Public Sex Not at Fault
ⓒ christina starr
Xtra! November 4, 1999
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Paedophilia. Conventionally understood as the sexual molestation of children. This word confuses me because it actually means love (philo) and children (paedo). Like philosophy means love of wisdom (sophos) and philanthropy means love of human beings (anthropos).
          How can someone who loves a child sexually abuse them? And how does a culture get around to accepting that a word which means
love of children actually means raping them?
          The same way it gets around to believing that if a man sexually assaults little girls in a washroom, it
s the fault of gay people who like to have sex in public. We are faced with so many sexual taboos in our society its no wonder that everything gets fucked up.
          We ignore the sexuality of children but feel free to accuse them of being the
seducer when caught in bed with them. We expect women to be sexual and available but disrespect and blame them when they are. We pathologize the desires of gay people but conveniently scapegoat them for the depravities of everyone else.
          I don
t think that limiting public sex has anything to do with protecting children from assault. Wed have to limit the sexual activity of people who work in schools, in churches and sports clubs. Wed have to eliminate sexual activity in the home.
          My daughter is at risk everyday she goes out into the world. But I have to believe that the value of allowing her to develop independence, to size up the situation around her and develop her own modes of protection, is greater than the risks she takes to do that. But anything could happen, and if I think about it too much I
d crack.
          But it
s not sexual openness, the sexual expression of gay people or the public sex of anybody that is responsible for the risks to my daughter. I happen to believe that less secrecy and hiding leads to less misunderstanding, confusion and harm. I certainly might have avoided some unpleasant sexual experiences in my life if Id had more information, if I hadnt felt like the people who loved and supported me would be horrified by my sexual exploration.
          At the same time, I
m not in favour of sex in public where it might be encountered by my child. Some of the comments printed in Protecting the Children (Xtra, Oct. 7, 1999), advocate public expressions of pleasure as a challenge to a sex-phobic culture. The problem is that sexual activity doesnt always look like pleasure, especially to a child.
          I faced this dilemma earlier this year at the Inside Out Festival. I wanted to take my daughter to a screening of shorts entitled
Suburban Days. Ive taken her to the festival before so I was very surprised to find that the Paramount theatre had blanketly rated everything as restricted. Why? Because its gay content? And gay content is inevitably inappropriate for minors?
          I asked around a bit about the films in the program and decided to take my daughter in anyways. The films did not corrupt her and she enjoyed, even related to, most of what she saw. But it was the sexual explicitness in one film that disturbed her. With a limited understanding of sex and no physical experience, it didn
t look to her like the two men were giving each other pleasure. She hid her face from the scene the way she does when something shes watching is violent.
          I think it would be a confusing, if not disturbing, experience for any child to witness much public (or private) sex. On the other hand, I don
t think children are at greater risk of assault because some peoplemaybe even mostly gay peoplehave sex in public places.
          When it comes to protection of children, as a parent I expect that gays
or anybody elsehaving sex in public locations are discreet enough that a child is not likely to see them. And if its the legal prohibition that fosters such discretion, then Im in favour of that. Just as Im in favour of speed limits for the reduction of harm, even though I speed all the time myself.
          But I also expect society to stop hiding from sexuality, to stop the distortions and false accusations. These raise the risk level far higher than two half-naked homos getting it on in a washroom, on a park bench or in the sandy, sun-warmed grass behind a beach.

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It's not sexual openness, the sexual expression of gay people or the public sex of anybody that is responsible for the risks to children.