Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

So are we going to keep Milo?

Dear Son,

I have never had sex with a man, and I mean this in the least Bill-Clintony way possible.  But I have gotten lots of attention from men, and the most of it came when I was around the age of 17.


Before this I had never really been around gay people, and then in the summer of 2001 I was sent off to California for college.  Then they were everywhere; at school and at work; in the alleys* and at the salon and (despite my being underage) at the bar; they were my friends and my partners in crime and very apparently interested in being my lovers.  My hairdresser at the time was a very gay man who gave me very gay haircuts and taught me many gay things; among other things he was very helpful in scoring me meth.   I snorted things with them in trailer parks and middle-class homes.  I saw pictures on their mirrors of their friends who had died from AIDS.  We drove through the hills as they talked about suicide and the catatonic state that you get in after coming down from ecstasy.  They bought me drinks and I gave them my time.  I had lots of fun but I never had sex.  I was told many times I'd be seduced, but none of them had tits.  Even if they were women many of them were well past their prime.

The overwhelming majority of this attention stopped by the time I was halfway through my twenties, not leading to any disappointment (except in the area of free drinks), but leading me to the conclusion that what gay men want most is not necessarily men.  There is something about youth that they want; and if we are fair it is something many straight men are looking for with young women.  The fact that we set a bar at 18 is out of mercy for parents and children.  Human beings have never been attracted to abstract things like numbers, but artful and sensual things like colors and shapes.  We praise things (or at least Plato praises things) like platonic love, but nobody but the gold-digger is out there romancing the old man in the diaper.  Sex is vitality and energy -- radiant skin and vibrant hair and firm-ish curves and a twinkle in the eye.  If it wasn't we would all be dead, and we can thank biology for the fact that we aren't.

The problem is that many of these characteristics happen when you hit puberty, and if nobody is out there to protect you, some old person is going to corner you and take advantage of it.  That is why we have laws about statutory rape: not because nature has told us that something magical happens to your brain around the age of consent and you are suddenly a genius.  If my case (and what science increasingly tells us) has anything to say in the matter, that sort of thing happens more closely around 25.  We set the bar where we set it because nature has already gotten the jump on us and told us we could start having children before we were sure we could even run a register.

The Jews probably have their Bat Mitzvahs at 13 for this reason of nature, and it was not entirely uncommon for our European ancestors to wed before we are currently allowed to vote.  The Mexicans, being slightly more conscientious of the perils of youth, have their quinceaneras at 15.  In some regions of France a while ago people couldn't get married without parental consent until they were 35.  The question for us is not whether at any point we are capable of having some babies.  That much is obvious.  The question we have asked out of immense respect for our 13-year-olds is whether we're old enough to not make stupid decisions.  For many of us the answer is actually "never."  For many Americans, we have decided the answer is when you're old enough to go to war, but not old enough to drink or drive a rental car.  The number as in these other cases is arbitrary; but our feelings on the matter, being couched in good sense and tradition and defended with every bit of affection for our children, are practically religious.  Our lusts do not care whether the person we want is a scholar or a dunce.  We want beauty for the bed, and so we have laws protecting those of us who are getting inclined to beauty but are least inclined to brains.

That we need to give a number to this thing we cannot really define, and to a maturity arrived at by different people at varying ages, is what Milo is really up against -- and what many of us have thrown him under the bus for.  The honest and sensible among us know that there must be many laws for the lawless thing known as romance; and that an assault on the question of "legality" is asking whether grown men may romance our children without our permission.  A 14-year-old (as Milo argues in his own historical case) can only argue against this law with all his heart.  His consent with anyone he chooses is the same thing to him as his life.  A parent, many times having been through the perils of romance after the age of 18 with many mistakes even still, feels exactly the same obstinacy in almost the opposite direction.  The story about the father polishing his gun (which I have personally gotten from a father with a beautiful blondish thick-bottomed daughter I romanced) is as universal and essential to humanity as our lust for good looks.  The age of 18 is the truce we struck between forces, and every time we question the truce, an army ought to be in arms.

