Yasmin Nair

Larry Craig, Weapons of Mass Distraction, and Lesbian Public Sex

Filed By Yasmin Nair | September 05, 2007 5:10 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media, Politics
Tags: Iran, iraq, larry craig, lesbian public sex, public sex

So Larry Craig is now reconsidering his earlier decision to resign, in the midst of a "sex scandal" that contains no sex at all. We queers seem to agree that the Craig exposure is about the hypocrisy and self-loathing that makes people like him make homophobic comments and policies about us while wrestling with their inner demons in public restrooms.

Bullshit. My friends, what we have here is yet another weapon of mass distraction foisted upon us by both the right and what passes for the left. It's no wonder that the politicians and press are all over this - this diverts us from the key issues of the day. Let's see, how many can I count? There's this mess of a war in Iraq, which should never have come about in the first place; the drumrolls beating in favour of an invasion of Iran; the failing and severely underfunded public school systems across the country; a failed/non-existent health care system that forces people to choose between groceries and medicine; an immigration system that fosters cruelty and economic exploitation; a culture of inequality that's widening the gap between the have's and have-not's; and the insane yet growing perception that it's okay for a few people to make a couple of hundred million a year as long as they give some of that back into the system of tax-write-offs (a.k.a charitable giving). There is the fact that most of us are living really horrible, stressful lives where the distinctions between work and leisure are erased, and where we're terrified of questioning workplace inequalities and regulations for fear of being dislodged from increasingly fragile systems of social support and meagre benefits. We are being screwed, my friends, and not in a good way.

But hey, none of that should matter as long as we can learn to be good and out gay citizens, right?

One mustn't, of course, forget the more amusing aspects of this fiasco. We've learnt so much from the Craig matter, beside the fact that people in Idaho still say "Jiminy!" The American public now knows a lot more about restroom cruising. I do suspect that most of those who profess shock, horror, surprise or some combination thereof are actually a lot more experienced in the ways of cruisers than they'd care to admit, but there it goes. Hypocrisy abounds. On a less amusing note: We've learnt that it's never too difficult to bring up, yet again, the spectre of child-molesters. And that some parents will obsess endlessly about the possibility that their little tykes are only inches away from a lifetime of emotional scars after being molested by nasty men in search of restroom sex. (Note to parents: cruisers are in search of other adults, not your kids. Stop demonising "pedophiles" and "sex offenders." Neither term is particularly accurate and each is only used to whip up hysteria. More on that in the next entry.)

We've also learnt that public money is being spent on training police officers to scope out all the signs of what the arresting officer in the Craig case referred to as "lewd conduct." Here's his description of what happened: "At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct."

Huh. How, exactly, did the officer come to recognise this signal? (And I must say I'm impressed by the precision with which he records the time. Not 1215, not 1225, but 1216. Such a nice, sharp, elegant set of numbers.) I mean, I actually had to call around and ask about the hand-passed-under-the-divider thing. And I'm queer. Damn, these guys are getting a better training in the ways of my people than my meagrely queer life has ever allowed. How is it possible for someone to only learn but not experience the minutiae of sexual longing, the worlds of desire apparently present in the peek between the stalls, the touch of a foot that's not merely accidental but actually signifies a longing for something much more? Is it possible that in the process of learning what these infinitesimally small and delicate gestures and taps of the foot might mean, some might actually start to wonder about their own predilections? I look into the future and see the cover of a book: "How Surveilling for Public Sex Helped Me to Come Out as a Gay Man, Find Love, and Live Happily Ever After."

Straight people are, of course, all agog at our strange ways. There's a widespread perception that those who cruise are really just doing it in order to get caught, and that's a version of the old tale about gay self-loathing. To which we must respond: No, sweetie, you just don't get it. First of all, not everyone who cruises in restrooms is gay or needs to be gay. Secondly, and this is the really important part: We fuck complete strangers in public because it's really, really hot. (So is sex in public with people you know, but that's for another day). You know that thing that married/attached straight people do when they hook up with complete strangers, on business trips, in their hotel rooms? It's just like that, without all the bother of having to wait together awkwardly for the elevator to show up, the key to turn and the damn door to open. You don't have to take off all your clothes, or ask for names. It's fucking without the extraneous hassle and rituals of regular anonymous sex.

Which brings me to a sadly invisible population in the hysteria around public sex. What about lesbians? Are we not a threat, damn it? What must we do to prove to America that our sex lives are every bit as depraved, sly, "furtive," meaningless and worthy of enticement by plainclothes officers disguised as lesbian hotties? Are we not worthy? If you touch us right there, do we not moan? Is it simply too hard to figure out what dykes want? Are our gestures and signals too obscure, lacking in sexual clarity? Or perhaps, oh no, are our sex lives so boring, has lesbian bed death so overtaken our idealistic moon-worshipping community that .... people don't really think we even have sex outside of The L Word? Maybe we simply don't have the same clout as men and our paltry and poorer lives are just not worth destroying? Maybe I should just stop there and not give anyone any ideas.

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Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | September 5, 2007 6:40 PM

This is your first post?! OMG, what a debut!!! It's awesome and right on! Every part of it, from the mass distraction down to the specter of subversive, menacing and sexy dykes. Well done! (And great photo, too!)

Michael Bedwell | September 5, 2007 7:11 PM

Alas, I don't have Rita Mae Brown's 1975 account of her donning a fake moustache and other male drag to get into NYC's Club Baths where she spent a few hours checking out the kind of free sex emporium that few lesbians seem interested in.

