Oct 2, 2006

The many uses of false consciousness [LINK]

In the wake of revelations that Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) made sexual overtures to a teenaged male page, Andrew Sullivan takes the scandal as an object lesson on the dangers of being closeted:

What the closet does to people -- the hypocrisies it fosters, the pathologies it breeds -- is brutal.... What I do know is that the closet corrupts. The lies it requires and the compartmentalization it demands can lead people to places they never truly wanted to go.
No doubt about it: having to "live a lie" and conceal an important part of your identity can't be a happy state of affairs. But is Sullivan suggesting that an uncloseted gay man would be less likely to act on his urges towards younger boys? Is there any evidence on which to rest this assumption? Foley has been corrupted, therefore his being closeted is what corrupted him. Perhaps instead he started out corrupted, with a strong fixation on younger boys, closeting himself in an understandable effort to conceal or deny these urges.

And isn't it a little odd that Sullivan would so readily ascribe false consciousness to Foley? Suppose a fundamentalist Christian claimed gay men were misled by some force "to places they never truly wanted to go." Wouldn't that be identified as an expression of homophobia? Leave aside as irrelevant the special taboo against sex with minors. How is Foley's urge to have sex with a teenage boy any less real than to have sex with a grown man?

UPDATE: It occurs to me as well that Sullivan's logic mirrors the kind that became popular in the wake of the Catholic Church's pedophilia scandal: that the church's ban on female and married clergy was largely to blame for fostering an environment in which priests would prey upon children, overwhelmingly boys. While there may be valid arguments for liberalizing the clergy's membership requirements, to connect that argument to revelations of pedophilia is a non sequitur, and ironically homophobic at that. If only aspiring priests had access to girls, the logic goes, they wouldn't be gay. Furthermore, a revealed homosexual preference doesn't represent an innate personal characteristic central to one's identity, but is instead a highly malleable product of one's environment. In a slightly different context, them's fightin' words.
UPDATE, Pt. 2: speaking of non sequiturs, why did Foley check himself into an alcohol rehabilitation clinic following his resignation? Either he is engaging in an all-purpose redemptive act for public consumption, is suggesting alcoholism led him to pursue teenage boys, or he couldn't find a more appropriate rehab clinic for child molesters. Was it because "Alcoholics Anonymous" was listed under "A" in the yellow pages?

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