Mixed messages

By Legal Eagle

There are a lot of mixed messages in our society (for example, those surrounding young girls growing up these days). Something that has struck me forcefully in recent days, however, is that the press have been sending out very mixed messages about gay and lesbian people in our society.

The first story to break was that Bulldogs’ Australian Football League player Jason Akermanis advised gay players to stay in the closet. This was in the context of reports that journalists were “hunting” for gay players, and two former AFL players had been offered $150,000 to be the first gay players to “come out”. Akermanis said that he did not have a problem with gay players or gay people, but that the macho culture of football teams and the prevalence of locker room nudity and homosocial behaviour in football meant that it would be very difficult for any player who chose to come out. He said that the presence of an openly gay player in the change rooms would produce discomfort in team mates, and admitted that in the past when he played with an openly gay player, all the guys suddenly put towels around their waists, including himself. Akermanis has been roundly criticised for these comments, and the Western Bulldogs have distanced themselves from the sentiments he expressed.

Let’s contrast that with the reaction to the revelation that the New South Wales Minister for Transport and Roads, David Campbell, was seen leaving a gay sauna in Sydney on Tuesday night. Campbell was using his ministerial car, but had dismissed his driver (as he was entitled to do). After Channel 7 aired footage of Campbell leaving the sauna last night, Campbell resigned, saying that he had caused his family embarrassment. Campbell is married and has two adult children, but he has apparently been “moonlighting” for 20 years. Oh the titillation, the prurience on the part of the press! (The unpleasant twist in the Campbell tale is that the reporter behind the revelations, Adam Walters, had an affair with former NSW government minister Reba Meagher some years ago. Meagher went home with Walters without telling her official driver, who sat waiting for Meagher all night, while the driver’s pregnant wife worried at home. This forced the revelation of Meagher’s relationship with Walters (since ended). The Bolta suspects that there is an element of revenge in Walters’ revelations. For once I am in entire agreement with the Bolta: the whole thing is very grubby.)

In any case, having seen the titillation which greeted the revelations about Campbell, if I were a gay AFL player, I might think twice about “outing” myself. Although Aker was caned for his suggestion that perhaps it would be better to remain in the closet, the Campbell episode shows the media, at least, still react with to the outing of public figures with scandal (except perhaps for Ricky Martin, where everyone knew already! [ADMIN DEM: um, I think you wanted this one, the jury is still out on Gordon]). There is no suggestion that Campbell’s sexual proclivities affected the performance of his duties. Campbell was criticized for his response to the F3 gridlock on the freeway north of Sydney, but it transpired that phone records established that he was in the office and then at home after the F3 accident occurred. One of the best responses to the Campbell scandal is at Neil’s Second Decade. Please read it, it’s eminently sensible.

There’s no doubt that it is very difficult for public figures to come out as gay. Former Australian Olympic swimmer Daniel Kowalski recently publicly came out in national media, and three cheers for him. I thought it was fantastic. I have had a number of friends who found it difficult to terms with the fact that they were gay or lesbian when they were younger, and I know it was helpful to see public figures who were open and unapologetic about their sexuality. I hope that young gay men who see Kowalski’s example will be heartened by it.

Still, I don’t think we should force people to come out or that the media should pay people to come out. I think it’s really a choice for the individual involved. In the context of Elena Kagan’s nomination for the US Supreme Court, some gay and lesbian commentators have called upon Kagan to publicly “out” herself if she is lesbian. I don’t think her sexuality should be relevant to her qualification for the job, as long as she can do it competently. Of course, gay and lesbian judges can and should come out of the closet if they want to do so, but they certainly shouldn’t be forced to do so.

I tend to think that people’s private sexual proclivities should remain private unless (a) they want to make them public or (b) they are hypocrites (eg, a male politician runs on a platform of anti-gay “family” values but hires out rent boys on the sly). Gay and lesbian people should never be ashamed of their sexuality, but if they don’t want to make their sexuality public, that’s up to them. On the other hand, if they do choose to make their sexuality public, good on them. I’ve known enough people who struggled with their sexuality to know how difficult it can be. I’d certainly applaud any young AFL player who was brave enough to come out. It would take a hell of a lot of guts.

The other thing we should be aware of is that human sexual behaviour is varied, and people come to their own accommodations. It may be that Campbell and his wife had an understanding about his preferences, and that they stayed with one another because they had real affection for one another, notwithstanding his “moonlighting”. I don’t know. But surely that’s their business, not ours, and as long as he’s competent at his job, that shouldn’t matter.

Update: Jim Belshaw has a good post on the erosion of privacy in Australian politics.

Neil has a post where he agrees with Miranda Devine and notes that “Truly the Campbell affair in NSW has created some strange bedfellows!”

Crikey has a post which outlines the icky politics behind the Campbell story.

Update 2: Catallaxy and Jarrah Job.

40 Comments

  1. Posted May 22, 2010 at 3:15 am | Permalink

    Well, Jason Akermanis’s comments have sparked quite a debate.

