Commentary: The Mark Foley Situation

The Mark Foley tsunami continues to drench Republicans, and though the situation is still unfolding, there are a couple of points relevant to the adult industry that are worth being made and/or not forgotten:

•Foley's gay; people should get over it. Even his fellow Republicans have mostly been able to do that – though not, of course, the anti-sex religious ideologues like Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, Focus on the Family's Jim Dobson and a few other theocrats.) Being gay, however, does NOT mean Foley is therefore a predator, as Paul Weyrich (Free Congress Foundation) and others have charged, nor is he a pedophile, as Perkins and others have implied or stated. It's understandable that some in the adult community might leap to that latter conclusion – aided by some of the right-wing media like Limbaugh, O'Reilly, etc. – since for adult companies, anyone under 18 is "a minor" and they can't shoot them for their features, but in 35 states, 16-year-olds are considered "adults" for most sexual purposes (sometimes requiring parental consent), while in another eight, 17 is the lower limit (see chart) – the point being, Foley isn't legally a pedophile (unless some new information on his sexual activities comes to light).

•What Foley is, is a "sexual predator." Pages in the houses of Congress serve the legislators, and the legislators supervise them, at least to some extent, so there was arguably an employer/employee relationship between Foley and the pages with whom he IM'd and emailed sexual banter, and whom he arguably tried to seduce. We mean, a gay 52-year-old guy probably doesn't write to a 16-year-old boy, "did any girl give you a hand job this weekend" or, when informed that the kid's girlfriend had just broken up with him, respond, "good so your getting horny," and then ask, "did you spank it this weekend yourself," and later, "where do you unload it" unless he has some ulterior motive.

•In the past few days, Foley or his spokespeople have tried to blame a) alcohol and/or b) Foley's having been molested by his priest at a young age for his misbehavior ... so we have to ask, what happened to that much-vaunted conservative tenet about taking responsibility for your own actions? ("The fundamental bargain of a free society is that progress and opportunity require individual discipline and responsibility." – Pete du Pont, "Conservative Manifesto – Essence of Conservative Philosophy," National Review, March 21, 1994) Admittedly, Foley stepped up to the plate by resigning just as he was about to be publicly exposed, but as of this writing, he has yet to accept responsibility for his own actions.

•One group that clearly isn't to blame is the page staff itself – yet a conference call between several top Republican leaders on the night the Foley scandal broke concluded with the recommendation that the page program be disbanded – a clear attempt to "blame the victim" for Foley's misdeeds.

•Perhaps the most important lessons of the Foley matter are the ones no one in the mainstream part of the discussion wants to admit:

1) When it comes to pretty much all behaviors related to sex, the line between "us" and "them" is largely imaginary.

As Dr. Marty Klein has recognized in his insightful new book, America's War On Sex, people who enjoy sex and sexual materials are everywhere.

"[T]his invisible group supports billions of dollars worth of commercial activity," Klein observes. "This presents a logical conflict: If the crap is 'everywhere,' who are these millions of customers? If the entertainment is so perverse and marginal, who are all these perverts keeping them in business? We need to acknowledge all these silent customers, and wonder why they're quiet. If they're ashamed to admit what they do, it's because of social pressure. Their shame doesn't keep them from doing it, only from acknowledging it...

"It's obviously too scary for some of us to admit it's our neighbors who patronize adult businesses," Klein continues. "If consumers of this stuff are bad, and my neighbors do it, then they are bad – and I can't trust my kids at their home, let them coach soccer, borrow my lawnmower, etc. Better to pretend we aren't like that. Just like we don't have same-sex fantasies or enjoy dominating or submitting during sex."

2) As a corollary to Point #1, the fact that most people don't know what interests their neighbors sexually is an ignorance that extends all the way "up the food chain." What that means is, people may call themselves "devout," "church-going," "Republican," "family-oriented," "evangelical" or any number of self-applied labels, and they may even be head of congressional committees with names like the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, of which Foley was made chairman in 1994 – but that doesn't really say anything about their sexuality. They may be gay; they may be predators; they may be into BDSM; they may be celibate – but the point is, what they label themselves in public says nothing about their actual sexual interests and practices. Republicans and their fundamentalist supporters would like the electorate to think the labels they give themselves are trustworthy. They aren't. Speaking of which ...

•House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been describing himself recently as a "family man" – but for the most part, "family men" don't hide the existence of a sexual predator of 16-year-olds in their midst for 11 years, three years or even seven months. Those are the various lengths of time dating back from when the Foley story went public that various officials have told news media they had informed Hastert of Foley's shenanigans – and the lengths of time that Hastert didn't do anything – not anything – about it. Speaking of which ...

•Both the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald received copies of Foley's e-mail contacts with some of the young House pages months before the scandal broke in the national media – and in the case of the St. Pete Times, nearly a year before – yet neither paper saw fit to publish the story, claiming they had not gathered enough information to do so – largely because the pages involved had wanted to remain anonymous. Whether the papers would have shown such restraint if Foley had been a Democrat is certainly open to question – and one might also wonder if the papers had been afraid of possible retaliation from the Bush administration or even more vicious theocrat operatives if they had run the story.

•As important as it is to point out the hypocrisy of the Republicans and their theocrat supporters, Susie Bright, points out that the Foley situation provided a convenient distraction from Congress' passing the Military Commissions Act which, among other travesties, attempts to eliminate the right of habeas corpus for, at the least, anyone not a U.S. citizen – meaning any foreigner or even resident alien who finds him/herself on the short end of the American judicial system may find him/herself locked up in isolation somewhere and the key to the cell figuratively (if not literally) thrown away. As Keith Olbermann pointed out on "Countdown" on Tuesday, habeas corpus – the right of anyone accused to confront his/her accuser in an impartial courtroom, to see the evidence against him/her and to have the services of an attorney – underpins almost all the other rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and Congress' attempt – at Bush/Rove's insistence, of course – to amend the Constitution by legislative fiat marks an incredibly sad day in American history. Fortunately, as of this writing, Bush has yet to sign this "vitally important" (his words) bill, though it's been on his desk for two weeks. We suppose it's possible that he's had second thoughts about endorsing an incredibly unconstitutional piece of legislation ...

Yeah, right!