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Larry Craig: The Deep Fried Famous Potato

by Mark Simpson

Whether or not Idaho’s Senator Larry Craig likes cock or not, following his arrest for ‘lewd conduct’ in a men’s room at Minneapolis airport this week one thing is for sure: a lot of cock has been written about him. Here’s Melissa McEwan offering a typical – if relatively kind – commentary in the Guardian:

‘Voting against the interests of the LGBT community displays either a callous lack of feeling towards people with whom he shares a vested interest, or it’s a hypocritical attempt to ensure his longevity as a politician.’

Call me pedantic, but tapping your foot or putting your hand under a toilet stall partition doesn’t make you particularly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. Or part of any community with whom you share ‘vested interests’.

Judging by the rush to ‘out’ Craig as a ‘hypocritical closeted gay’ by hordes of callous bloggers and columnists, and the scorn poured on his claims that he’s not gay, it seems that liberals are equipped with even better and stricter sexpolicing instincts than Minnesota’s Finest. Liberals don’t just finger your collar, they finger your soul – divining your innermost desires, making identifications on your behalf and working out what your own vested interests are for you. Even though they’ve never met you or shared a bathroom with you.

After all, Minnesota’s sexpolice, as the (cute, young) arresting officer (pictured above) makes clear in the taped interview with Craig, are not concerned whether someone is gay or not – merely whether they might be soliciting sex in a bathroom. Or whether they respond to their own flirtatious footsie. And by the way, I know I’m being pedantic again, but we don’t even know that Craig was looking for sex in that bathroom. Yes, of course, it seems quite possible, very likely even, but we only have a policeman’s word for it. And liberals don’t usually fall over themselves to believe a policeman, especially when he’s paid to hang around toilets all day like ripe cottage cheese in a mousetrap. Let alone one that seems to have, on the tape, possibly a self-righteous political axe to grind (‘no wonder this country is going down the tubes!’).

Unless of course they’re entrapping a conservative politician.

Even if Craig was definitely, unquestionably a dick-craving, tap-dancing cottager, it wouldn’t mean that he was gay, or that he should feel any affinity to the gay community. As safer-sex educators can tell you, rather a lot of men have casual anonymous sex with other men without seeing themselves as gay, or even bisexual. Or Democrat.

Now, you may think them wrongheaded. You may think them closeted and self-loathing and in denial. You may consider them creepy. But that’s just what you think – it’s not necessarily who they are. You may wish the world was a tidier place, where any departure from official heterosexuality was ‘Gay’ or ‘Lesbian’ or ‘Bisexual’ – and proudly identified itself as such – but sexual behaviour isn’t like that. Sexual behaviour into identity doesn’t go. Cripes, desire into identity doesn’t even fit very well. As police officials admit, most of the men they arrest in bathrooms are married (and probably the main reason, along with the repeated threats of jail-time from the arresting officer if they don’t ‘co-operate’ and ‘make it easy on yourself’, why most, like Craig, don’t fight the charge in court).

If sexuality is a murky business, even what we mean by ‘sex’ is not always as clear as we like to pretend. In the teeth of the state -sponsored witch-hunt by sexpoliceman (and judge and jury) Ken Starr, Bill Clinton’s denial that he had sex with Monica Lewinsky was not simply the lawyerly sophistry or bald-faced ‘lie’ that almost everyone, however they estimated the importance of it, denounced it as being at the time. A good Southern Baptist, Clinton wouldn’t have considered that oral sex constituted ‘sex’ – and in fact he was careful never to have intercourse with Lewinsky. Nor is this simply Baptist, or fuddy-duddy thinking. In the same decade, the American Medical Association found that 60% of American college students didn’t consider oral sex ‘sex’. In other words, probably most of the Americans condemning Clinton for his ‘lies’ were being… hypocritical.

Then again, America is a country that likes to call a toilet a ‘bathroom’ – when there is no bath in it. Or a ‘restroom’ – when there is precious little resting going on. Especially in Minneapolis International Airport.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot (straying under the stall partition) the same kind of sanctimonious solidarity appears to have been ranged against Craig – but with interest. His own party, appalled at the merest whiff of the men’s room, have glanced at the toilet paper stuck to his shoe and run off screaming. Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, just a few days ago, a friend and close political ally, wrinkled his Mormon nose, described the affair in his best Lady Bracknell as ‘disgusting’ and disowned Craig; faced with zero support from his GOP comrades Craig now seems likely to resign. Politically, he’s toast.

Yes, Craig is a Senator for a Party I have no love for, a party which panders to the gay-bashing of the religious right and which launched a criminal war. Craig has supported policies like ‘Don’t ask, don’t’ tell’ which drum out men and women from the Armed Forces for less than he was accused of. And yes, he may well be – like much of the Republican Party – pretending to virtues he doesn’t possess. He is, after all, a politician. He may also have lied through his teeth. (Again, he’s a politician.) But I can’t help but have some sympathy for a hunted, rural thing (Idaho is the home of ‘famous potatoes’) and everyone of whatever political stripe in the US appears to want to throw Craig into the nearest deep-fat fryer.

