Monday, September 03, 2007

Larry Craig's No-Alternative Universe

Why do gay men have sex in public restrooms?

It's behavior like that of which Senator Larry Craig of Idaho stands accused (and, significantly, pled guilty) which serves to reinforce the notion among social conservatives that homosexuality is intrinsically deviant and that gay people aim to make a mockery of marriage. What they fail to acknowledge is that they have deliberately created, and seek to maintain, a world where gay people have no alternative.

The longing for intimacy is a powerful one; it is not simply about sex, but sex can be a strong, if temporary, antidote to the anxiety and depression one feels in the absence of a meaningful, emotionally intimate relationship. Sex can also be an antidote to low self-esteem, confirmation that you are worthy enough and attractive enough for another person to want to be sexual with you, to have someone want you, even for just a moment. A validation.

Imagine now -- though, some of us do not have to -- that you have been raised to believe that an emotionally intimate relationship with the people you are physically and romantically attracted to is not just an impossibility, but even a sickness, an unforgivable abomination in the sight of God. Now your depression and frustration that you do not have a relationship is compounded by unsympathetic cultural attitudes that argue you should not have one. You only want what everyone else wants, and what most people appear to have, but for you it is sick, dirty, sinful, shameful. Your life is a desperate veneer of "normality" covering a seething cauldron of self-loathing, disgust, fear and futile desire; you struggle to control and conceal and live in terror of discovery. You worry that you could lose your friends, your family and your career. (As Senator Craig's case points out, these are not idle concerns.)

But the primordial urge to connect intimately with another human being can be overwhelming. Put another way, the person society tells us we should be is often overcome by the person we are. (Society is often wrong; that's why we universally love underdog stories.) Forget homosexuality; celibacy is what is unnatural.

Anonymous sex in public restrooms and other places sounds dangerous; and it is. But for generations of gay men, it was the safest possible option. Think about that.

The self-righteous moral values crowd likes to wrinkle its collective nose in disgust at the thought of men having sex in a bathroom stall, but they also want to leave us no option. They don't want to allow us to live healthy, open, normal lives; they drive gay men to anonymous encounters in parking lots and rest stops for fear of our lives and then blame us for immoral "lifestyles." Of course we tap our feet in bathrooms and wait to see if anyone taps back; necessity is the mother of invention. In many places in the United States and around the world, the simple act of smiling and saying "hello" could result in physical violence, imprisonment or murder.

Forget sex in airport bathrooms; until the Supreme Court ruling in 2003, even sexual intimacy between two consenting adults of the same gender in a private residence was a prosecutable offense. No place was "safe."

The "values" crowd claims we can't form loving, committed, monogamous relationships, but when they see us walking down the street hand in hand they yell at us; they pass laws -- constitutional amendments, no less -- making it illegal for us to commit our lives to one another. They claim we only want promiscuous, hedonistic lives, and then show up to protest our weddings.

They create a world where it's unsafe and illegal to be open and honest and then arrest us for trying to be discrete.

13 comments:

Jess said...

Yup.

I agree, but I just can't find sympathy for the senator, self-loathing, homophobic hypocrite that he is.

With that said, you're quite right. Their agenda isn't logical, but then hatred isn't logical.

Aethlos said...

HAPPY LABOR DAY!!!!!

Gary said...

Why do gay men have sex in public restrooms?

Because society affords them no other safe alternative, that is your answer? Do bathhouses where anonymous sex is basically the point of the whole business alter your point at all? What about Motels and Hotels. Self control is out the window, I know. I think men have sex with each other in bathrooms because they want to, that is what turns them on. They like the risk. They have an overwhelming desire, and they validate it. I don’t think Craig went in there thinking, “oh, if I could only get to know the guy I am about to blow… maybe (if I wasn’t married) we could go out for a cup of coffee after we’re done.” I think any self-respecting person wrinkles his or her nose at people having sex in bathrooms, regardless.

Gino said...

because men are pigs,andy.

if there were willing women to be found in men's rooms, then some hetero guys would be doing the same thing.

i dont believe its a gay man thing.
its just a man thing.

there is something in a man's sex drive that lends itself to this behavior (not ALL men, ok?)

men just want sex. and some men dont care how or where.

