Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sex & Sexuality

In the midst of a red-hot & historic Democratic Presidential primary campaign there are very few things that could knock Candidates Clinton & Obama out of the top-story position on local and national news programs. Few things, that is, except sex & sexuality.

With New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigning this week because he allegedly purchased sex from women through a high-priced prostitution ring, New York’s tabloid newspapers had a field day and titillation topped every hour on TV. Cable and broadcast news stations jumped at the chance to delve into this deliciously devilish development, pulling out lawyers, sex doctors and even the ex-wives of former politicians from their closet of props.

Probably the most egregious example of over-reaching in an effort to show some empathy for Eliot Spitzer’s shocked and sorrowful spouse Silda, was a decision by CNN and NBC—as well as other news organizations—to make Deena McGreevey, the ex-wife of former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, the poster child for spurned spouses.

Comparing the still-unfolding Spitzer situation to the McGreevey resignation is a complete failure on the part of each news organization to separate the most important facts of each case, in the stampede to their studios to find a sympathetic ex-spouse. In the Spitzer case, New York’s governor is alleged to have—over a period of 10 years at a cost of some $80,000—purchased sex from women through a prostitution ring, with some of the transactions occurring as interstate commerce. Additionally, his secretive method of payments have raised prosecutorial and banking questions alike, and he may have used state resources to travel to and from his liaisons.

McGreevey’s case was not about sex for hire through an illegal prostitution ring, but about a same-sex orientation which he could no longer hide. Granted, McGreevey—like Spitzer—may have used state vehicles or expenses to help facilitate his dates, and he found a job for his alleged lover on the New Jersey State payroll. While McGreevey’s judgement may have been bad, he did not act illegally. By lazily lumping his case in with Spitzer’s, news organizations—wittingly or not—equated his actions with Spitzer’s, and by association, put homosexuality on the same page as prostitution, which not-so-subtly stamps same-sex love as something illicit.

That kind of stigmatizing of same-sex relationships and of gays—in the same breath with prostitutes—has life and death consequences, as this year’s 10th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder shows us all too clearly. As if to underscore the danger, just this week an Oklahoma State Representative told a political group that “the gay community posed a bigger threat than either terrorism or Islam.”

I am not a fan of Jim McGreevey’s. I think his marriage to his second wife, Deena—after he already knew he was gay-- was a cruel hoax upon her, calculated to protect his political career at her expense, and at the expense of the truth of who he was. Gay Americans have a much richer list of heroes, including Harvey Milk, David Mixner, Ellen DeGeneres, Melissa Etheridge, Terrance McNally, Elton John and Cole Porter, among thousands of others in towns and communities around the world.

Gay celebrities and artists like Tony Kushner, B.D. Wong, Nathan Lane, Isaac Mizrachi, & Carson Kressley have courageously and generously donated their time and talent to Cable Positive to do messages of HIV/AIDS education and awareness seen in more than 80 million households. And, fearless Cable industry leaders like Logo’s President Brian Graden, being honored by GLAAD next week, and Here tv! Regent Entertainment President/CEO Paul Colichman, make enormous contributions to the lives of members of the GLBT community each hour of every day through the pioneering programming their networks provide.

In fighting stigma and prejudice aimed squarely at the gay community, news organizations, networks and cable systems have a lot more work to do, much more carefully and consistently than its been done.

3 comments:

suzanneafricaengo said...

HERE HERE I was just thinking about all this and eh voila a blog from fabulous steve villano... i think you are right there is a difference betweent he two... but my question is besides the money stealing part does this make them bad for the state? certainly this isnt a good plug for marriage...any ramble ramble... GREAT BLOG!!!

lpc said...

Can't agree with you more. The press seem to be the second worse political force (next to W's team) operating these days. Sex sells and spurned spouses are second best. Apples and oraganges but both, just like reality tv, trade of humiliation and car wreck voyarism. If this were France they'd give Spitzer a raise.
lpc

Joe Schramm said...

Steve:

I am ALMOST on the same page as you…..I agree with your end point…about confusing homosexuality with prostitution…..
BUT…… I DO think that Jim McGreevy’s actions were far more harmful that Elliot Spitzer’s…..here’s why.

The NJ governor placed a totally in-experienced and incapable individual in a position of leadership within the state’s division of Homeland Security. This action by the governor affected the life-death scenarios for millions of people in his state as well as the entire tri-state region.

Spitzer’s actions are a felony.

Our lives - - gay and straight - - were put much more at risk by McGreevy than by any dalliance Spitzer may have had.

While I am very disappointed by NY’s governor, I have to say I was outraged by NJ’s governor.

If, at that time, there had been a terrorist attack that could have been prevented…..and if people were killed….in my mind then, McGreevy would have been responsible for their murders.

I do not believe that Mr Spitzer’s actions deserve to be equated to the reckless endangerment of millions of people.

Thanks for hearing my two cents on this….

Joe Schramm