Liberals still haven't learned the lesson that absurd claims don't undermine themselves. Sometimes we hear claims that are so absurd, we presume most people would just laugh them off because most people will know better. This couldn't be further from the truth.
If this were true, Birthers would be a small fringe of the population, but as Bill Clinton pointed out at Yale's commencement ceremony, 45% of Republicans believe Birther theories. And after the Death Panel talks we should all be aware that even a claim that absurd can gain traction. And boy did it gain traction.
In the last two days I've seen two absurd claims made about gay people without any retort by the liberal blogosphere to counter it. I don't think it is because liberals believe these absurd things. No. I believe it is because liberals believe they are so absurd that EVERYONE will see through them.
Will we ever learn.
Yesterday, a gay newsmagazine, the Advocate picked up on a story from the Washington Post. The WaPo headline read: CIA unit's wacky idea: Depict Saddam as gay.
The fact that the Washington Post got the story wrong is one thing. They are far from a liberal media outlet, much less a gay publication. But the fact that the Advocate got the story wrong is infuriating. The CIA plan, according to the Post was to depict Saddam Hussein molesting teenaged boys in one fake video, and in another plot, to make a fake video of Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts drinking and bragging about raping teenaged boys.
Gay rights activists have fought long and hard against the depiction of gay men as child abusers. Social scientists have clearly debunked the idea that if a male child molester chooses a male victim, that the male child molester was a gay perpetrator.
By contrast, other molesters are described as regressed. Regression is "a temporary or permanent appearance of primitive behavior after more mature forms of expression had been attained, regardless of whether the immature behavior was actually manifested earlier in the individual's development" (Groth & Birnbaum, 1978, p. 177). Regressed offenders have developed an adult sexual orientation but under certain conditions (such as extreme stress) they return to an earlier, less mature psychological state and engage in sexual contact with children.
Some typologies of child molesters divide the fixation-regression distinction into multiple categories, and some include additional categories as well (e.g., Knight, 1989).
For the present discussion, the important point is that many child molesters cannot be meaningfully described as homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals (in the usual sense of those terms) because they are not really capable of a relationship with an adult man or woman. Instead of gender, their sexual attractions are based primarily on age. These individuals – who are often characterized as fixated – are attracted to children, not to men or women.
Using the fixated-regressed distinction, Groth and Birnbaum (1978) studied 175 adult males who were convicted in Massachusetts of sexual assault against a child. None of the men had an exclusively homosexual adult sexual orientation. 83 (47%) were classified as "fixated;" 70 others (40%) were classified as regressed adult heterosexuals; the remaining 22 (13%) were classified as regressed adult bisexuals. Of the last group, Groth and Birnbaum observed that "in their adult relationships they engaged in sex on occasion with men as well as with women. However, in no case did this attraction to men exceed their preference for women....There were no men who were primarily sexually attracted to other adult males..." (p.180).
Other researchers have taken different approaches, but have similarly failed to find a connection between homosexuality and child molestation. Dr. Carole Jenny and her colleagues reviewed 352 medical charts, representing all of the sexually abused children seen in the emergency room or child abuse clinic of a Denver children's hospital during a one-year period (from July 1, 1991 to June 30, 1992). The molester was a gay or lesbian adult in fewer than 1% in which an adult molester could be identified – only 2 of the 269 cases (Jenny et al., 1994).
Male child molesters choose victims, primarily, based on access, not on sexual attraction. The sex of victim has little, if anything, to do with the perpetrators sexual orientation. Sexual abuse is about power, control, and domination. This was confirmed, once again, by research funded by the Catholic Church:
After the U.S. clergy abuse scandal in 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned a multi-year study conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Results reported in 2009 suggested that access to young boys, not homosexual orientation, was largely responsible for the high percentage of male abuse cases. John Jay researcher Margaret Smith told bishops Nov. 17:
We do not find a connection between homosexual identity and the increased likelihood of subsequent abuse from the data that we have right now ... It's important to separate the sexual identity and the behavior. Someone can commit sexual acts that might be of a homosexual nature but not have a homosexual identity.
