Toronto
6 min

Protecting the children

A community debate on public sex

UP FOR GRABS? Think of all the places you can have sex. Credit: Jim Bartley

Some consider public sex an essential gay way of life. Others are appalled at the thought.



In August, a debate on public and outdoor sex appeared on the computerized discussion list created by the group Equality For Gays And Lesbians Everywhere. They show the vast range of ideas within the community.



The discussion began because of an opinion piece in the Oshawa/Durham Central newspaper, which connected a man arrested for sexually assaulting a child in a washroom with homosexual behaviour generally.



Here are some edited excerpts.



“As a member of the gay community and of the larger society, I am appalled that this type of activity takes place in public. What two consenting adults do in private is one matter, but when it becomes a public issue, there is a problem. Regardless of sexual orientation, sex in public places is something that I am opposed to. It’s one thing to support loving, responsible relationships between people, but this just goes too far. ”



“The point is a child was sexually assaulted. More children are sexually assaulted by straight men than homosexual men. Unfortunately, this article does not discuss that issue. It discuss homosexuality.”



“I for one am tired of getting e-mails in which you try to save face and crucify innocents. The child was molested and the newspaper was correct in the police warning The Bay to warn parents about the dangers of letting their kids go into the bathroom alone.”



“I’m not dismissing the child that was molested. I am disputing the fact that this is a common occurrence. It seems that most of the sexual acts taking place have been consensual acts between men, and have not involved children.”



“Where do we draw the line? The simple answer is the presence of consent among equals. Couples also are known to enjoy the thrill of having sex in very public locations. Are we judging this? I guess for me the criteria would be safety and health, not any moral judgment. Part of being queer is we allow any and all forms of passion to co-exist with each other. Control is our enemy. Let’s leave it to the fundamentalists and not practice it on each other.”



“In the spirit of diversity, it would be nice to agree with laissez faire approaches to public sex. In other words, if you don’t like it, don’t do it, but don’t tell others what to like. I do believe that debate is warranted when people (gay, straight and emerging identities) are having public sex in environments frequented by children, regardless of whether or not they’re hidden by greenery, washroom doors, etc. I’m personally uncomfortable with the idea of people having sex in areas where children can run into situations where they’re exposed to adult appetites for sexual risk-taking and exposure. It seems to me that communities have a duty to protect children from exactly these things.”



“I can’t see any time in the future where sex in public parks and alleyways is going to be tolerated here or in any modern society.”



“What has this to do with public sex? Perhaps it’s just one more tiny act of defiance. Perhaps it’s just one more chip into the rotten foundations of this hateful patriarchal culture. Perhaps it’s just saying “No” to a neurotic, shame-based, body-phobic society. This is, in part, the very fuel of our queer culture. To be queer and support the system that separates sexuality into acceptable and unacceptable categories is to only have one foot out of the closet. We need to tear down the old house the closet was in and build a new one with designer accessories. Whenever you find yourself in complete agreement with a homophobe, give your head a shake.”



“Christianity is the root of our oppression. More accurately the Judeo-Christian tradition. Deeply embedded in this tradition are some pretty strange notions. In the early Christian church there developed mystics who looked upon their bodies as evil and went in for what we would now called solo SM in a big way.”



“Let’s not bring the ‘P’ word (as in paedophile) into this discussion. It’s a very old ploy to get people (gay or straight) to react.”



“It is wonderful to operate from love that flows through me from God. I think it is a lamp to anyone who may otherwise walk in the darkness, stumbling into less tested and potentially dangerous thinking. I am glad some things are against the law, and don’t mind the criticism.”



“I wonder if you have expressed a sentiment or prejudice felt by many members of the queer community that sex in the bushes is regressive, closeted and offensive? This is not where I choose to find my sexual expression, but there are many at the beach that I go to who seem to like it a lot. I am sure many of them just simply like sex in the great outdoors. When this kind of activity happens in a place where there is a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy,’ then the issue becomes more of a moral one.”



“So many resources in the queer community are wasted on pursuing the issues of park sex or public sex. Put the resources of the queer community (like the Ottawa-Carleton GLBT Police Liaison Committee) to better use than debating on how to deal with the issue. Publications like Capital Xtra and Xtra waste so much good story space on the issue because it is sensational. Wonder why people think gays are promiscuous? It’s because of the people that live up to the stereotype.”



“People legally engage in all kinds of behaviour in public which are considered by many as offensive or at least unsightly. What’s so special about sex? More fundamentally, why do people even consider it as an offensive sight? What makes sex different from, say, driving a car or drinking alcoholic beverages? All these activities require a certain degree of maturity in order to ensure that the participants act safely and responsibly.”



“Some have questioned whether this is a gay issue. I think it is. Consider the following comments from an appeal court judge acquitting a (heterosexual) man found engaging in oral sex with a woman in a parked car: ‘Surely young couples conducting their courtship in automobiles in dark secluded (although public) places are not committing criminal offences simply because curious onlookers seek to approach and look into such vehicles to satisfy their curiosity.’ I doubt that all judges would take a similarly indulgent view of two men or two women found having public sex. Similarly, some list-members have expressed the concern that gays and lesbians who have public sex bring the entire homosexual community into disrepute. The fact that no one would suggest that heterosexuals who have public sex bring the entire heterosexual community into disrepute in itself suggests that differential standards are being applied.”



– John Fisher, executive director of Equality For Gays And Lesbians Everywhere



“I am realizing that most legal issues are probably moral ones at their core. Maybe this is more about making moral standards explicit (for example, we disapprove of multi-partner sex, or we disapprove of outdoor sex, or we approve of sex only within the standard hetero-marriage model) rather than disguising it behind the convenient rationale of protecting the children or protecting the public.”



“I enjoy public sex, which is not to say I have any interest in engaging in sexual activity on a street corner. I have engaged in outdoor sex in areas which are out of the way and frequented only by those also in search of outdoor sex. Anyone who does not think that police harassment of gay public sex locations is a sexual orientation issue needs, in my estimation, to rethink the issue. I hate to see a moral issue divide our community the way this one seems to.”



“The fact that the police caught them is proof enough that they were in public and not just outdoors.”



“I can’t sit quiet any longer. I don’t doubt for one minute if public sex was legal, paedophiles would be masturbating in the parks in front of young children and some sexual deviant would be out there trying to shock the world. Who then would be the morality police judging what sex act was acceptable for public consumption and what wasn’t? All this so a few exhibitionists can legally get their jollies? No thank you.”



“On a philosophical level, sex should occur everywhere life occurs. The fact this is against the law is merely a reflection of our culture looking backward to a time when pleasure was something to be ashamed of. Public displays in such a context are the ultimate challenge to this shame. Just by existing, queer persons challenge this shame-based culture and the Victorian legacy of body phobia. Exuberance and pleasure are some of those small rewards for being alive and having to put up with a multitude of absurdities. As long as we carry around the toxic mental baggage of this discredited past, we are not free.”



These messages were originally sent as part of a country-wide discussion via the e-mail list of the group Equality For Gays And Lesbians Everywhere.

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