Isn’t it funny how much we love sex? Especially scandalous sex in high places. Ooh baby! What a page-turner. We can’t get enough! We the American People have allowed our leaders to waterboard the Constitution, toss out our right to habeas corpus, punch the lights out of the Geneva Conventions, loot the country’s coffers for their cronies, trash our environment, and savagely rape the country of Iraq where over 650,000 people have been killed since the American invasion. All this marches on as We the American People yawn, scratch our butts and see what’s in the fridge.
But wait. Was somebody talking about sex? Illicit sex in our nation’s capitol? Suddenly, we Sleeping Beauties are aroused from our stupor with the sweet kiss of our Prince Charming. Eeeek, no! That’s not Prince Charming! It’s Congressman Mark Foley! Suddenly, we are even more awake, appalled, outraged, alert to all the evil Foley-Poleys in and around Congress and behind the bedpost. We’re not going to let that disgusting hoary-haired PREDATOR cyber-diddle our page boys–oh no! Well, actually, we can’t stop what already happened, BUT if he’s going to do that cyber-diddling or whatever he was doing, we’re going to watch, we’re going to analyze every asterisk in those “naughty emails” as if they’re the Dead Sea Scrolls (though who cares about Bush calling his Iraq disaster a “comma”?), we’re going to shake our indignant forefingers, we’re going to tar ‘n’ feather everyone who may have known or (better yet) seen something vaguely smarmy, we’re going to talk-talk-talk about whether this is a “gay problem” or a “pedophile problem” or a “cover-up” or a political disaster, we’re going to measure every inch of erect manhood, political fallout and damage to “the children,” and pronounce stern sanctimonious judgments whilst holding our hands out and our mouths open for more sex, more scandal, more more!
It is now apparent that We the American People don’t giving a flying foshizzle if we lose all our cherished liberties. Habeas Corpus? You have the body? Who cares, unless it’s a hot body with “great legs.” We don’t want to be bothered with the fact that habeas corpus is the American citizenry’s most important protection against lawless government action. We just need to know more about that other body, that page boy’s “cute butt bouncing in the air.” Was that with boxers or without? Did Foley only IM about that butt, or did he ever actually see it? Did he squeeze it, spank it, lick it, more? OMG! We need to know!
We can’t help ourselves, can we? We love sex! Politics and human rights and stuff are really boring, and war, especially neo-imperialist loser wars like the ones we’re fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and (by Israeli proxy) in Gaza and Lebanon are pretty depressing. Then there are those nukes in North Korea: major bummer. As opposed to all this boring, depressing, major bummer stuff, sex is fun! Scandal is exciting. Like the soaps on TV or the porn on the Internet, only even better, because it’s real.
“Do I make you a little horny?” said the politician to the page. “A little,” coyly replied the page. “A LOT!” replies America. Though Foley the career politician is mortified, Foley the exhibitionist/voyeur must be delighted by our interest. If he can survive this (wonder if he and Mel Gibson are in the same rehab?), he could be a best-selling author, pundit, MTV VJ or whatever. That is, if his own online anti-predation law doesn’t put him in prison.
But back to being horny, a state that is natural, exciting and desirable. If you’re never horny, if you never desire sex, well, there’s probably something wrong with you. So, there it is: We the People are horny. We desire sex. And the authorities–that is, the government, the media, the corporate world, religion, God Himself, etc.–say that’s okaybut (and this is a big BUTT bouncing in the air) only between a fully adult husband and wife, only for purposes of breeding fodder for future American armies, and then only in the missionary position under the covers with the lights out. Democrats tolerate the woman-on-top position., plus a few deferential gays. Republicans won’t even do that. The Internet is teeming with porn, yet fundamentalist religions in all the major monotheistic brands, now sweeping the nation and the world, are pushing back hard against anything resembling sexual progress in people’s daily lives.
We’re not really allowed to talk about sex in a good way. Even though, for the most part, sex is a good thing. It’s also a very compelling thing. Therefore, we feel compelled to talk about it in a bad way. Sex is like a child who can’t get positive attention from his parents, then misbehaves, because negative attention is better than no attention. Thus the best kind of sex is sex scandal. Dirty sex. Forbidden sex. Bad sex.
