Published in: May-June 2009 issue.


Exhibit A Okay, famous people shouldn’t be held responsible for the misdeeds of their adult progeny. But what if the parent in question has built his entire career out of thumping this connection between fathers and sons, promoting an agenda of prudery and homophobia—calling it “family values”—on the theory that “the children” must be protected by an intact family unit from exposure to sexual items? Thus do we cite the case of pastor T. D. Jakes and his son Jermaine, who was recently arrested for, well, exposure of a sexual item. The police report described the circumstances of the arrest with Henry Miller precision (as reported by “Detective X and Detective X entered the wooded area. Suspect Jakes walked directly over to where Detective X was, and stood next to Detective X with his penis exposed through his unzipped pants. Suspect Jakes then began to masturbate his erect penis with his left hand for several seconds while making eye contact with Detective X. … Suspect Jakes masturbated his erect penis in order to gratify himself and Detective X. Suspect Jakes made no attempt to conceal his erect penis from Detective X, or any other person who might be offended by his actions,” whereupon the two detectives identified themselves and made the arrest. Given the one-to-one correspondence, in Rev. Jakes’ world, between early socialization in the home and the development of homosexuality or other perversions, we are forced to wonder what specific events or family dynamics led to such a shocking display on the part of the son.

Saddlebacking The choice of Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church to deliver the invocation at President Obama’s Inauguration upset many people, who objected to the pastor’s extreme positions on abortion and gay rights. Some wrote letters, others protested at the swearing-in. Columnist Dan Savage ran a contest to see who could come up with the best definition for the gerund “saddlebacking.” (Readers may remember Savage’s 2006 contest to define the word “santorum.”) The winning entry went as follows: “Saddlebacking: the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities.” The sly definition refers to a curious development among teenage girls and young women who want to preserve their virginity until marriage. Many have reportedly turned to anal sex as a substitute for vaginal sex on the belief that this will spare their maidenhead while allowing them to have intercourse. In effect, they end up “barebacking,” a well-known practice among gay men, while allowing their boyfriends to be “in the saddle,” so to speak, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Teaching Hate Away from Home A three-day seminar was held last March in Kampala, Uganda, with the express purpose of condemning homosexuality. That’s unfortunate, but what’s shocking is that many of the speakers were American clergymen from evangelical churches, including Scott Lively, Don Schmierer, and Caleb Lee Brundidge—leading voices of homophobic preaching in the U.S. Brundidge is affiliated with Extreme Prophetic Ministry in Phoenix, Arizona; Schmierer is on the board of the “ex-gay” organization Exodus International; and Lively is well known for his belief that the Holocaust never happened. Perhaps these religious extremists have decided to export their brand of hatred because it’s not selling too well in the U.S. these days as we inch toward greater acceptance of sexual minorities. In contrast, some African countries have been moving in the exact opposite direction. The religious Right’s brand of nativism and homophobia plays into a strain of paranoid scapegoating that has gained a foothold in countries like Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria, where dictators use this toxic confection to extend their power. For their part, the American preachers have found an audience that’s receptive to their stigmatizing and even exterminist agenda—Stephen Langa, for example, exhorted his audience to stiffen already harsh penalties against homosexuality in Uganda—another grim export from the Land of Liberty.

Sucking Boys will be boys, especially when it comes to exploring what makes them boys, which is why many a lad came to appreciate mom’s vacuum cleaner for more than its cleaning abilities (that is, if she had a canister-hose model rather than an upright). Most boys outgrow such practices with time—or outgrow the device itself, as it were. Then there’s the case of 29-year-old Jason Leroy Savage, who was arrested in Saginaw, Michigan, in late February for “performing a sex act with a car wash vacuum.” So, apparently some boys don’t outgrow this fascination with mom’s Hoover but instead go on to stronger stuff. Still, one has to be impressed by Mr. Savage’s hubris in taking on an industrial device—call this his Icarus moment.

Lost in DNA  “Never ask a gay man for directions,” admonished one headline reporting on a series of studies concerning the spatial intelligence of gay and straight men and women. What the University of East London research found is that gay men and straight women were equally bad at tasks involving spatial relationships, such as navigating a physical environment or giving directions. One study found that heterosexual men were uniquely skilled at a task requiring them to scout out novel terrain to locate a hidden search target. It doesn’t take a genius in evolutionary psychology to theorize why men are better scouters than women—but not all men, it would appear. There are those who aren’t afraid to stop and ask for directions—preferably from a straight man.

What Don’t Women Want? In a similar vein, an article in the Times described a study showing that men and women display very different patterns of sexual arousal. Sensors were used to measure arousal in both men and women, and subjects were also asked to report verbally on what turned them on. Men were totally predictable: self-identified gay males were aroused by sexy images of men, while straight males went for images of women; but females, both gay and straight (as self-reported), were aroused by both men and women and any combination thereof, including sex involving non-human primates! What’s more, the women’s self-reported sources of arousal did not match their physical response. While most classified themselves as gay or straight, their tastes were far more eclectic than they acknowledged or believed, suggesting that our whole system of sexual classification may be a male invention to describe a masculine phenomenon.