So are we going to keep Milo?

Dear Son,

I've never had sex with a man, 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'd 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 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'd died recently from AIDS.  We drove through the hills as they talked about suicide and the catatonic state you get in after ecstasy wears off.  They bought me some 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 halfway through my twenties, not leading to any disappointment (except about free drinks), but leading to a definite conclusion: that what gay men want most isn't necessarily men.  There's something about youth that they want; and if we're fair it's 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'd all be dead, and we can thank biology for the fact that we aren't.

The problem is that many of these characteristics appear when you hit puberty, and if nobody's out there to protect you, some old codger's going to corner you and take advantage of it.  That's why we have laws about statutory rape: not because nature's told us something magical happens to your brain around the age of consent and you're suddenly a genius.  If my case (and what science increasingly tells us) has anything to say in the matter, getting a real brain happens more closely around 25.  We set the bar where we set it because nature's 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, and our European ancestors used to wed before we're 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 isn't whether at any point we're capable of having some babies.  That much is obvious.  The question we've 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've 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 don't care whether the person we want is a scholar or a dunce.  We want beautiful people in our beds, and so we have laws protecting those of us who are getting beautiful but have yet to get their brains.

That we need to give a number to this thing we can't really define, and to a maturity arrived at by different people at varying ages, is what Milo's really up against -- and what many of us have thrown him under the bus for.  Those of us who are honest and sensible know that we need many laws for the lawless thing known as romance; and that an assault on the question of "legality" is asking whether grown men can 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, though, many times having been through the dangers of romance after the age of 18 with many mistakes even still, feels exactly the same obstinacy in the exactly opposite direction.  The story about the father polishing his gun (which I've personally gotten from my first girlfriend's father) 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're asking ourselves about Milo being thrown under the bus isn't whether Milo should be thrown under the bus.  In our discovery that Yiannopolous was "a Greek," we're questioning the questioning of this arbitrary and already precarious standard.  The one we can't 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 common sense and decency and oftentimes religion.  We put the good things he's 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's good enough for me (we've all said many horrible things).  For other conservatives it may not be so easy to forgive.  They worry rightly it will encourage 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're one of the only reasons we have heroism in the first place.

Your father,

*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 about gay men.

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 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 isn't even 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 language for doing it.  You pick which scandal is worse.  I for one, and everyone whose hand it's safe 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 company 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.  This gist was obvious: everyone had already had sex with practically everyone else.  Go to a gay bar, and if you're 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 that they're saner than gay men.  I hope for their sake that they're saner than straight men.