Saudi House Party It was reported by the Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Watan that Saudi authorities had arrested twenty young men after raiding a suspected gay wedding in the southern town of Jizan. The detainees were among some 400 men attending the reception. What’s interesting here is not that the men were arrested in Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is strictly forbidden under shari’a law, nor even that 380 were apparently not arrested, but instead that an event of this size and scale could be mounted at all. A wedding party of 400 is large even by bloated American standards, and a man would presumably have to be quite wealthy to sponsor such an occasion. There have been persistent reports that the upper classes in Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere) are exempt from shari’a and practice a discreet form of homosexuality involving an adult male and a youthful ward or pickup. Still, the sheer number of wedding guests is remarkable because it suggests that large networks of gay men are in communication and able to organize a social affair that, in this case, appears to have pushed the envelope a bit too far.
Rove’s Gay Dad A new biography of Karl Rove details what has been widely known for some time: that the stepfather who raised Karl, Louis Rove, was a gay man who spent the last part of his life hanging out at gay clubs and traveling in gay circles. The thing is, Karl had been and remained close to his adoptive father right up until Louis’ death in 2004—but this did not prevent the Bush adviser from masterminding an election-year strategy with a homophobic theme at its core. Rove has been called “Bush’s Brain,” and anyone delving into the Brain’s brain would presumably find a lot of turmoil there. To honor your dead father or to re-elect the man that you love (as Rove has publicly said he does Bush)? Forgive us, but this had to be a no-brainer. Consider what Rove is on record as having said upon first meeting George W. all those many years ago: “I can literally remember what he was wearing: an Air National Guard flight jacket, cowboy boots, complete with the—in Texas you see it a lot—one of the back pockets will have a circle worn in the pocket from where you carry your tin of snuff, your tin of tobacco. He was exuding more charisma than any one individual should be allowed to have.”
It Takes a Leather Daddy His name has come up before in these pages; he’s a guy who gives the lunatic fringe a bad name. He’s Peter LaBarbera, former head of the Illinois Family Institute (IFI), a conservative Christian activist who’s so obsessed with all things gay that—well, you be the judge. It was about a year ago (Sept.-Oct. 2005 issue) that Laura Kiritsy reported on a meeting between LaBarbera and Wade Richards, a former ex-gay convert (got that?) who was visiting the IFI office for the first time. LaBarbera offered to give Richards a tour and brought him to a room that was “filled with gay porn.” There were also two “leather daddy” outfits on the wall, which he was told were customized with hidden cameras so that LaBarbera could go undercover to gay S&M events and snap photos unnoticed. A new report focuses on his visit to the annual International Mr. Leather fest, where he was spotted in full leather drag. It also reports on his excursion during the recent Gay Games in Chicago to the “Boystown” district, where he lingered outside the Steamworks bathhouse, ostensibly in protest of the goings-on inside. Perhaps that was the last straw, because LaBarbera left his position at IFI soon thereafter, presumably under duress. No word on whether he was allowed to take the leather outfits and porn with him when cleaning his out his desk.
Temptation Keyboard A study conducted by the world’s most popular Christian website (www.christianet.com) found that pornography was very popular among its users. “The poll results indicate that fifty percent of all Christian men and twenty percent of all Christian women are addicted to pornography,” reported Clay Jones, who was involved in the study (which analyzed about a thousand responses). His tone was one of alarm mixed with concern as he commented on the vast number of Christian men and women who “struggle with lust”—and find themselves losing the battle now that porn is so readily available on the Internet. It’s worth noting that he assumes these folks are “addicted” to porn, which takes us out of the realm of choice and pleasure and into one of compulsion and external control. In Jones’ world, people “struggle” with their lust rather than just enjoying a good download—or so they report when talking to a Christian website. But then there are those other websites, the ones at which the struggle is fought and lost.
The Safest Sex of All Britain staged its first “masturbate-a-thon” last summer, aired by the UK’s Channel 4 as part of a series of shows dubbed “Wank Week.” The event saw up to 150 individuals pleasuring themselves at a converted photograph studio in London while raising money for charity. One of its goal was to bring awareness to hiv/aids by reminding people that there’s an alternative to what spokesperson Marie Stopes called “everyday penetrative unprotected sex.” One could be forgiven for wondering whether people really needed to be reminded of this alternative. No matter, a good time was had by all—including those who tried to break the masturbation record (8.5 hours for a man and 6.3 hours for a woman).
Conversely… At this year’s American Psychological Association convention in New Orleans, the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (narth) staged an elaborate protest designed to pressure the APA into endorsing “ex-gay” therapy. Narth’s tactic was to call the APA’s bluff on its policy of supporting every individual’s right to choose the type of therapy they think best fits their needs. But part of the APA’s mission is also to discourage therapies that may be harmful to patients and to expose fraudulent practices and claims. The narth gambit backfired when the APA not only refused to endorse “conversion therapy,” as it’s called, but took the added step of condemning the practice because there’s no scientific evidence showing that sexual orientation can be changed, adding that “narth and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.” Better luck next year.