No wonder We the People are lapping up the spent milk of human Foley like a thirsty kitty.
Speaking of animals, sex scandals like this are always educational. For instance, now we know there are two kinds of chickenhawks. There are the Chickenhawks in the White House (Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Condi, for starters) who never fought in wars as soldiers, but love to wage wars that other people have to fight (thus the need for sex as procreation of cannon fodder). Then there’s the Foley Chickenhawk, that is, the older man who pursues or fantasizes about sex with much younger men. We the American People have blithely permitted the White House chickenhawks to wreak havoc in our own hen house and abroad. But when it comes to the sexual chickenhawk, we’re determined to wring his neck, and maybe some other body parts too.
Like any sex scandal, Foleygate has its complications. First, there is the question of how to refer to the pages. They were around 16 or 17 when the telltale Instant Messaging took place. So, are they children or young men? Innocent AP English scholars or savvy lacrosse-playing Casanovas? Being 16, they belong to that mid-20th century American invention: the teenage generation. Teenage is tease-age. Hormones are busting out all over while everything sexual is taboo. Into the Garden of Teenage steps the Dirty Old Man. In this case, a closeted gay Republican Congressman who represents the wealthiest district of the President’s brother’s state (Palm Beach, Florida) and chairs the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus of the House of Representatives. A gray-haired babyfaced bachelor. Is he a monster or a fool? Either way, Foley masks should be big this Halloween season.
Foley deserves the humiliation. He’s a sexual harasser and a reckless hypocrite. But he is not (as far as we know now) a pedophile. His IMs show him to be what is clinically known as an “ephebophile,” meaning he is attracted to postpubescent adolescents. Many pundits on the right and left are calling him a “child molester,” when there is a) no evidence that he actually touched any of these pages, let alone molested them, and b) none of the “victims” seem to have been under 16.
Is a 16-year-old a child? This is not a simple question. After all, different human beings mature at very different rates. We all know some 16-year-olds who are quite mature, physically and emotionally, and can handle sex and all that it entails with as much responsible awareness as an adult. We all know some 35-year-olds who are still too immature to handle sex, or much of anything responsibly. It is impossible to come up with a *perfect number* for the legal age of consent that works well for everyone.
If you just look at the situation from the legal standpoint, the age of consent in Washington, D.C. is 16. In Florida, it’s 18, so Foley’s emails from Pensacola could be interpreted as breaking the law. Unlike that other sex “offender,” former President Bill Clinton, who was pursued aggressively by the deeply infatuated Ms. Lewinsky, the IMs make Foley look like the pursuer, and, whether legal or not, a rather obnoxious and pushy one. Though the pages aren’t actually forced (they can always sign off), they do seem pressured to play along with the old fart’s dribblings. Indeed, it looks like a classic case of sexual harassment, with a superior force-flirting with people who work in positions below him. With this in mind, the pages could serve him–and Hastert and the rest of Congress (their bosses) with a whopping good lawsuit. Then the pages could become pop stars (and we can’t wait to see pics of their butts!), and the awful old anti-sex anti-gay Repugs would have to pay for their therapy. That would be fitting.
Not that We the American people would be satisfied with mere sexual harassment lawsuits–unless it produces more juicy transcripts. Isn’t it great to live in the IM age, where we don’t have to wait for a Special Prosecutor to release the porn?
