Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The GOP's Bathroom Problem and Larry Craig

There is a great article today in The Nation about the possibility that some of the men caught in public bathroom sex are not gay or bisexual. It supports my straight guise theory.

The Nation Mon Aug 27, 8:13 PM ET by Richard Kim

The Nation -- What's up with Republican politicos getting arrested by undercover cops for soliciting sex in public restrooms? First, Florida state representative Bob Allen, formerly John McCain's state campaign co-chair, was arrested in July after he offered a police officer $20 for the privilege of performing oral sex. And today, news broke that back in June, Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho), long the subject of gay rumors, was arrested in a Minnesota airport by a plainclothes cop investigating lewd conduct in the men's bathroom. Both men are married--to women. (See Max Blumenthal at Campaign Matters for more details.)

The author goes on to say this which I think is very important:

But I wonder if the GOP's burgeoning "bathroom problem" isn't reflective of something larger than just a bunch of conservative dudes who couldn't come out of the closet. There's something palpably sad to me about what happened to Allen and Craig too, something oddly touching about their misplaced faith in the fading world of secret, anonymous gay sex. That world--once found in bathrooms, parks, piers and adult bookstores; the furtive refuges of adventuresome queers, married men, the curious--has been swept away by so many police raids, privatization schemes, quality of life campaigns and internet dating services. But mostly, it's fallen away as gays have become increasingly integrated into the mainstream, and also, paradoxically, more marked than ever. "You're either gay or you're not" seems to be the equation.

Until someone like Craig, Allen, Mark Foley, Ted Haggard or Jim McGreevey shows up to ripple momentarily the waters of public discourse on sex. These guys have problems, no doubt. But we might also pause to wonder if there's some cultural knot that gay liberation--despite its original and best intentions--has left in place. At the very least the link between public power and domestic heterosexuality--with all the fetishistic displays of family life that entails--has yet to be completely severed. Just ask Rudy Guiliani, or Hillary Clinton! Moreover, that knot, perhaps best described as sexual propriety, is what fuels the moral campaigns against homosexuality that have become one of the Republican Party's identifying causes--loyally supported by the likes of Craig, Haggard, Foley, et. al.

It's also what leads Bob Allen to the stunning and revealing calculation that it would be better to be seen in the public eye as an avowed racist than as someone who likes to have sex with men sometimes.

The "something" this author is trying to understand is that these men are simply straight men have sex with other men for many reasons. Are some of these men gay and bisexual? Yes of course. But the truth is that so many are not and there needs to be room in our culture for that.


Steve Boese said...

For me, the phrase misplaced trust in secrecy says so much regarding Larry Craig.

In his public statement today he said that one of his errors was not revealing the simple fact of his June arrest to his family until after it became widely known. It strikes me as either delusional (he believed his guilty plea wouldn't be noticed) or criminal (he believed he had secured a cover-up). Either way, it's an astounding testimony to his conviction that secrecy was possible and it would secure his future.

It's fine with me that Larry Craig may be an entirely straight guy who has sought out sex with men. I have no problem with the possibility that he has never had sex with a man. Those perspectives may set me apart from some of my peers in the lgbt community who presume that he is gay.

The larger issue, though, isn't orientation, it's honesty. Craig sounds like he's still in Bill Clinton's "never had sexual relations with that woman" phase, parsing the definition of "is."

And in the context of the secrecy, denial -- and especially the misunderstanding of MSM you lay out so well, Joe -- it would come as no surprise that a SMSM would struggle with a straight-up confession.

Joe Kort said...

I completely agree that the larger issue is the lack of honesty. Integrity is crucial. What you say and what you do must match up.

Unfortunately our society rewards men who have sex with men to be dishonest, on the "down low" and be out of integrity.

Hopefully stories like Craig's will begin changing this.