What we are asking ourselves when we ask whether Milo should be thrown under the bus is not whether Milo should be thrown under the bus.  In our discovery that Yiannopolous was a "classical" Greek, we are questioning the questioning of this arbitrary and already precarious standard.  The one we cannot defend in any way biologically, but are forced by decency to set at random against the forces of nature.  The difference we know doesn't really exist between a 17-year-old girl and herself a year later.  And so we find ourselves asking all kinds of questions, like whether someone who openly advocated for sex between "responsible" 14-year-old boys and predatory priests could be a spokesman for the party of reason and decency and oftentimes religion.  We put the good things he has done in the balance, and ask whether this still makes him an enemy.  There are some things we would throw everything else away for.  Milo has stepped in one of them.  He ought to have watched his mouth.

For my part if he gives an apology and never advocates for the matter again, fighting tooth and nail in public and in private against any grown man who wants to sodomize any 14-year-old, it is good enough for me (we have all said many horrible things).  For other conservatives with whom I deeply sympathize on this issue it may not be so easy to forgive.  They worry rightly it will embolden the Greeks.  And we have yet to see which path Americans will take -- and whether or not this is the end of a great advocate for the Republicans, or the beginning of a sinister movement to snatch our children from under our noses.  The stakes, in consideration of Milo's immense talents and accomplishments and the well-known historical tendencies of the gay community (especially in which emperors had a tendency to collect harems of boys and the Catholic church is almost never scandalized over any little girl), are high.  We hope to God we make the right decision, and that when the day is done we keep one of our most interesting and indefatigable heroes -- but never at the expense of our children.  In the end they are one of the only reasons we have heroism in the first place.

Your father,
-J

*When I say the alleys I literally mean the alleys; and one of the men I spent the most time with, a long-haired, middle-aged, portly and mustachioed Mexican, spent the majority of his nights walking the streets of downtown Oceanside looking for random young Marines to blow.   As we were by Pendleton they were apparently everywhere.  Downtown Oceanside there was a theater and a few bars and cheap drugs and a porn shop and the best burrito place I knew of called Colimas; and soldiers would crowd there on nights and on weekends looking for something to do -- and boy would they find him.  His persistence was legendary; a regular feature of the bathrooms and alleys, and I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't personally known him.  At least at the time I wouldn't have believed it.  I've seen enough now to believe almost anything.

My father has a very similar story from when he was in the Navy about coming out of a bar and being offered a ride from a stranger in a car, only to find that the man was offering a ride.  Dad promptly and disgustedly got out of the man's car, only to watch the man drive off, circle around again, and slowly search for a soldier trashed enough to take advantage of.  Life was difficult before smart phones and Grindr; and before there was a GPS device on every gay stranger you could go down on, there was a dogged determination to find men at the expense of your time, your reputation, your comfort, and your safety.  This is why I won't back any funding for AIDS.  Many of these men are practically trying to get it; and I can't see saving Africa when most of our parents are dying from heart attacks and cancer.

Despite the almost incredible nature of the stories above, this is not the worst of the matter.  When I was a boy a Republican senator was arrested at the airport bathroom for trying to have sex with an undercover cop.  It seems he tried to get the cop's attention while they were sitting in the stalls, tapping and moving his feet in a manner that was taken as a signal.  Democrats were scandalized by the fact that he was known for his advocacy of "family values."  Republicans were scandalized by the fact that strangers across the nation were having sex in public bathrooms with men whose faces they'd never seen -- and that there was a well-known code for doing it.  You pick which scandal is worse.  I for one (and everyone whose hand it is sanitary to shake) am siding with the Republicans.

There's a line from the semi-celebrated gay film The Broken Hearts Club that sums all this up perfectly.  A man in the gathering of his handsome gay friends says he remembers coming out of the closet and feeling like the world was full of possibility.  Then he realized that he was the new possibility.  Everyone had already had sex with practically everyone else.  Go to a gay bar, and if you are young and handsome, the number of heads turned will prove this almost immediately.

On this note I know almost nothing about lesbians.  What they do in their spare time is a mystery to me, and although I'm acquainted with many I really know none.  I hope for their sake they are saner than gay men.  I hope for their sake they are saner than straight men.

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