    It has also been great publicity for IDAHO (the International Day Against Homophobia).

    For example, the CEO of the Western Bulldogs will be on Saturday Magazine on Joy FM about 11.20am Saturday EST (one can listen online).

  2. conrad
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s about being gay — if Campbell had come out of a swingers club in a government car, I think he would have got a very similar treatment.

  3. Peter Patton
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    LE

    I think the Ricky Martin episode dovetails nicely into the mixed-messages of both the Akermanis and Campbell to-do.

    1. Ricky Martin is adored and pretty; David Campbell is not.

    As I posted at Cat, if Kevin Rudd had been caught coming out of “Scores,” while he was in opposition, he probably would’ve been given a pass. Not because Scores was a hetero joint, but because most people would have said “phew, the poor little thing could do with some excitement in his life.”

    2. Ricky Martin waited until after he made a motza from staying in the closet, before sneaking our of the closet. A strategy Akermanis is suggesting might be wise for AFL players to follow. To this extent, I can agree with Akermanis.

  4. Peter Patton
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    The tragedy here is that while being gay is like, so not, like gay among teenagers, and people in the early 20s, they are not the social norm yet.

    So even though these gay AFL players might have grown up in a much more whateverrr generation,” the fans, the clubs, the rest of society, and the corporate milieu might not be there yet.

    And poor old David Campbell was too late for that kind of whateverrr, and so his being “caught” has an – irrational – whiff of him being sneaky, or dishonest about it; provoking older generations to whisper, “what else is untrustworthy about him?”

    If the poor bugger had been born a generation later, he might be able to roller skate around parliament in a tu-tu singing It’s Raining Men. Except maybe not in the NSW parliament’s ‘bear pit.’ 😉

  5. Posted May 22, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Jesus that’s some bad media behaviour there. And people wonder why lawyers want to hang journalists from the nearest tree every time there’s a mistrial!

  6. conrad
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    “It’s interesting, but I don’t think women have the same anxiety. Certainly, I’ve never felt uncomfortable kissing or hugging my lesbian friends”

    I think there are two things going on. One is cultural — when I first started going to France, I always found it a bit off putting when a big hairy guy kissed me hello, but you get used to it very quickly (except the stubble!). The second is a scientific thing. If you look it up, what you’ll find is that women tend to have less defined gender identities than men, so, on average, women are probably going to be less bothered by things thought of in some cultures to have some sexuality related traits attached to them.

  7. Peter Patton
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Indeed conrad. I believe the difference in those gender identities is, on average, six inches; at least that is the difference that would be exhibited in a male locker room, compared to a female one. 😉

  8. conrad
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    It’s good to see you getting quantitative data to test your claims JG/PP.

  9. Patrick
    Posted May 24, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    You’d be fun around the office LE. Pretty sure that sports sledging stretches to anything that might get a rise – remember that France’s hopes at the 2006 football World Cup fell apart (in the final!) when possibly the greatest player of a generation, Zinedine Zidane, reacted to a sledge referring to his sister’s sexual activities.

    So I’d take just about any sledge I could imagine in my stride.

    But the office, yea that’s different. Homophobia is still pretty prevalent ‘discourse’, even though almost no-one I can think of would actually have any issue with someone being gay. To my knowledge, though, we have one lesbian and no male gays, which is so clearly an under-representation that the closet must be pretty damn full!

  10. Posted May 24, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    This has a lot to do with it being footy.

    In that particular subculture (which doesn’t fit the heterosexual norm either) homosexuality would not be tolerated because, so it seems to me, there’s a predominant tendency to throwback to antiquity when sex was seen primarily as a game of domination. All those beefcakes are scared to death. 🙂

    I think the high level of fundamentalist Christianity in the US armed services probably had more to do with the opposition to openly G&L soldiers in the early Clinton years then any inherent instability caused by such serving.

    (That said: Clinton went about it eh wrong way)

    For that reason I’d encourage gay footballers to come out. It also tends to dilute confining stereotypes for gay guys who are not all disco-loving decorators. I agree tho’ it should never be compulsory.

    BTW I believe the heterosexual norm is having kids who then strategically prevent you from bonking ever again. 🙂

  11. Posted May 24, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes I find myself agreeing with Bolt too. Frustrating isn’t it?

  12. Posted May 24, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    I was wondering whether some guys find gay guys problematic because guys don’t usually have to put up with unwanted advances from women. So they don’t really know how to respond. By contrast most women have had to put up with unwanted advances, and have worked out how to respond.

    Yes.

    Thing is it’s also often a reaction based in assumptions based on one’s own odious behaviour as well. Jocks, to deploy another stereotype, are not famous for being empathatic, considerate lovers. They may fear the business end of their own medicine.

    But to be fair the attentions of a man seeking amour can be quite disconcerting. It’s like being hunted. Women have to put up with it hence ‘desensitized’ I guess.