When talking about people’s sex lives, liberals should probably think twice about hurling the world ‘hypocrite’ around with as much relish as conservatives like to use the word ‘immoral’ or ‘pervert’. It’s much the same kind of public shaming. It used to be called stoning. Let him who is without sin cast the first blog.

Moreover, I’d like to venture, somewhat controversially, that ‘hypocrisy’ is a word that has had a bit of a bad press, especially in the confessional culture of the US. What is a ‘hypocrite’ anyway? Someone whose private life fails to match up to his public image? That’s not even the definition of a politician – that’s the definition of a human being. Besides, sometimes hypocrisy might simply be the voice of experience.

Craig may cut a preposterous figure, but what’s even more preposterous is the sight of a long line of liberals forming to hammer on the stall door this married-with-grandkids Republican’s been locked in by the media – and his own ‘moment of madness’ – yelling, ‘COME OUT!! YOU’RE GAY, YOU GODDAMN HYPOCRITE!! YOU’RE SHOWING A CALLOUS LACK OF VESTED SELF-INTEREST TO YOUR LGBT COMMUNITY!!’.

I Want Your Sex: Why the Press Can’t Leave George Michael’s Manhood Alone

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Why are the gentlemen of the popular press so interested in George Michael’s manhood?  Why won’t they leave it alone?

In 1998, after stalking him for years, in a painful pincer movement with Beverly Hills Police Department’s finest, they finally succeeded in catching him short in a men’s toilet. Now they despatch a flash photographer to follow him up to Hampstead Heath’s cruising area at 2am and then plaster the results all over the front page.

No wonder Michael angrily turned to the snapper and snapped: ‘Are you gay?  No?  Well f**K off then!’

Personally, I’ve never been that interested in George Michael’s toilet parts. I used to live a mile or so away from Hampstead Heath and cruised it myself many times (before the internet spoilt everything), and have seen Mr Michael down there – but we never bumped uglies.

The tabs appear most shocked by the fact that Mr Michael ‘who could have anyone’ allegedly chose to have fun in the dark, in the bushes with an unemployed 58-year-old pot-bellied man who lives ‘in a squalid flat in Brighton’. Yes, how awful. What a terrible crime. Perhaps he should have shagged the straight flash photographer instead? We know he has a much better paid job.

Of course, there’s more hypocrisy wafting across this story than poppers on a warm Saturday night on the Heath. Michael is lambasted for his ‘sick’ and ‘sordid’ ‘crazy’ and ‘addicted’ behaviour and advised to ‘seek counselling’ (plus rather a lot of barely-disguised queer-bashing incitement in the form of ‘warnings’ that he ‘could get his throat cut’).

But part of reason why the tabs are so interested in this story – and why they can’t leave George’s penis alone – is precisely because many if not most men can perfectly understand the appeal of anonymous, no-strings, no-romance sex.

It is this freely-available aspect of the homo demi-monde which most fascinates many straight men. Because they usually have to pay for it. Unless they’re very lucky.

In the same issue of the NOTW that exposed George Michael’s ‘sick’ behaviour one of the stars of reality TV show Bad Lads’ Army (someone whom I would like to bump uglies with) bragged that he had had sex with nearly 500 women before he reached the age of 21 and would often pick up three women a day on holiday.

Now, I’m guessing that with those stats their age, looks, employment status and the tidiness of their homes weren’t exactly major considerations for these chaps. Naturally, The Sun was as admiring and envious of this laddish behaviour as it was condemning of Michael’s. What’s sauce for the straight goose should be sauce for the gay gander.

This is something that Michael successfully argued himself after he was caught in that Beverly Hills lavatory in 1998. His single ‘Outside’ sang the praises of public sex. It was probably precisely his success in turning around this humiliation that embittered the tabs against him. The tabs hate it when they’re out-tabbed by their victims.

Inevitably, Michael’s long-term partner was mentioned in the Hampstead Heath expose to give a veneer of journalistic value to the story, but in fact Michael has been very frank about the ‘open’ nature of his relationship.  This is a degree of honesty with the world that few celeb gay couples show – even though many of them are in relationships more open than 7-Eleven.

Michael’s visit to Hampstead Heath just before a major comeback tour, wasn’t very clever, wasn’t terribly grown-up, and it may or may not be a sign of ‘compulsive’ behaviour, but it is certainly not a matter of national importance. Or even terribly interesting.

Male sexuality, gay or straight, is not very easily domesticated. If it were, then the tabloids would be the first to go out of business.

And Hampstead Heath wouldn’t be so busy at 2am. Even if nowadays newspaper photographers compulsively cruising for a story outnumber the punters.