Jarred said...

Actually, Gary, I'd argue that the existence of bathhouses merely enhances Andy's point. Some brilliant person figured out that some gay and bisexual men were looking for discreet, anonymous encounters, and they found a way to profit from it. I certainly see no contradiction there.

Are there some people who would still resort to anonymous sex even if the Sexually Obssessed Moral Crusaders out there packed it in? I'm sure. Because you are right. People will still do that, just like some heterosexual couples will continue to get turned on by the risk of public sex or joining the mile high club. But isn't it funny how that fact doesn't make the SOMC paint all heterosexuals as out-of-control sexual deviants?

Gary said...

Jarred, I wasn't attempting to "paint" anybody as sexual deviants (although I must say that the people in the bathhouses, bathrooms, and the mile high hoodlums fit that definition pretty well, wouldn't you say?). The point Andy was making (I think) is that because of cultural and societal attitudes in the past, [some] homosexuals have had to resort to that type behavior for "validation." I think people can hold themselves to higher standards. No big argument there. I definitely was not saying anything about Andy, or you for that matter.

And, you are right, I too wonder if Craig's debacle would have made the headline news had it been a heterosexual affair. I am sure it would have made the news somewhere. I also wonder what everyone's perception would be had that been Barney Frank. Would he have to resign?

Jeff said...

They create a world where it's unsafe and illegal to be open and honest and then arrest us for trying to be discrete.

But this logic doesn't work with them, Andy. They don't understand what they've created, because they don't understand that homosexual desire is ineradicable. They think if they create enough society discouragement, we'll stop having gay sex. They don't understand that we can no more get rid of our same-sex attraction than heteros can get rid of their heterosexual attraction - they don't understand how much a part of our humanity it is. They're willfully blind to this - yes, willfully, because they choose to ignore the evidence that so many of us have presented and testified to.

Fortunately, your words might ring with those out there who are on the fence.

Jarred said...

The point Andy was making (I think) is that because of cultural and societal attitudes in the past, [some] homosexuals have had to resort to that type behavior for "validation."

That's not what I took from Andy's statements at all. This isn't about validation. This is about not having a better outlet for exploring and gratifying sexual desires. In effect, societal pressures force some men to repress their feelings until they can't hold it in any longer. The result is they go cruising and engaging in other unsafe behavior.

Perhaps I can understand Andy's point because I've faced that temptation myself. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I'd often lie in bed conflicted about my desires and try to come up with ways I could "let off steam" and still remain relatively "innocent" (or at least maintain the appearance of being innocent).

I think people can hold themselves to higher standards.

Certainly, and I have to admit that I don't consider anything Andy said as ultimately excusing anyone's choice to resort to such encounters. But again, that doesn't negate the fact that I can empathize with the internal struggles that underly those choices while still calling the choices themselves bad.

Gary said...

That's not what I took from Andy's statements at all. This isn't about validation. This is about not having a better outlet for exploring and gratifying sexual desires. In effect, societal pressures force some men to repress their feelings until they can't hold it in any longer. The result is they go cruising and engaging in other unsafe behavior.

I think it is about validation (what I mean by validation is the fulfillment of sexual desires). You say things like "gratifying," "outlet," and "result." And, what do you mean "a better outlet for sexual desire?" Is that not what Craig was doing: validating or seeking to gratify his desires. He was definitely looking for an outlet of some sort. Are we not talking about the same thing. Surely not every sexual desire that every person has to be gratified. Would it be OK for me to succumb to overwhelming desires I have for another woman after years of repression. I mean, I just couldn't hold it any longer. I don't think that would float to well with my wife.

This is what I think you are saying: that because of the societal and cultural norms that are in place, some men resort to the bathroom scene for relief. And, you can empathize with them because of feeling that pressure first-hand. OK, fair enough. Like you said, that doesn't negate the fact that performing fellatio on someone in a public bathroom (or joining the mile-high club) is a good thing.

DJRainDog said...

