Florida Republican state rep. Bob Allen was sentenced Friday for his bathroom sex solicitation:
Friday he was sentenced to serve six months of probation. He must pay a $250 fine, court costs and $245 restitution to Titusville Police Department.
Allen also was ordered to undergo testing for HIV and other STDs, complete a class in HIV awareness class and to stay away from the park where he was arrested.
OK, let's see, he has to pay about five-hundred dollars, do six months of probation, stay away from that park... and get an STD screening? What? For trying to give a blow job that never happened? Hmmmm.... I wonder if what's going on here has less to do with stopping those annoying people who harass people in public for sex and protecting public health than it does with heteropatriarchal repression of people who express their sexuality outside of the petty rules we make to punish people we don't like....
Don't get me wrong here: I'm absolutely supportive of everyone who's sexually active getting an STD (not just HIV) screening every six months, and more often if they're involved in sex work or think they need it. But the government simply doesn't require everyone who's sexually active to get screened for STD's on a regular basis, it picks out certain ones to force into it. And, for some reason, Bob Allen was picked out.
The activity that he's accused of soliciting never actually happened. And what he said he wanted from the police officer, to give a blow job, isn't really all that risky in the grand scheme of sexuality. The chart above shows the various risks that people take when engaging in different sex acts, and giving a blow job is far less risky than either vaginal or anal sex when it comes to STD transmission. And besides the fact that the relative risk is small, the fact that he was going to pay for oral sex or the fact that he was going to perform it in public don't change the risk involved. Someone giving a blow job at home is just as at risk as someone doing it in the woods, and someone bottoming bareback at home with someone they met online is taking a far greater risk than someone who pays to give a hustler a blow job. And yet it's the public blow job that never happened that's risky enough to elicit a state-mandated STD screening.
What's really at work here is not public health, it's the regulation of sexuality. Bob Allen broke one of the rules (not just the unwritten sort against gay sex, but real laws!), expressed a desire for a demonized sort of sex (prostitution, public sex, and, not one of the written rules but definitely important here, gay sex), and now he's a dirty, dirty slut who needs to be rehabilitated.
But the guise of public health advocacy gets used often just to regulate sexuality. Sometimes it's obvious, like Paul Cameron's erroneous gay life span studies and abstinence-only advocates that don't care at all about giving teens the tools they need to make responsible decisions but worry oh so much about how they're going to get diseases, and sometimes it's subtle, like banning birth control because it "hurts women's health" or believing that STD's are spread by vague, fantastic hobgoblins. But it's always first and last about punishing sex we don't like and separating those sluts and perverts who express desire publicly from the rest of us good, decent people and always ends up putting more people at risk by taking away the tools people need to protect themselves and short-circuiting thought processes that have the potential to lead to real solutions.
It sounds a lot nicer to be against STD's than it does to be against sex. The Religious Right and others who would control how everyone uses their genitalia if they could have to maintain a front that they're actually doing something beneficial instead of living in an egocentric world where they can have fun making rules for others. And, in the end, sentencing Bob Allen to an STD screening is another piece of that facade.
(Chart via lifelube)