November 12, 2007

More Restroom Hysteria

When Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig made headlines after being caught in a gay sex sting in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, I was bombarded with media messages about anonymous gay sex in public restrooms. There appears to be a tiny minority within the GLBT community engaging in this sort of thing across America, but it can hardly be considered a part of gay culture. Even though I realized how little I knew about gay culture, I made the mistake of buying into some of this ridiculous coverage. Fortunately, several readers left comments helping me identify my mistakes. Now we have another case of gay restroom sex in the news again, this time at a Florida shopping mall. Let the hysteria begin!

When I posted my initial reaction to the unfolding Larry Craig story, several readers jumped in to correct some of my misconceptions. From them I learned that the media was greatly exaggerating the prevalence of gay restroom sex in their Craig coverage. They are allowed to do this because homophobia is still very much a part of mainstream American culture and because our media has deteriorated to little more than 24-7 sensationalism.

Social conservatives need gay sex to be terrifying. When it stops being scary, we can expect efforts to stimulate public hysteria in order to make it into more of a threat. Gay men are cast as sex-craved perverts incapable of exercising self-control, and the rest of us are expected to believe that entering any public restroom may bring us (or our children) face-to-face with gay sex.

This story out of Florida is a perfect example because they underlying message appears to be that it is unsafe to take your kids to the mall because the Sears restroom just might be full of perverts. We are expected to assume that gay men pose the threat, when it appears far more likely that straight men and sex offenders are the ones engaging in this sort of behavior. I'm just glad that I'm now able to see this sort of story for what it is, and I thank my readers for that.

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