Saturday, September 27, 2008

Deborah Orr on George Michael. She's not homophobic but she wants to talk about our "proclivities" and the behaviour we "indulge" in

Deborah Orr in the Independent has commented on the fact that George Michael has been found in public toilets (again) with drugs. The whole article is here.

On the surface she makes what look like some fair points. However, dig a little deeper and the article starts to come off just a bit bigoted. She talks about Michael's "sexual proclivities" ("proclivities" is a very loaded word - almost always used to refer to negative cases). She claims that gay men can get married. Er no. We can have "civil partnerships". This is not the same as marriage by a long way. She talks about gay men as people who "have a weird dispensation for al fresco sex in public places." Is it really that weird? She claims also that "there appears to be no decline in clandestine activity" - although doesn't seem to have any evidence to back this up. And at one point she uses the verb "indulge" - as with "proclivities" this is a very loaded word - it tends to be used when we want to signify how much we disapprove of someone's behaviour.

It does seem like a very odd article to go in the Independent - it looks much more suited to the Daily Mail. It's telling that Ms Orr doesn't complain about heterosexual "dogging". And that she assumes that it is "gay men" who "indulge" in alfresco sex. She's probably never heard of the term MSM before. Most gay men don't need to go cruising in parks - they have other options. It tends to be the men who don't consider themselves gay at all who have to take that as an option.

And sadly, even though Ms Orr claims to be "all for equality" - I'm sure that won't apply to all of her readers. Gay men are still classed as what sociologists call a "vulnerable group". And rightly so. Some nutter planted a bomb in a gay pub (The Admiral Duncan) only a few years ago. In the 2006 British Social Attitudes Survey, almost 20% of people said that they agreed with the statement "homosexual relationships are always wrong" and 30% of people neither agreed nor disagreed. The remaining 50% disagreed. The word "gay" is routinely used to mean "lame" in playgrounds and is used in the same way by some television and radio presenters. We still live in a society where being gay is seen by a significant number of people as problematic - and it doesn't take much for these people to get riled up.

So whatever our feelings about cruising/cottaging/dogging, I don't think that it's helpful for articles like this to be published in national newspapers - I think they will do more damage than good. Complaining about gay people cruising is unlikely to stop people from doing it - although it is more likely to increase homophobia, which will prevent people from coming out, which ironically will lead to more furtive sex in parks.

1 comment:

Daniel Fitzgerald said...

Hello, I've just stumbled across your blog, well done about comments about the D.Orr article.

I've had several major run-ins with her regarding 'that' dreadful article.

My Mother read it too & without any prompting from me wrote this complaint (see below) to The Independent. Hope you enjoy it!

Many thanks, Daniel Fitzgerald

Daniel,
I was so annoyed by her article, which I've just read on the internet, that I was going to send this:

Dear Sir,

Deborah Orr's article ('I'm all for gay rights', 27th October) started well, although there was a worrying hint of an unspoken 'but.....' in the title, as in 'I'm not a racist but.....'. This soon became more than a hint in the sloppy journalism that followed. While people having sex in public places may be undesirable behaviour, I fail to see that it is any worse (or more prevalant) when it is gay people, rather than heterosexuals. Deborah Orr asserts that we wouldn't accept heterosexuals 'carving up common land so that they could shag each other with no strings attached', but that is precisely what happens in many places. However, quiet areas used for this purpose by heterosexuals are euphemistically called 'Lovers Lanes' and the people involved 'Courting Couples'. So much prettier! As for 'dogging', has she not read well publicized accounts of heterosexual dogging areas in pub car parks (rather more public than wooded areas of common). Furthermore, since when have being 'leather clad' and having 'a thick foreign accent' been crimes? As for the human excrement in the dog's beard, what on earth does that prove? Someone had defecated in the woods. At night, on the Downs near where I live, the car parks are full of 'courting couples' having sex in parked cars, and very likely, weather permitting, in the woods too. And consider this - groups of gays, whatever they may be doing, seldom present a threat or do any harm to anyone. Gangs of feral, drunken, violent and lewd heterosexuals, on the other hand are a real and ever -present menace on our streets. Newsagents are full of revolting 'lads mags' , and TV, video games and the internet pose a far greater risk to public decency than a small number of gay men in the bushes. If she is going to disapprove of certain behaviour, Deborah Orr should include everyone, not just gays. Sorry Deborah, you aren't 'all for gay rights'.
For the record, I am a 66 year old heterosexual mother and grandmother.

Yours faithfully