I admit it, I enjoy this kind of porn. So much so that I am now going to insert a completely gratuitous IM excerpt (Maf54 is Mark Foley, of course, and Xxxxxxx is the 16-year-old page):
Maf54 (8:08:31 PM): get a ruler and measure it for me
Xxxxxxxxx (8:08:38 PM): ive already told you that
Maf54 (8:08:47 PM): tell me again
Xxxxxxxxx (8:08:49 PM): 7 and 1/2
Maf54 (8:09:04 PM): ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Maf54 (8:09:08 PM): beautiful
Xxxxxxxxx (8:09:38 PM): lol
Maf54 (8:09:44 PM): thats a great size
Xxxxxxxxx (8:10:00 PM): thank you
Maf54 (8:10:22 PM): still stiff
Xxxxxxxxx (8:10:28 PM): ya
Maf54 (8:10:40 PM): take it out
Xxxxxxxxx (8:10:54 PM): brb…my mom is yelling
Maf54 (8:11:06 PM): ok
Xxxxxxxxx (8:14:02 PM): back
Maf54 (8:14:37 PM): cool hope se didnt see any thing
Fun stuff, huh? What it lacks in sensuality, it makes up for in hilarity. The entry of “mom” at Foley’s moment of peak lust (“take it out”) is exquisite commedia dell’arte-style timing with Foley-Poley as the rich old Pantalone being played the fool by the clever young servant. Ah, the irony of Maf54’s relief that mom “didnt see anything,” now that Moms and Dads all over the country are seeing everything!
Liberals are protesting, “This has nothing to do with being gay!” Repugs are, in turn, blaming the whole mess on “being gay.” As a sex therapist, I subscribe to the Alfred Kinsey scale of sexual orientation, which goes from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual), with most of us, being at least somewhat bisexual, falling somewhere between 1 and 5. That said, based on the gossip, it seems that Foley was close to a perfect self-loathing 6, a representative of a party that doesn’t want to give gays basic rights, yet he couldn’t even bring himself to get married for cover. He was the Liberace of Congress, always waiting for the right gal while not fooling anyone who really knew him. At the Republican National convention in 2000, Foley hosted a late-night bash at a Philly gay bar where an acquaintance snapped a photo of an attractive young intern sitting on his lap. Later, when the acquaintance offered to send him the photo, Foley nervously asked if the intern on his lap was “male or female?” When it turned out to be a young lady, Foley sighed with relief, “Thank God. Send me that photo, I might need it someday.” Too late, Prince Charming.
“This is the problem with the closet: it’s a terrible place to be, and it’s got to be worse if you’re a Republican,” observed Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass, who should know.
There seems to have been a part of the angel-faced Congressman that wanted to get caught. After all, an experienced chickenhawk like that knows he’s playing with fire. That’s part of the turn-on. The more danger of exposure, the greater the arousal. Many men who deny-deny-deny their strong urges for sex with other men fantasize that they are caught in the act of doing something not just homosexual, but really deeply taboo, even morally wrong. Perhaps the point that the page IMed “my mom is yelling” was the moment of Foley’s climax. The fantasy of being outed in flagrante delecto can be orgasmic.
Another Foley climax, The Votegasm, when the Congressman is supposed to be voting, but he and his beloved page can’t seem to stop missing and kissing each other, is discussed more fully in Alexander Cockburn’s “Orgasms and Wargasms.” The Votegasm dangerously mixes Foley’s ultra-public political sphere with his super-secret taboo sexual world. The vote happened to be for HR 1559, Emergency Wartime supplemental appropriations, making Foley a double chickenhawk. Can’t you just imagine the little perv going into that vote, feeling 10 feet tall and “7 and 1/2” long, pumped up on his foolish fantasy of forbidden love? The more you think about it, the more pathetic Foley becomes. Those pages – gay, straight, bi or high – must have been barfing in the baskets under their computers as they IMed. Then again, maybe they were turned ona little (more often than we’d care to admit, we’re disgusted by what turns us on). Maybe one will come see me for therapy one day. The possibilities are endless
But the political cycle is not. Not accounting for Diebold voting, it’s hard to say how the Foley Follies will play out politically. We the People are riveted and revolted, and that could inspire some level of revolution in the voting booth. Or maybe not. There could be a backlash; there’s nothing more revolting than a Democrat acting Puritanical. It would be very nice if the uproar over the sexual chickenhawk would somehow put all the warmongering chickenhawks in Congress and the White House on the political chopping block. But I’m wary of making too much hay with Foley, except to just say, there they go, the hypocrites are at it again, and isn’t it funny how much we all love sex.
Dr. SUSAN BLOCK is a sex educator, cable TV host and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure. Commit Bloggamy with her at http://www.drsusanblock.com/blog/
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© Oct. 11, 2006,