September 1, 2007

Rest Stop Sex

rest area sign

If one of the signs of wisdom involves recognition of how little one actually knows, then I suppose I have considerable wisdom. In the time since news of Sen. Larry Craig's (R-Idaho) arrest broke, I have been reminded of just how little I know about gay culture. Virtually every news outlet has been running stories of an epidemic of gay rest stop sex. I had no idea that anything like this existed! How could I have lived in ignorance for this long?

I've had a love of learning for as long as I can remember. I thoroughly enjoyed my formal education, but even then, I recognized that I wanted to continue learning throughout my life. Learning was not to be something that stopped when school ended; it would be a life-long pursuit. I suppose this drive explains a great deal about my pursuit of a career in science and even my arrival at atheism. Given the beauty and complexity of the natural world, it seems absurd to posit supernatural explanations. There is too much within nature to understand.

I suppose I've never known much about gay culture. I knew a couple of gay kids in high school, but they were not able to be open about it without being physically assaulted by Christians. I had a few openly gay friends in college and graduate school, but I've lost touch with them in the years since. A couple of them had been thrown out of their childhood homes by Christian parents, and one had been homeless for a while as a result. There are very few openly gay individuals in my current circle of acquaintances. I suspect this has a great deal to do with the rampant, religiously fueled anti-gay sentiment in this area. And where do you suppose that comes from? You If you guessed Christians, you are correct.

Now it seems that I cannot listen to NPR or watch CNN without hearing something about the epidemic of gay sex occurring between strangers at rest stops and airport restrooms across America. Is this really a thing? Who knew? How could I have lived in ignorance for this long?

I don't travel nearly as much now as I used to, but I'm fairly confident that I've frequented rest stops hundreds of times while traveling. I never once saw anything that would make me suspect that gay men were having anonymous sex there. As a child, I went on countless road trips with my family. Many involved stopping at multiple rest areas each day. I never recall there being any concern about my using the facilities unsupervised. I guess my parents were equally ignorant of the epidemic too. Or perhaps it simply doesn't exist.