This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog. I never reprinted it here, since the piece was topical and time-sensitive. But the Blowfish Blog archives are apparently no longer on the Internets, and the original piece is no longer available. So in the interest of completism and making all my published works accessible, I'm going ahead and posting it here.
You've almost certainly heard this story already. Michael Schwartz, chief of staff to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), recently told an audience at the conservative Values Voters Summit that "all pornography is homosexual pornography because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards." And the media, including the blogosphere, went Foom, with scornful, unrestrained, finger- pointing hilarity. If it were physically possible for the media to piss itself laughing, it would have.
It's been an easy story to make fun of. (Fun, too!) And I absolutely think it's a story that's worth making fun of. I plan to make fun of it here myself. But a lot of the fun-making about this story has, I think, missed one of its most interesting angles.
Granted, there are an awful lot of ways to go with this story. You can go with the "Are you fucking kidding me?" angle, a.k.a. the "This is so stupid it's laughable" angle, a.k.a. the "If what Schwartz says were true, our species would have turned gay and died out generations ago" angle. You can go with the "Yippee, let's instill homophobia and sex-phobia in our kids all at once, using the one to whip up the other" angle. You can even go with the "What are you going to do when your kids figure out you're lying to them? What will that do to your family values?" angle.
All of which is intriguing, and all of which has informed my thinking on this topic. But it's not what I'm finding truly fascinating.
What I'm finding truly fascinating is the profound futility, to the point of delusion, of the ultimate purpose behind Schwartz's bizarre connection between straight porn and homosexuality.
Schwartz's ultimate point wasn't "Straight porn makes you gay." I'm not even sure he believes that himself. (In fact, he backpedaled from it just a few sentences later in his speech, saying, "If it [porn] doesn't turn you homosexual, it at least renders you less capable of loving your wife.") His ultimate point wasn't that. His ultimate point was, "Teaching ten- year- old boys that straight porn makes them gay is a great way to keep them away from porn." His point was that ten- and eleven- year- old boys are profoundly grossed-out by homosexuality... and therefore, telling them that porn will make them gay is a nifty way to make them not want porn.
To me, that's the money quote. Not the one about how all porn is really gay porn. To me, the money quote is, quote: "If you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he's going to want to go out and get a copy of Playboy? I’m pretty sure he'll lose interest. That's the last thing he wants."
So here's what I want to know.
Does Michael Schwartz truly believe that you can keep pre- and early- pubescent straight boys from being interested in pictures of naked women, just by telling them it'll make them gay?
Does Michael Schwartz know any pre- and early- pubescent boys?
Has Michael Schwartz ever been a pre- and early- pubescent boy?
There is just about no force on earth that could keep pre- and early- pubescent straight boys from being interested in pictures of naked women. You could bar their paths with oceans of fire, mountains of jagged rocks, canyons filled with snakes and poisons and pop quizzes... and pre- and early- pubescent straight boys would still find their way to pictures of naked women.
Does Schwartz really think that saying "Straight porn will make you gay" is going to do the trick?
Is he so deluded, so out of touch with the realities of human sexuality, that he thinks this pathetic bit of propaganda is going to have any effect whatsoever?
Come to think of it, it might have an effect. Telling kids that straight porn will make them gay might well contribute to the toxic mess of shame and guilt and mixed messages they're already being taught about sex. (Especially if their parents are Values Voters.) And it could easily create a serious rift of mistrust between parents and children. Telling your kids such a transparent falsehood is very likely going to make them mistrust anything else you say about sex... or any other topic, for that matter. (See above, re: "What are you going to do when your kids figure out you're lying to them? What will that do to your family values?")
But if Michael Schwartz seriously thinks his "straight porn will make you gay" propaganda is going to keep pre- and early- pubescent straight boys from being interested in pictures of naked women, he's deluded. Deeply, profoundly, almost hallucinatorily deluded. It would frighten me if it weren't so funny. In fact, it does frighten me, even though it's so funny. It's probably so funny, at least in part, because it's so frightening. The man is so out of touch with the realities of sexual desire that an entire nation could only gasp in shock and then fall all over itself in fits of hysterical giggles.
And that profound delusion is exactly where reflexive sex-negativity leads to.
Sex-negativity isn't just about viewing sex as wicked and disgusting (and thus a treasured gift you should save for the person you love). Sex-negativity is about ignoring or denying the realities of sex. It's about pretending that teenagers will abstain from sex if the schools scare them enough. It's about pretending that gay people don't come that way from a very early age, that they can change if they really try, that their lives will be miserable if they don't try. It's about pretending that pre- and early- pubescent straight boys won't be interested in pictures of naked women if you only tell them an idiotic lie about how it'll make them gay. It's about prioritizing your personal view of the sexual world you wished we lived in -- rigid, narrow, confined, with only a handful of situations in which people have sex and only one partner they have it with -- over, you know, reality.
And it's not just about doing all this as deliberate propaganda (a.k.a. "lies"). It's about getting so deeply enmeshed in the propaganda that you believe it yourself.
I'm not convinced that even Michael Schwartz believes straight porn makes you gay. But he does seem to believe -- sincerely, and with all his heart -- that telling 10- year- old boys "Straight porn makes you gay" will keep them away from porn.
He seems to have swallowed his own Kool-Aid.
And that's not just scary. It's not even just scary and hilariously funny. It's both of those things... and at the same time, it's one of the saddest things I can imagine.