conjured up an image of the man standing on the sidelines, tapping his foot and cheering, while somebody else had sex.

Oh, and regarding the need for cottaging... although I'm sure you're right that it's partly the result of a perceived necessity - i.e. practised by closeted married men who don't want to be seen near a gay venue... isn't it also a genuinely attractive proposition to many out-and-proud gay men? Precisely because it's, well, rather seedy? In the same way that dogging is attractive to heteros?

Of course, you could argue, tthat the only reason any "dirty" or seedy sexual activity seems like fun is because sexuality in general is endlessly repressed and twisted by modern society and we are all deeply fucked up, and of course homophobia is only one of the nastier aspects of this sexual fucked-upness... but still, I think you have to allow that even when there is no need for it all, people will still cottage... because it's fun.