Don't recall if she ever similarly surveyed tearooms, but, again, Laud Humphrey's fascinating study "Tearoom Trade" is the original definitive guide.

When I visited St. Peter's in Rome several years ago [don't touch that : - ) ] I was astonished to suddenly realize that sex was going on in even its long row of fancy porta potties [that could hold a dozen or so people at a time] provided for tourists, and providing very thoughtfully, for those so inclinded, stall compartments whose walls and doors went floor to ceiling thus assuring complete privacy for whatever. No tap dancing required. It was all apparently being negotiated with eye contact and, uh, other body language of the type that got George Michael busted.

Everybody: "Softly and tenderly Paolo is calling. Calling for you and for me....."

Ellen Andersen Ellen Andersen | September 5, 2007 8:36 PM

Hey Yasmin, you've got me ROFLMAO. What a perfect post. It's spot on terms of the mass distraction potential (but hey, since I can't even tell Britney Spears apart from the myriad of lookalike starlets and I don't get cable TV, I'm kind of happy I can even keep up with pop culture for once.)

You're also spot on about the unfair absence of lesbians from these sordid charades. Where's the equality? The closest thing we got was Anne Heche wandering around proclaiming her alien (as in E.T.) heritage after her break-up with Ellen. And the most sordid Melissa Etheridge-Julie Cypher breakup story was about the whole bed death thing. It's unfair, I tell you. Absolutely unfair. Although I gotta admit, our signals can be a little obscure...

"Lesbian bed death," eh? I can't wait to see the post on that! I have to admit, I've never heard that phrase before...

Great post, Yasmin. I look forward to your other writings! Personally I always thought being an undercover vice cop would be a good job, but I'd always be in trouble for never meeting quota. I'd let too many off with a "warning." I wonder how often they do?

I heard the cop that arrested Craig was really cute. Anyone have a link to a pic of him?

Never heard of LBD, Bil? Gawsh, I thought they were teaching about that in school to help fight it. You can learn more from a vlogger here. (That's totally going to be YGST in the near future.)

I first heard about it in a movie and it was described with:

It's an evil, pervasive myth - it's just another way for men to desexualize us and rob us of our essential vulvic powers.

OK, queer film fans, anyone remember where that came from?

And the cop ain't all that, IMO. Here you go.

I loved reading this line:

But hey, none of that should matter as long as we can learn to be good and out gay citizens, right?

And the part about dykes and public sex reminded me of Elias Sembessakwini's piece in That's Revolting! It was the first time I realized that, wait, we can create spaces for queer public sex (of any or no gender) rather than just find them?!

Maybe Al Pacino dressed in drag for a lesbian remake of Cruising would spark the straight world's interest in this deviant, violent, and sleazy sexual dyke underworld?

It's intereting to me how all political groups, from the gay liberals on the left and the homophobic conservatives on the right, all use the Craig drama to their own political advantage. Queer groups are taking the stance of hypocricy (which is of course valid) and laughing at the right, while the right is concerned with using his resignation/condemnation to enforce their own conservative social ideals. No one is mentioning what the Craig ideal means in the light of the oppression of queers. How that Craig is a prime example of how that oppression works in today's society, especially in the government (and on so many levels, from him being forced to resign to him being in the situation to begin with). Note, I do not feel sorry for the guy, but I do feel sorry for the way the media is portraying this whole thing as if it were an episode of Jerry Springer.


Also, if parents are so afraid of sex offenders getting their kids in public bathrooms, perhaps they too should push for gender neutral restroom facilities. That way, they can take their kids with them wherever they go. Of course, think about the implications this would have on heterosexual public sex? As well as the implications on queer public sex? A twist to gender neutral bathrooms! Heterosexual public sex would be much more accessible, while homosexual public sex would be so much more difficult. There is never a right answer! Damn it!

Ah here we go. I was just reading Americablog, run by probably the most-read gay blogger in the political blogosphere, John Aravosis, and he had this to say in his letter to Larry Craig:

We're not just talking about you "possibly" having gay sex. We're talking about you "possibly" cruising public toilets in order to have sex with anonymous men who, for all you know, could have been 12 year old boys (are you sure none of them were underage boys - I mean, how would you know if you never saw their faces?).



But I'd hardly consider Aravosis on the "left", more of a centrist who can't vote Republican. Still interesting.

He also puts in the title of the piece this: "Larry Craig (R-Sodomy)". Ugh. I've been reading so much stuff on this whole thing for a while now, and there's just so much homophobia around here. (And yes, gay men can use homophobia to help their careers. Isn't that what this is all about?)

Thanks to everyone for their very kind comments, and to Alex, Bil, and Jerame for making it so easy to post material here. Michael, thanks for the reminder about Rita Mae Brown's piece which I've assimilated into my queer-lesbian-seeking-entry-into-bathhouses consciousness as a critical text. I live near Man's Country in Chicago, and frequently patter my womanly fists gently on the outside walls, wailing to be let in.

And Ellen, yeah, I agree that Heche et al don't set the best example. I think the cops don't give a fig about lesbos in restrooms either because a) they're enjoying the sight too damn much b) we simply don't matter to them as part of the economy, sexual or otherwise. I vote for multi-sexual/gender bathhouses. That way we might start to figure out that having or not having sex is hardly the big problem facing us today. Economic inequality is.

As Alex, Zach, and others have pointed out, the Craig issue is also becoming a way for people to resurrect the usual paranoia about "pedophiles." Thanks for letting me know about Aravosis's piece -- since my next entry will be on a recent effort to repeal/amend draconian sex offender laws, I should look at this "letter." But I shudder at the prospect of having to do so.