Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ashley Madison Leaks: Men, Women, and Nannies — When Gay Men Excuse the Sexual Shenanigans of Straight Men. Because Testosterone.

It's probably no secret to readers who have followed this blog over a longish period of time that I don't buy into all of the orthodoxies of the more "mainstream" (for want of a better word) LGBT movement. In postings here, I've criticized in the past, for instance, Andrew Sullivan's boys-will-be-boys approach to questions of masculinity — the proposal that men behave promiscuously and aggressively because of testosterone, and that it's fatuous and totalitarian for cultures (under the impulse of feminism) to try to curb and weed out this behavior, or to suggest that it's learned, culturally determined behavior and not behavior grounded in and excused by biology.

A corollary of this libertarian (as it seems to me) approach to issues of masculinity is the willingness of key spokesmen (some gay men, rather than gay women, seem to me more willing to buy into this rhetoric) of the LGBT movement in the U.S. to excuse promiscuous, entitled behavior when it's exhibited by males, and to attempt to shame and silence members of the gay community who raise critical questions about such behavior.

The recent responses to the Ashley Madison revelations have made me aware, all over again, of how unwilling I am to buy into the "orthodox" positions of the LGBT community — the positions propounded by some of our leading spokesmen, who lean libertarian in their political views — about these issues. I don't, of course, disagree with either Dan Savage or Glenn Greenwald as they maintain that the kind of puritanical glee with which some discourse communities have received the Ashley Madison leaks is deplorable.

I agree with both that people's privacy should be respected when such leaks of online information occur unless those being exposed as hypocrites have actively sought to harm others by decrying the moral infractions of others while they themselves lead double lives. I also very much agree with both Dan Savage and Glenn Greenwald that all of us who might be inclined to Schadenfreude about the Ashley Madison leaks need to think very carefully about the many reasons unknown to any one of us why any particular person may have opened an Ashley Madison account, and that we should also be aware that such accounts may, in some cases, have been opened by someone entirely different than the person owning an email address that shows up in the Ashley Madison database.

Even with all those provisos, however, I'm not inclined to ignore the fact that the leaks have shown us that the vast majority of those with Ashley Madison accounts were men and not women, and that the accounts of women who do appear in the leaked database often appear to be faked accounts — and those actually held by women were seldom used. I'm not inclined, given the fact that we now have these data at our fingertips, to ignore the data and to conclude that we're being nannying puritans if we ask why it is that men seem to feel so much more freedom than women do to cheat on their spouses.*

Nor, once it has become known that some 400 church leadersmale church leaders — are among those found to have had Ashley Madison accounts, do I feel it's incumbent on me to ignore this fact as I take a moral high road which pretends that the Ashley Madison leak hasn't placed these data in front of us. I'm inclined, quite specifically, to wonder how many of those church leaders have prominent positions in churches that bash gay folks, and how many may have personally led anti-gay crusades in their churches.

Most of all, I'm absolutely not in the least inclined to agree with Bill Maher when he maintains that "expressions of heterosexual desire are being policed" in our culture in a new way even as LGBT people begin to experience freedoms previously denied to them to own and celebrate their sexuality. In his recent commentary about this, Maher says,

Caitlyn Jenner gets up at the ESPYs in a dress with tits and a dick under it, and there’s not a dry eye in the house. Somehow with gay and transgender people we celebrate — as we should — the concept of ‘I am who I am, I was born this way, this is my truth.’ Great. But can we get the same deal for the 95 percent of us?

Can we get the same deal for the 95 percent of us? Really?! Does Bill Maher honestly think that heterosexual males have not been enjoying large liberty — liberty far larger than any of the rest of us enjoy — to treat the world as their oyster for, well, aeons now? Does he really think this liberty is being curbed because women and LGBT folks have now received a few crumbs from the feasting table at which straight men have sat for generations?

Does he think that the huge preponderance of straight men in Ashley Madison's database offers us evidence that men have been curbed in their sexual self-expression? That straight men have not felt and continue to feel astonishing entitlement which is not enjoyed by either women or LGBT folks?!

In many of the finger-wagging sermons about Schadenfreude that I'm reading online now, which try to shame anyone who asks what the Ashley Madison leaks may mean about the disparity between male entitlement and female (and LGBT) lack of entitlement, what I'm actually hearing is a lot of moaning and kvetching of straight men who never expected to have their online secrets revealed in this way. And who now must cope with the fact that their secrets have been revealed . . . . 

It's not in the least clear to me why I should now pretend that these heterosexual males are being oppressed by women and by the big, bad gay community. The data right in front of my eyes simply do not tell me this. And it's not clear to me why, as a gay man, I should be in solidarity with heterosexual males demanding ever more entitlement because of testosterone, and not with the women who are, to a great extent, the victims of that entitlement.

*On the gender disparities in Ashley Madison accounts revealed by the leaks, see Chris Morley's excellent information in this comment here a day ago.

The Ashley Madison logo has been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons for sharing by Wikimandia.

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