Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sex-scandal in an online world

There is always something particularly delicious when a prominent “family values” campaigner gets caught with his (it is usually a “his”) pants down, so to speak. It is even better if there is no cuckolded spouse, so the scandal can be enjoyed in all its pure deliciousness without the painful humiliation of a third party.

So, to have Dr George Rekers, prominent ant-gay activist and scholar, co-founder of Family Research Council (FRC), on the Board of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), one of the few members of the American College of Pediatricians, a small, virulently anti-gay group, be caught taking a blonde rent-boy on a full-paid 10-day trip to Europe is deeply chuckle-worthy.

Hence comics are having a field day: such as Leno, Colbert and Craig Ferguson (who is also very funny about the British elections).

As we live in an online world, YouTube has been the vehicle for comment. (I recommend number three.) And a prominent gay puts out the call online (in a post which includes the Facebook™ response from Dr George himself), identifies the probable rent-boy in question and gets in contact with said rent-boy. That’s without one of the journalists who broke the story apparently trying to shield the rent-boy somewhat after the fact and issues about whether a few laws about electronic privacy might have been broken in getting the story.

Furthermore, Dr Rekers found his “baggage carrier” (yes, that is his excuse for hiring said rent-boy) on The obvious place to go to find a baggage handler, I am sure you will agree.

How do we know this? Because Dr Rekers put it on his Facebook™ page. (That its subject matter is teen sex has now become so double entendre.) Though the “baggage handler” in question reports his services were used for something quite different, has been quite expansive about the trip and has now been interviewed on TV. While another blogger has claimed he was also hired by Dr George for sex.

The Family Research Council has denounced Dr Rekers and removed him from its website. The University of South Carolina has erased him from the faculty part of its website. They were proud, apparently, to have a prominent anti-gay activist as an example of the faculty: not so proud when he goes off and hires a rent boy. NARTH, on the other hand, is taking a more measured and respectful approach. While Exodus wants you to know that they care. (Which is why they feed the anathematisation of same-sex attraction and activity that has caused far more human misery than homosexuality ever has—precisely how many same-sex orgasms is one person burnt to death, committing suicide or engaging in a “cover” marriage worth?)

For, under all the humour, blatant hypocrisy revealed and prime example of new and information in an online world, there are rather more serious issues underlying all this. Dr Rekers was paid $US87,000 to help defend the Florida law banning homosexuals from adopting: except it appears it was $US120,000.
Let’s just contemplate this spectacle for a moment. An emeritus professor is paid a considerable sum of money to testify—using very dubious research—that homosexuals, as a class of person, cannot be trusted to adopt. Then goes and spends that money. On a holiday. In Europe. With a rent-boy.

What mental processes does one go through to put that all together? To engage in that series of actions? What level of disconnect does one have to have between one’s active public persona—one’s participation in legal, political and scholarly debate—and one’s personal life and inner identity?

A very wide one indeed. We know the closet can be a twisted space. But that twisted? Yet again, the answer is: apparently so, joining the list of same-sex active people who have preached against homosexuality

This seems to be a case where the term ‘homophobia’ may be genuinely apposite. Dr George Alan Rekers does seem to be a man genuinely fearful of (his own) homosexuality.

But that, of course, is what the anathematisation of homosexuality demands: it demands that same-sex attracted people be at war with their own nature. A monstrous demand that is hidden by its own monstrousness: since it is precisely that being homosexual is deemed to be not valid that hides from adherents what a monstrous demand they are making of their fellows.

One way you make the psychological and thus moral cost of what you are seeking to impose on fellow humans go away (indeed, reverse it can claim what you are doing it deeply moral) is to say they have betrayed their humanity, it is a deformation, they are metaphysically deformed, etc. That they are, in some important sense, not one’s fellows.

The other way you make the moral cost go away—indeed, reverse it, to claim your monstrous demands on your fellows as deeply moral—is to invoke God.

Dr George Alan Rekers did both. And who was he wielding these weapons against?

Ultimately, himself. The war he was demanding that society wage against same-sex attraction—and that the same-sex attracted wage against themselves—is a war he was waging against himself. So we may feel sympathy for his loneliness.

Or should we? For, with money he was paid to wage that war, he went off a hired a rent-boy to service him while on holiday. So any war he was waging against his own same-sex attraction was simply one of public persona, not matching what he did in his private persona. Indeed, he was getting his anti-homosexual public persona to pay for homosex for his private persona.

In so flagrantly not abiding by what he demanded of same-sex attracted people, he was demonstrating precisely what a monstrous demand it is.

Which is revealing, disgusting, delicious and sad, all at once.

But the war against human sexual diversity has always been all these things: though not so often all of them at once.

It is—as it has always been—a war that should never have been fought. It is way past time when it should have been abandoned. But monotheism has its hang-ups about sex, sexuality and gender: priests and other “gatekeepers of righteousness” need their easy targets; and selling to 90%+ of the population effortless virtue against a small minority has always been an easy sell. (Ask the Jews.)

Though not so much in more recent times. The Florida Attorney-General who hired Rekers as an expert consultant for which he “earned” so much money is running for Florida Governor has had his campaign Facebook™ have to be closed because there were so many hits demanding he explain. His official response has been more in the line of buck-passing about all those taxpayer bucks.

Indeed, selling that effortless virtue resonates a bit less now, thanks to Dr George Alan Rekers. Rekers has previously been accused of dubious integrity in his scholarly claims. Judge Timothy David Fox said of him (pdf) as an expert witness that:
Dr Reker’s willingness to prioritize his personal beliefs over his function as an expert provider of fact made his testimony extremely suspect and of little, if any, assistance to the court …
While Judge Cindy S. Lederman said of him (pdf) as an expert witness:
Dr. Rekers’ testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers’ beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court can not consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.
Dr George Alan Rekers has now stunningly, and publicly, demonstrated lack of integrity, the lack of any integration between his public and private personas.

But it is precisely that war between publicly acceptable persona and private reality that the anathematisation of homosexuality creates. Indeed, in effect, seeks to create. It has, and continues to create, great and unnecessary human misery in driving in that wedge between public expectation and human reality. It is, indeed, richly enjoyable to watch that wedging rebound so dramatically on its proponents.


  1. Yes, the degree of the split between public persona and private self is breathtaking. Even greater than John Edwards who used his cancer stricken wife to solicit sympathy votes while carrying on an heterosexual affair. Morally I would think that Edwards was worse because he duped and hurt a third party, but he wasn't campaigning against marital infidelity per se. Still, Reckers' complete opposition between public and private stance is far from unique. I am remembering the two Republicans - a congressman and a senator - who I think of as the Florida Pageturner and the Idaho Toetapper. Both publicly opposed homosexuality and got outed by their own actions. One thing I think that may be going on is if a person receives a traditional upbringing that makes homosexuality absolutely taboo and then discovers that they are homosexual they may carry on making their way in the world on the cultural basis of their social backgrounds while concealing their true sexuality. I suspect that most don't start out doing it in cold blood - that is, they are not sociopaths , but gradually become accustomed to the split and thoroughly subordinate the need for integration of the personality to both their careers and their sexuality. I think the Reckers story is disturbing because it smacks of a complete lack of conscience - that is of sociopathy. My take on the two politicians is that they were conflicted, troubled human beings who were guilty of hypocrisy at a level even unusual in politicians.

  2. Yes, that seems about right.