Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thoughts on Larry Craig

I realize Larry Craig is so yesterday. But being on vacation for a week without internet access allows more time for thought. And one of the things DH and I thought about was Larry Craig. (Yes, I know, being on vacation, we should have been thinking about much more fun topics. But Larry Craig did come up.) We got into a discussion of whether anyone had asked a simple question: Was what Senator Craig ostensibly did in the men’s room actually illegal?

Why is it that it’s OK for a guy to approach a woman in a bar and say “Hey honey, you want to hook up?” But it’s not OK for two men to signal an interest in the same thing by tapping their feet in a men’s room?

I’m not a big fan of “sting” operations in the first place. There used to be an old commercial on television trying to discourage car thievery that said, “Lock your car. Take your keys. Don’t help a good boy go bad.” The idea behind it was that even good people can be tempted to a commit a crime under the right circumstances; and if you create those circumstances, someone might commit a crime they might not have otherwise. (Of course, it is still the responsibility of the person tempted to resist temptation...but that's a whole other discussion).

So there is something about stings that just rubs me the wrong way in general, since basically they create the circumstances that tempt the target of the sting. Of course, this probably would not have been the first time Larry Craig tried to hook up in the men’s room, so I’ll let that aspect of it go.

But there is an even bigger question in my mind in his case. Was what he was “stung” with actually illegal? And if so, why?

Why would it be illegal to transmit an interest in sex through a few hand and foot signals? I could see it if he were caught with his pants down in flagrante delicto in the men’s room. Sex in a public place where young boys might be coming in to use the facilities is clearly not legal, nor should it be.

But should the simple invitation to have sex be illegal? It’s not the same as prostitution, where the undercover officer waits until the unfortunate john actually offers money for the services of what he thought was a hooker before whipping out the handcuffs. But as far as I know, I don’t believe the hand and foot signals are designed to indicate a desire to pay for sex, just to have it. So what’s the crime?

To me, this case is a very gray area, and I am starting to feel Larry Craig is right to fight the conviction - not by saying he isn’t gay, didn’t know about the signals, or that he had a “wide stance.” Perhaps what he should be fighting is the violation of civil rights that occurs when it is against the law for two consenting adults to simply make signals that they are interested in a sexual liaison. Actually having that liaison in a public place? NO. But for all the cop knew, Mr. Craig might have then suggested they repair to a local hotel room for their rendez-vous, had his signals been returned in kind - rather than by the presentation of a police badge.

So where is the illegality? Am I missing something here?

I’d be interested in hearing others’ thoughts on this. To me it is just another example of discrimination against gays built into our laws, a continued double standard that allows the public to let David Vitter slide and crucify the Larry Craigs of the world.

Although I appreciate the irony of a staunch GOP defender of “family values” being caught trying to hook up with another guy in a men’s room, when I give the whole thing further thought, I start to feel uneasy. What about you?


KELSO'S NUTS said...

Could not possibly agree more. "Sting" operations indeed!
In fact, I got myself worked up into such a lather today about the USA's law enforcement culture that I wasted bandwidth on attacking the TV show Law & Order and "career prosecutors".

Look, I'm straight but I grew up in Manhattan and have only lived in large cities, now in Panama where gay marriage is legal. So, for me this gay/straight bullshit is irrelevant.

Gay guys cruise public bathrooms, you say? No? Stop the world? So, for me the whole thing strikes me at worst as discourtesy. I don't know if any dude ever cruised me in a john. If anyone did he was pretty subtle about it. And I've logged my time in gay bars as well (worked out an amazing scheme with a gay friend of mine...I'm kind of butch so I'd get some attention in the bar from the femmy guys from whom my buddy David could have his pick and with my "enlightened straight guy" bona fides in place I'd have my choice of fag-hags -- you take your edges where you can in this world!).

Nevertheless, if I were to be cruised tomorrow I'd just say "sorry not into it" or if I were in a really bad mood I'd say "I beg your pardon." I'm certainly not going to the cops to complain!

The one I really feel sorry for is that asshole Tucker Carlson who bragged about BEATING UP a guy who cruised him. Number one, I don't believe it because he's a pretty wimpy looking guy and as a general rule the public john scene can bring in some tough guys.

Sccond of all, I'd say Carlson has some issues that need pretty close and immediate attention.

Finally, aw fuck it I'll stop beating around the bush, with that stupid comment Carlson's shown himself down to be as queer as a property title to the Brooklyn Bridge.

I also feel sorry for Larry Craig not because his career is over, but because history calls to very few people and if you are one of the lucky ones you HAVE to answer history's call. How cool would it have been if Craig had said "hell yeah, I'm gay...I feel like a jerk having been such a hypocrite about it but these are today's realities in the Republican Party...I'm serving out my term and I'm running again and if you beat me, I congratulate you."

Alas, he did not answer history's call.

Mauigirl said...

Kelso, we're on the same page with this. Why do people make such a big deal about the whole gay/straight issue?

I agree too that Craig could've really done a good thing if he'd had the nerve to do it. Here in NJ of course we had our former governor come out as a gay man - which would have been fine with everyone (apparently it was one of those open secrets that most people in Trenton already knew). But of course his crime was having hired a guy he fancied as our Homeland Security czar - and the guy wasn't even a U.S. citizen and didn't have any qualifications. So that's why he had to resign. If he had just come out as gay and not have done the nepotism thing, he'd probably still be governor toay.

Mauigirl said...