The social science is clear cut. Most certainly, any well-read gay rights advocate would be familiar with these criminological findings. So, why did the Advocate, like the Washington Post, see the CIA fake sex video scam as a "gay" portrayal?
My best bet is that the Advocate editors are well informed about all of the social science on this issue. My bet is that they damn well know that the portrayal of child abuse is not a portrayal of gay behavior. So why did they describe it as a "gay" portrayal? Most likely the Advocate presumed that its audience knew how absurd the claim was, and simply let the Washington Post error stand.
And that's the problem. They let stand one of the worst stereotypes about gay men, didn't even offer a mild rebuke of the Post for their headline, because they felt so certain that no one would see it as anything but absurd. This is what gets us into debating death panels.
Today, there is a worse offense at Talking Points Memo. Under the headline: Family Research Council: End Of DADT Means More Gay Rape In The Military.
The story by Evan McMorris-Santoro pretty much repeats the Family Research Councils claims, and goes further, it publishes the entire "study" by the FRC under the story. There is no attempt by TPM to respond critically to the FRC's claim. McMorris-Santoro doesn't speak to one qualified expert on male rape. He doesn't mention that the study wasn't peer-reviewed. He doesn't challenge the concept that male rape is perpetrated by gay men. Bor does McMorris-Santoro challenge FRC's contention that repealing DADT will lead to more sexual assault. I don't accuse McMorris-Santoro of any ill-intents. I do accuse him of laziness.
Again, I think that the reason this article fails to challenge FRC's "study" is not because TPM doesn't know better, but because they know it is absurd. Kind of like Birther theories. But like Birther theories, absurdities never go away on their own.
The facts on male rape are similar to the facts on child molestation:
Unfortunately, incidents of anti-gay violence also include forcible rape, either oral or anal. Attackers frequently use verbal harassment and name-calling during such a sexual assault. Given the context of coercion, however, such technically homosexual acts seem to imply no homosexuality on the part of the offenders. The victim serves, both physically and symbolically, as a "vehicle for the sexual status needs of the offenders in the course of recreational violence" (Harry, 1992, p.115).
There are many reasons that male victims do not come forward and report being raped, but perhaps the biggest reason for many males is the fear of being perceived as homosexual. However, male sexual assault has nothing to do with the sexual orientation of the attacker or the victim, just as a sexual assault does not make the victim survivor gay, bisexual or heterosexual. It is a violent crime that affects heterosexual men as much as gay men. The phrase "homosexual rape," for instance, which is often used by uninformed persons to designate male-male rape, camouflages the fact that the majority of the rapists are not generally homosexual (Donaldson, 1990).
In a well-known study of offenders and victims conducted by Nicholas Groth and Ann Burgess, one-half of the offender population described their consenting sexual encounters to be with women only, while 38 percent had consenting sexual encounters with men and women. Additionally, one-half of the victim population was strictly heterosexual. Among the offenders studied, the gender of the victim did not appear to be of specific significance to half of the offenders. Instead, they appeared to be relatively indiscriminate with regard to their choice of a victim -- that is, their victims included both males and females, as well as both adults and children (Groth & Burgess, 1980). The choice of a victim seemed to be more a matter of accessibility than of sexual orientation, gender or age.
What appears apparently bogus and absurd to most of us, often is believable to those who think less critically. I won't be surprised to see a conservative Congressman use "the liberal Talking Points Memo website" to give credit to gay rape paranoia in the DADT debates. After all, TPM gave FRC their say, without response or rebuttal. And it is not untrue to say that TPM reported that "homosexuals in the military are about 3x as likely to commit sexual assaults as heterosexuals are." You know why a conservative Congressman can say that? Because TPM reported that without questioning its validity.