Gary, I think you meant, "is NOT a good thing." And I'd agree with you, despite some of the rather seedy situations (never, I think, a public restroom, though) in which I've found myself. Ideally, one gets to explore one's sexuality with a person to whom one is attracted, more than just physically, but emotionally, spiritually. Andy's point -- and I think he articulates it well, though without blunt-force bombast -- isn't about validation or gratification of sexual desire. It's that the so-called "values" crowd has placed such a stigma on homosexuality that those who feel same-sex attraction, desire, love (three different, but inter-related things) are so terrified to express what they feel that they repress it until they reach a breaking point. Andy's right; "the primordial urge to connect intimately with another human being can be overwhelming." For overwhelmed teenagers and twenty-somethings, the breaking point is tragically often suicide. In the case of men who have grown past the hormonally volatile formative years, it may be anonymous encounters in sex clubs or public toilets. "You only want what everyone else wants, and what most people appear to have, but for you it is sick, dirty, sinful, shameful." Love. We all want it. We all need it. Sometimes, when we become so convinced that we can never have it, we mistakenly believe that sex might be a suitable, sufficient substitute. It is not. It cannot be. God help us all.

Jarred said...

Having to remain faithful to your wife doesn't even begin to compare to having to repress all your sexual feelings because society says they're directed towards the wrong gender, Gary. You're comparing apples to bicycles.

kr said...

Has the national discussion grown to seriously include the MSM (men-who-have-sex-with-men) angle yet?

Among the many sicknesses in our society today, the advent of birth control and "free love" has somehow corresponded to a failure-to-thrive in heterosexual sexual relationships. It's increasingly covered in women's magazines and even the mainstream media, also in conservative Christian magazines. And a lot of het men have dealt with that breakdown by seeking sex outside of a committed het relationship. And a lot of het men consider it less bad to use another man than to use a woman--especially if they are married. "I wasn't really cheating on her, I was just having sex." (There is a grain of truth to this, but of course it is a self-serving lie actually.) (And no, this is not a homefront issue for me, in case anyone wonders. Just an issue I am concerned about. Because, really, almost noone isn't concerned about sex ;). )

DJRainDog the other day mentioned MSMs. This category is often taken less seriously by every group (gay men, het women, and even by themselves, apparently also by slightly-bi DJR), but to the extent that their issues are frequently conflated with "The Gay Agenda," I think this damages the discussions (for everyone).

Obviously, I don't know Senator Craig. But from everything I've heard, for people with a sex addiction or people with a strong sex drive (and where does one draw that line, eh? since all addictions are partly chemical), it is not a matter of "gay" or "straight," it is a matter of "how can I get it?" There are apparently a decent number of men who aren't "attracted" to other men except that they know that by using them they can "get off." The focus is on the sex (and themselves), not on the other person ... once the focus gets strong enough, anything becomes justifiable (hence rape of all sorts--which rapists also perceive as a "need" for fulfillment/gratification/etc.) ... even a conservative Christian 'anti-gay warrior' looking for a same-sex quickie in an airport bathroom.

MSM would be just as likely to want "discreet" sex, because of the same societal pressures you face. (I always wondered how public bathroom sex could be "discreet"--do most men really get off so fast? Or is it just that other het men SOOOO "don't want to know" that they are given their "privacy" by averted attention?) But their "need" is different than what you describe.

Andy, I understand your points. But letting the national debate label Craig as a repressed homosexual hands the conceptual victory to the het-only movement ... because it ignores the snake in their house.* If you (all) want to be seen for yourselves, you are going to have to say "no" to some folks who want into your tent--which I know will be complex, given that there are so many groups who have been suppressed and now hope to find legitimacy, and where do you draw the lines? I don't know the answers ... but I'm pretty sure "MSM" and "gay" need to be separated by you all, not just by MSM. MSM have, by the existence of that definition, held onto that separation. (WSW have more or less failed to hold onto an equivalent definition, presumably related to the lower societal condemnation levels, and I think that is an inaccurate reflection of reality.)

MSM's "rejection" of you may hurt (although, should it? do you really want them tapping feet to see if they can use you, or any other desperate gay man?), but I suspect it is a real, heartfelt, "true" rejection--they are not "gay." The sooner you guys let that be a real differentiation, the sooner you can present a cleaner face to society.

kr said...

* I forgot to take out the asterix, sorry. Parenthetical rambling was editted :).