"Suppose Mark Foley had been caught having sex with a dog. And it was a male dog, so he announced, 'Yes, I'm gay.' Would people go, 'Oh, well that figures?' No! They'd go 'What the hell does that have to do with it? You were fucking a dog!' And that's really what should be happening here."
That is paraphrased, but it came from a conversation I had with a psychologist friend of mine last week. We were discussing, yes, Rep. Foley, because it's what the whole country is discussing (certainly what they were discussing last week, anyway), and we happen to live in Washington D.C.
"So there seems to be an awful lot of 'Well, what do you expect? He's gay.' Coming from the real wackjobs," I said. "Which seems ridiculous, unless every gay person I know is secretly a child molester, and that's just bullshit. Something like 95 percent of child molesters are men who molest girls, right?"
"More like 90, but it's even more bullshit than you think," said the Doc. "Not only is there no connection between being gay and being a pedophile, but actually there's no such thing as a gay pedophile. There's no such thing as a straight pedophile either. You're either gay or you're a pedophile. You're not both."
"Huh? I don't understand."
"It's like this," the Doc said. "See, heterosexuality and homosexuality are what we call 'mature sexualities.' This stuff doesn't really become latent until puberty, but when it does it's assumed that people are looking for partners with the same physical maturity level. So mature sexuality means not just that the people are physically mature, but that they're seeking partners who are physically mature. Okay?"
"Okay," I said.
"And so whether you're heterosexual or homosexual, you're looking for someone on your level. You're attracted to sexual maturity, whether it's strictly your age or not."
"Aha," I said. "But is Foley a pervert, then? Sixteen is post-puberty, most of the time."
"Eh, there's some gray area there," he said. "Legally, obviously; ethically, too; psychologically, definitely. Sixteen is post-puberty but still developing.
"But anyway," Doc continued, "let's just talk about general here, not necessarily specifically Mark Foley. So the thing about it is, if you're — not really you, obviously — if you're a pedophile, you're not talking about a mature sexuality. So really, it can't be characterized as gay or straight. It's neither. There's tons of really solid research on this: the primary sexual orientation is 'pedophile.'"
"So there's no way that you can be both?" I said. "But wait a minute. What do you call it, then, when some pedophiles go after boys and some go after girls?"
"A discriminating pedophile," he said.
"Like, I'm discriminating because I'm attracted to brunettes more than blondes?"
"Well, it's a little more chemical than that," said Doc, "but it's actually somewhat along those lines."
"I mean, think about it this way," he added. "Suppose Mark Foley had been caught having sex with a dog. And it was a male dog, so he announced, 'Yes, I'm gay.' Would people go, 'Oh, well that figures?' No! They'd go 'What the hell does that have to do with it? You were fucking a dog!' And that's really what should be happening here."
"Ohh… ," I said. "So it really is just something completely separate from gay or straight."
"It's really not that hard to get your head around, is it?" Doc replied. "Gay and straight are grown-ups who go for other grown-ups. Consenting adults who understand what they're doing. That's normal. Pedophilia? Not.
"So it really gets me that if Foley does something with seriously perverse ramifications, so many people in America will hear it and think he's just 'that crazy queer.' I'm not going to say he's a pedophile or an ephebophile or whatever, because I haven't examined him, but if he is then he's not gay. Let's stop relating them at all."