It is not often that I am bothered by the downfall of a Republican politician. Yet I am troubled by the on again, off again (currently on again) resignation of Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho. Craig pled guilty to a disorderly conduct charge that occurred in a men’s room at the Minneapolis airport on June 11th. Allegedly, he was making signals to an occupant of an adjacent stall that he was interested in engaging in homosexual conduct. For tapping his feet, moving his feet partly into an adjacent stall (the “widened stance”) and allegedly peeking into a neighboring stall, he pled guilty to a misdemeanor. (Craig is now trying to retract his plea.) For this minor transgression, he was arm-twisted by his fellow Republicans and asked to resign from the Senate.
If Craig is a closeted homosexual, of course he is also a hypocrite. He has plenty of company on Capitol Hill. It is virtually impossible not to be a hypocrite and be a politician. Even the most ideological Republican though is not stupid. They know murkiness exists in all human beings. The hastiness by which the Senate Republican leadership are hustling Craig out of the Senate is far more unseemly than any alleged conduct that Craig may have conducted in Minneapolis. Fairness dictates waiting for an impartial review of the facts at a Senate ethics committee hearing. Yet the Senate Republican leadership could not wait. The Republican brand may be a fading brand, but it is a brand nonetheless. Homophobia remains one of its key values, subsumed under their alleged commitment to “family values”. Such a hasty action merely reinforces the opinion of most Americans that Republicans have no sense of fair play.
I do know one thing from fifty years of living. Humans are complex and multifaceted creatures on all levels, including sexually. Kinsey documented half a century ago that virtually none of us are exclusively heterosexual or homosexual. We may have strong preferences in either direction. Many of us may choose not to act on these pulls but that does not mean they are wholly absent. Yet sexual preference is just one tiny aspect of our sexuality. Some of us have strong sex drives. Others have non-existent sex drives. Some of us are not attracted to any gender; we are effectively asexual. Some of us are dominant, others are submissive, and many of us like to switch roles. Some prefer anal sex and others do not. Some take erotic pleasure wearing diapers or dressing as the opposite sex. Some older men prefer younger women. Some older women prefer younger men. Some of us will probably always be attracted to illegal expressions of sexuality like pedophilia.
We are all sexually multihued. If our sexuality were a painting, most of us would have strange patterns consisting of many overlapping and mixed colors. Larry Craig’s failing was apparently for being exposed for not having a black and white canvas. If his alleged behavior actually describes his own sexual preferences, he likely finds some attraction to his own gender. On the Kinsey scale, he is utterly ordinary.
You would be very unusual if you never had even one incident where you did not find someone of your gender attractive. I know I have. Having an occasional tug does not mean I feel compelled to act on it. When it happens I acknowledge it and go on with life. Larry Craig may be wholly accurate when he says that he is not a gay. Like most of us, he is probably bisexual. We are all sexually expressive creatures. Most of us are content to dine at our favorite restaurants. Eating at a different restaurant on occasion does not necessarily make us food deviants. Neither does an occasional incident where we partner with someone of our non-preferred gender. Given the prevalence of infidelity in American, occasionally mating with someone other than our own spouse is more normal than not too. The issue is not the inclination, which is wholly natural, but dealing with the angst, guilt and dysfunction that results when our natural impulses move us in one direction but society requires us to choose a different direction.
So Larry Craig is probably just another multifaceted sexually complicated person. In other words, he is a lot like you and I. Please raise your hand if you have been completely faithful to your spouse, never even had a stray fantasy about another person during your marriage, are completely content with sexual intercourse only in the missionary position and, since marriage at least, have never masturbated. Also raise your hand if you never went beyond chaste kissing during your dating years. I am sure there are some of you out there and that is fine. It is either your preference or supposed societal norms overrode these impulses. However, you represent just a tiny portion of the public. Your values are fine for you but are not in the least bit mainstream. I hate to tell you this but if you are an ordinary human being you are likely a lot more like Larry Craig than not.
It is hard to put myself inside Larry Craig’s brain. However, I am completely certain that wherever it is at, it is consistent with the person he is as he has evolved. Personally, a restroom would be the last place I would go to solicit for sex, but I am not inclined to find someone of my own gender with whom to have sex. If I were a prominent person like Larry Craig and driven by such demons I would look for safer forms of behavior. (I doubt he is the only senator with such inclinations.) Rather than look for it in a Minneapolis men’s room, perhaps I would solicit it on Craigslist. Maybe part of Craig’s sexuality is to be turned on by anonymous sex. If so, he has plenty of company.
I do not want to be solicited for sex by men in men’s rooms or anywhere else. In restrooms, I simply want to do my business and leave. When I am solicited by my own gender, which does not happen very often, I simply say, “No thanks.” It should not be unlawful for one person to tell another person you want to get it on with them. It is certainly impolite in most contexts, but it should not be unlawful. I do care about being mugged or sexually abused in a men’s room. I hope that we prosecute these lawbreakers. I do think there is an expectation of privacy in a men’s room stall but it would astonish me if this were codified into law. If Craig, as alleged, actually was peeking through the cracks of men’s room stalls then he should be held to account. I would note though that two men urinating at adjacent stalls, even if one of the men checks out the other guy’s package, is not a crime. Having to pay a four-figure fine for such an “offense” seems excessive. It should not amount to more than a parking ticket and should never go to court.
The Craig incident simply illustrates to me that many of us cannot yet accept people for being the complex sexual creatures that we all are. Private conduct between two consenting adults is simply none of our business. I wish that Senator Craig had more spine. Bullies usually remain bullies until someone stands up to them. Senator Craig could do people everywhere a favor by standing up for himself. He should draw a clear distinction about official duties vs. private conduct. The voters can throw him out if they find his personal conduct offensive. His fellow senators should not.
Someone needs to tell the people who run our nanny state when they are out of bounds. As a final act of leadership and courage, Senator Craig could forever change the political dynamics. He could do it by boldly asserting his right to be judged solely based on his job as senator. He did not deserve this shabby treatment.