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Insensitivity Unjustifiable


By Rebecca L. Walkowitz

THE staff position asserts that "the issue comes down to whether sex should be allowed in Science Center bathrooms."


While we do not condone sex in public bathrooms, we recognize that some sex is more equal than other sex. In our society, bisexual, gay and lesbian individuals are marginalized by both public and private discrimination. The staff position implies that one can generalize a very specific circumstance, that the mens' identities are irrelevent to their arrests. But it is their very identities as gay men that are most significant in this case.

We are concerned that the staff position tries too hard to avoid seeming oversolicitous to a "special interest group." It has minimized the issue of homophobia in its attempt to enforce equal treatment under the law. But in doing so it has ignored the fact that The Law only exists in the manner that it is interpreted. Laws and criminals do not exist in and of themselves; they are defined by a society with certain values and certain power structures.

Our society defines "open and gross lewdness" to be a crime. That much is undeniable. But ambiguities around the law itself, and its enforcement, do remain. Why is "open and gross lewdness" a crime? Would heterosexuals in analogous situations have been arrested? What about our society pressures gays into anonymous sexual encounters? Why do students feel so threatened by this kind of sex? Any responsible reaction to the Science Center bathroom arrests must look at these questions as well as at the circumstances surrounding the arrests themselves.

We feel obligated to respond to the staff position because it has flip-flopped the issue. It has taken the moral high ground on bathroom sex and public indecency and neglected to respond to the more serious and fundamental issue of discrimination.

Homophobia will not be defeated by Victorian morality and interpretations which ignore the social context in which events occur. Sex in bathrooms is picayune in comparison with the more substantial issues of harassment and public humiliation. This incident cannot be understood or examined by itself because it reflects a much larger cultural dilemma--a dilemma which we cannot fail to recognize.

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