    Friend of mine, an actor, copped it sweet when he moved to Surry Hills, Sydney to attend NIDA: “The fags are unbelievable!”

    He wasn’t a homophobe. But he was very good looking. And that part of Sydney is notorious.

  13. Patrick
    Posted May 24, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    When I was working as a waiter I had a few homosexual advances actually. I really wondered what messages I was sending out – and why I didn’t get nearly so many from girls!! Poor me, really. But I found it very embarrassing to decline them and tried very hard to make it as sensitive as possible.

    Btw, LE, I actually meant that you would be fun, sincerely. I like people who express their opinions!

  14. Patrick
    Posted May 25, 2010 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    K-Rudd has turned me off Australian slang…

  15. Posted May 25, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    “K-Rudd has turned me off Australian slang…”

    You need to be more fair dinkum Patrick.

  16. Peter Patton
    Posted May 25, 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    LE

    The ‘unwanted advances’ thing is completely different with straight men compared to women. To women, the advances are ‘unwanted’ for any number of reasons – she is ‘unavailable’; the guy is unattractive; she feels physically threatened, or intimidated.

    With many straight men, the advances are unwanted because of the mistaken assumption that gay men – or women – are only attracted to other gay men. Therefore, the straight guy being hit on thinks he must appear to be gay, and therefore fair game. This misunderstanding accounts for a lot of the homophobia; the best way to remove the assumption he is gay is to remove the accuser either by knocking the faggot out cold, chanting aggressive homophobic discourse to throw off the scent, or bolt.

    The reality is quite the opposite, and should be obvious. Gay men are attracted to MEN, whether straight, gay, bi, or green with red stripes. Just the same as straight men are attracted to women regardless of whether they are straight or not. Jesus, the best selling straight porn involves lesbiotic jiggy-jiggy.

  17. Posted May 25, 2010 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    When I was working as a waiter I had a few homosexual advances actually. I really wondered what messages I was sending out – and why I didn’t get nearly so many from girls!!

    Women generally don’t make advances. They enjoy watching us make fools of ourselves too much.

    Lots of people think I’m gay; I’ve had quite a few guys try and talk me out of the closet. I tend to take it as a complement.

  18. Posted May 25, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    KRudd is vile.

    Yes don’t we all have a great choice this election. I really can’t stomach the Rudd govt after I read the banned website list. These people are Stalinists.

    And on the other side we’ve got Tony Abbott!

    I’m very happy to have dual citizenship at this point.

  19. Patrick
    Posted May 25, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    OTOH, there are the lucky souls such as myself who don’t mind Abbott at all 🙂

  20. Posted May 25, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    LE: @18

    I was wondering whether some guys find gay guys problematic because guys don’t usually have to put up with unwanted advances from women. So they don’t really know how to respond. By contrast most women have had to put up with unwanted advances, and have worked out how to respond.

    Bingo!

    But that is such a nice way to put it. I have been known to make the comment that macho men who object to the queers entering their domain (armed forces, sport, etc) are worried they will be treated like they treat women.

    PP @27
    Something to what you say. There is a related difficulty with some folk who cannot get their head around diversity: that saying homosexuality is OK is somehow implying everyone should/will be heterosexual.

  21. jc
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    Yep, Channel 7 was pretty grubby, but the outrage at what they’ve done is really over the top. The dude is a politician and therefore his private life, within the bounds of the law, is fair game as far as I’m concerned as it goes with the job.

    If a pol doesn’t want bad press then don’t do stuff that could get you in the media as a result of questionable behavior.

  22. Peter Patton
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    This is a genuine question, the answer to which I would have no idea. But how prevalent are these ‘unwanted advances’ to women? Surely, many advances are indeed ‘wanted,’ else the human race would die out. And how often are these unwanted advances an innocent misreading of signals – or a guy just over-reaching – which cease instantly, when a clearer signal is give? Versus just creepy and threatening, and ruining your night out, or just plain sexual harassment (at work, or anywhere)? Surely, these two types of unwanted advances are different, no?

  23. Peter Patton
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Thanks for that response covering all bases. I suppose the takeaway linking back to straight men being on the receiving end of unwanted advances by gay men, is that straight men should understand the importance of tact and humility next time he is on the pull for women.

  24. Jason Soon
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Brilliant work from Steve Sailer. Greenfield – true or not?

    http://www.isteve.com/lesvsgay.htm

  25. Posted May 26, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Actually sometimes women want you to do something transgressive, show your cavlier boots, but only if they find you attractive. As far as I can tell there are five kinds of advances:

    1. The I want you hurry up.
    2. The maybe I want you
    3. The I’m bored and/or low feed my ego but I’m not really interested.
    4. The please no.
    5. Yuk.

  26. Patrick
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Do you mean five kinds of reactions to advances?

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  3. By Hetero sex scandal? on July 6, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    […] the David Campbell story broke,  LE  pointed out the mixed messages being sent out on this topic.  At the same time some members of the media where busy berating […]

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