Back in 2002, a young man named Stuart Denton was arrested for cruising for sex at a Rhode Island adult bookstore. The papers published his name and picture. He was understandably humiliated and embarrassed. I don’t condone what he was doing as I wish for all of us to treat ourselves better, but I do understand that living in a homophobic world some are driven to live in the shadows. The news reports called these men “disgusting” and a “public health hazard”. People saw these men for the labels they were given and not their humanity. We saw their actions, but not their human side. Sadly, Stuart Denton hanged himself four days after his arrest. Later investigation showed no crimes had been committed by any of the men as they were in private booths.
Now, flash to 2008 and officials in Huntsville, Alabama have arrest two dozen men for cruising for sex in a scenic overlook area. Again, as with the men in Rhode Island, their names and picture are being posted on the internet and they are being kicked with a heavy foot from their closets. They are being painted as monsters by the media and most people will stop at the label never seeing the fathers, brothers and friends these people are. When we label people, we only see the label we give them not the human behind the label. The youngest being 25 years old but the oldest being almost 90, these men are clearly from a time and place where being gay is highly frowned upon.
Sadly, we live in a society that is not interested in restoring the community after a member of our community does something unlawful. We demand they are punished, but punishment does not restore, heal or rehabilitate the community or the offender. Nothing good comes from it except good ratings for the newspapers. I would have hope these men would have been treated with some dignity regardless what undignified things they were doing. Sadly, I can’t hope for such compassion to exist because the media and the far right wing would never let it be so. These men’s names should have never been printed and they should have been sent for treatment.
I believe with all my heart that it is the Peter LaBarbera’s, the AFA’s, the Stephen Bennett’s and the Stacy Harp’s of the world that maintain the culture of the closet in which these men live and suffer. It is this culture that drives men to live these secret lives in the woods, parks, rest stops or adult book stores rather than coming out of the closet and meeting a nice man and settling down. Perhaps running off to one of the two coastal getaways that allow gay marriage.
I hope time changes this to where men with same sex attractions are not living in fear, in the shadows having unfullfilling sex in the brush when they could be having meaningful and loving relationships out in the open. Perhaps, if Mr. LaBarbera rethought his work, he might see he perpetuates the same problems he hopes to solve.
As an afterthought, here in New Haven, CT dozens of men were arrested in a prostitution sex sting. Again, the pictures of these men are being posted for the sake of public humiliation. (A tactic I would call outdated and cruel) I agree with the article that calls prostitution a “very violent crime.” To sell yourself off for sex is to not love yourself. On the other hand, I know that to pay for sex means one may not have the proper self respect, self-esteem and needs some help. Rather than help rehabilitate these men, we are just humiliating them like dogs. I am sickened by how we treat people who do unlawful things when that treatment lacks humanity!
I long for the day we move toward “Restorative Justice” rather than “punitive justice” which just isn’t working.
Hat Tip to Queerty!
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