Oops, "today."

Odessa said...

same here. i do feel uneasy about this issue. i wasn't really following it closely so at first i thought that larry craig was caught with his pants down in a men's room. and then i later learned that he was just "cruising", my first reaction was "that's it?!!!" and then they made it a straight/gay issue. geez.

Larry said...

One thing you are forgetting is Craig was peeping through the crack of the stall door at the "victim" first, which I would assume could be a crime, at the very least very unwanted.

Mary Ellen said...

larry said what I was going to say...the guy was peering into the stall at another man who did not signal he wanted anything to do with him.

If my son is in a public restroom, do I have to worry about whether there will be some old pervert looking through the crack of the door at him and checking him out? Should he have to be harassed by having some guy stick his feet in his stall and knock up against his shoe or stick his hands beneath the stall trying to get his attention?

The public bathroom is not a bar. It's not a place to "meet and greet". It's a place that is necessary for people to use. If you want to go into a bar, fine. You are probably going with the intention to socialize. You don't go into a bathroom with the intent to socialize.

Larry Craig, whether he is gay or straight, was acting like a pervert. I'm afraid that people are going to put "gay" and "pervert" in the same context if they think this is "normal" behavior for gays. Most gays who want to meet someone for a relationship do it at a bar or a party...they don't go to restrooms to do it. It's the gay who are hiding who they are that are using the bathrooms, so they won't be seen as gay.

I think the sting operation was necessary, especially since that was becoming a regular meeting place. It's not fair to the patrons who use public bathrooms and are straight to endure that behavior.

Mauigirl said...

Larry and Mary Ellen, thanks for pointing out what I hadn't realized, that he peered into the other guy's stall first. And I assume this was more than a just checking underneath to see if it was occupied kind of peering.

Mary Ellen, thanks for your comments, that gives me a bigger perspective on the whole thing. You're right, there are certainly more appropriate places to find a date. The Doonesbury comic strip has been having a series of comics in the past week or so about this same subject - that Craig has been bad for gay men's image by making people think this is the way they interact, in furtive men's room encounters, rather than establishing relationships and interacting just like other couples. And you're right, it all comes back to those who are closeted and not comfortable coming out in the open with their sexual orientation.

This is why it is so important to continue to fight for gay rights and ensure that everyone who is gay feels confident enough to just be who they are. I'm hoping this next generation, which is much more accepting of differences, may have fewer problems in this regard.

KELSO'S NUTS said...

MaryEllen: you raise some good points, but -- again -- from my perspective, I'd consider that intrusive and discourteous and I'd make my displeasure known. But I'm not going to go crazy. A simple "Fuck off, asshole, let me take a piss in peace!" works.

Now, once my little boy is involved, it's all different. You can read my post on John D R Atchison to know how I feel about this. Anybody gets near my boy with evil intent is in a world of trouble. I'm not waiting for "career prosecutors" to help me. I'm putting that person either in the hospital or the morgue. And then maybe I burn his or her or their house down. And I wouldn't be sadistic or take any pleasure in it. And I'd feel guilty as hell about it, too, for the rest of my life.

Mauigirl said...

Kelso, you do raise a good point as well - Larry Craig was not cruising a kid here, he was looking for an adult male. Two very different things, I agree.

Anonymous said...

The other thing is what if you're standing in the stall doing your business and someone kicks your foot?

I'd be pissed (literally), and so would my pants legs and possibly my shoes.

Anonymous said...

I thought of something else.

I'm not saying this is part of "law enforcements" reasoning because the average cop has the intellectual depth of a "Let's Roll" bumpersticker, but there is a potential for violence.

If some "tough guy," like Tucker Carlson for instance, had his foot tapped and got angry who knows what could happen.

That one dude from that one talk show (I spare no details) killed his co-worker after he found out he had a crush on him.

Personally, if I saw Tucker Carlson in a bathroom I'd hit on him just for shits and giggles. He wears a bowtie for God's sake. He's as queer as they come.

I wish the Wingnuts would all just come out of the closet, and get it over with so we could move on with our lives.

What secure adult cares about this nonsense anyway?

I'm still trying to figure out women, and I don't have enough space in my pea head for thinking/worrying about why men want to kiss each other.

The Future Was Yesterday said...

"Why is it that it’s OK for a guy to approach a woman in a bar and say “Hey honey, you want to hook up?” But it’s not OK for two men to signal an interest in the same thing by tapping their feet in a men’s room?"

You raise a lot of valid points. However, I think it's for the same reason we're not allowed to pee on the supermarket floor.

There's a time and a place for everything. They don't serve beer in bathroom stalls....and bars don't have toilet tissue dispensers behind the bar....

Mauigirl said...

Future, I think you're right about the inappropriateness of the venue being the point - you and Mary Ellen have both hit the nail on the head there.

Fairlane, another good point, having mentioned the whole threat of violence issue, which could be another reason this type of behavior is verboten. I guess we don't want guys beating each other up in the men's room.

One thing I've always found odd is how violently supposedly straight men react when hit on mistakenly by another guy. Instead of being flattered ("Gee, thanks, but I'm not that kinda guy") they get all angry. I guess it's that lack of security you're talking about. "Hmmm, does this gay guy know something about me that I don't admit" kind of thing.

TomCat said...

There is a very fine line here, and there are good arguments on both sides of the issue. Nevertheless, it please me that that gay-bashing theocon was exposed as the hypocrite he is.