Image over substance

[cn: CSA, sexual assault]

Actor Kevin Spacey was recently accused of sexually assaulting a 14 year old boy. The incident was 30 years ago. Kevin Spacey, didn’t he play the protagonist in American Beauty, a movie that all but celebrated pedophilia, and featured a repressed homosexual murderer? Oh, I guess people today mostly know him for his role in House of Cards.

Anyway… this story caught my eye because several friends were saying that Spacey had found the one time that it was inappropriate to come out as gay. See, in Spacey’s statement of apology, he added a paragraph saying that he was gay.

Yeah, so about that. It makes sense that he would say that, because after all, he was accused of sexually assaulting a boy, and had long been rumored to be gay. People were going to connect the dots. They already connected the dots in the article which first published the accusations! But I agree that it seems like a deeply inappropriate time to come out, because it comes across as an attempt to distract. Indeed, some news outlets ran stories that mentioned the coming out first, and the accusations second. Although, looking at Google news results, I suspect this was the exception to the rule. If the intention was to distract, it probably just drew more media attention.

I want to talk about how some people criticized Spacey for the wrong reasons. Yes I know that sounds pedantic. Really who cares if some people come to the correct conclusion for wrong reasons? The reason I care, is because I care about the issue of sexual assault in the context of queer men. And some commentators? They seem to care more about image over substance.

Here’s what people are saying:

Or is this, even worse, an attempt to suggest Spacey’s attraction to underage men is intrinsic to his homosexuality? Those who endorse such existing and discriminatory stereotypes will be eager to read it as such. In that context, a statement that even hints at such an association merits only condemnation.
-from CNN

This exposes the gay community to a million tired old criticisms and conspiracies.
The distance we’ve had to walk to get away from the notion that we’re all pedophiles is significant.
For a famous person to deflect these accusations with a long-in-the-making coming out is so cruel to his supposed new community it stings
How dare you implicate us all in this
-from Twitter

[Spacey’s statement] implies that when most gay men get drunk, it’s second nature for them to prey on a 14-year-old boy. It calls to mind hateful rhetoric like Anita Bryant’s 1977 Save Our Children campaign, which sought to associate gay men and child predators.
-from Daily Beast

People are upset that Spacey “conflated” homosexuality with pedophilia. It’s far from clear that he did any such thing. To the extent that Spacey contributed to an association between homosexuality and pedophilia, he did it 30 years ago, not last week. Seriously, people already connected the dots.

This infuriates me because you know who else wants to talk about pedophilia and sexual assault in connection with gay men? I do. Because that’s how we address sexual violence among queer men: we talk about it. We don’t shove issues under the rug, because we’re afraid of dredging up “2,000 years of homophobic stereotype”. That would be a fantastic way to ensure that the stereotype became true!

My experience talking about sexual violence among queer men is that people get really defensive. They say, what does this have to do with being gay? Straight people are just as bad, they say. No. Stop trying to shut me up. Look.

First of all, here’s my reference on incidence of sexual violence against heterosexuals, bisexuals, and gay/lesbian people.

It's a giant table of statistics on sexual violence by gender and orientation. Sorry it's too big to transcribe, but if you want anything specific out of it, just ask.

You can see it in the table for yourself. Bisexual and gay men clearly have it worse on several axes. Mind you, I don’t know the orientation of the perpetrators, and I’d have to find another reference for that. But it’s scientific fact that not all things are equal, so don’t assume that all things are equal.

Second of all, even if all things were equal, then so fucking what? Straight people need to talk about sexual violence. So why wouldn’t queer people too? We don’t always need to talk about it in connection with being queer men, because sometimes assault is just assault, and we just happen to be queer. But sometimes, it’s a clear factor. For example, what if someone is assaulted at age 14, but is afraid to tell his mother because it would involve coming out to her? That’s a real thing mentioned in relation to Spacey, by the way.

Here are some other common situations. I could be assaulted by someone who attends the local queer support group, effectively cutting off my own access. I could be a victim of child sexual abuse, and this could cause perpetual doubts about my sexual orientation when I’m older. I could try to speak out about sexual violence, but since I’m gay, other gay men tell me to shut up because I’m “confirming stereotypes”.

It’s just so disappointing that we can never have a public conversation about sexual assault and CSA among queer men, even when there’s a widely publicized incident. Boo.

I see that FTB’s own Trav Mamone also wrote an article about Spacey for Splice Today.  I appreciate this article.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    All the CSA stats might be (and, I strongly suspect, are) saying is that gay and bisexual kids are more vulnerable to predators. I’m sure the same would apply to transgender kids.

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