CruisingGay.com's Blog

August 19, 2009

Real (Gay) Men Don’t Cruise: Larry Craig, Gay Identity, and Ideology

Filed under: Gay Cruising, Gay News — Tags: , , , , , , — cruisinggay.com @ 3:31 pm
Larry_Craig_official_portraitMen having sex with other men in public (observable) places have always presented a challenge to advocates for civil rights for queers. On one hand, the LGBT rights movement in the United States has historically included a push to transgress social and cultural norms of sexual behavior, which are often used to repress alternative modes of sexual expression. On the other hand, the increasing legal and social acceptance of queer sexuality and the emergence of more private spaces to find sex partners has mitigated the need for cruising and other outlaw forms of sexual expression. Additionally, as gay rights advocates continue to press their cause in legislative and judicial fora, condoning public sex seems increasingly to be a liability. Recent highly visible controversies involving men who are looking for sex with other men in public places reveal sharp ideological divides in queer communities over issues of sexuality and identity, as people argue about the role of sexual behavior in constructing gay identity and the place for unconventional expressions of individual and group sexuality in an increasingly mainstream social movement. This paper analyzes the discourse in queer fora surrounding public sex for the ideological rifts and ruptures it reveals.

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August 11, 2009

DiFatta twice detained for lewd conduct in mall restrooms

Filed under: Gay Cruising, Gay News — Tags: , , , , , , , , — cruisinggay.com @ 3:18 pm

Posted by The Times Picayune, October 04, 2007

By Christine Harvey St. Tammany bureau

05nw.difattaSt. Bernard Parish Councilman Joey DiFatta, who on Thursday withdrew from the 1st Senate District campaign, has been stopped twice since 1996 for suspicion of engaging in lewd behavior in public restrooms in Jefferson Parish, records obtained by The Times-Picayune show.

DiFatta, 53, acknowledged that reports he had been stopped are true, but he denied any wrongdoing in both cases. He said he was not prosecuted in either case and has no arrest record.

“If I had done something wrong, I would have been arrested,” DiFatta said Thursday afternoon. “I was not. I will deny that I was involved in any activity of that nature.”

Earlier Thursday, DiFatta called reporters to announce that he planned to withdraw from the Senate race. He said he has been having chest pains for a few weeks, and elevated enzyme levels indicate he might have had a minor heart attack in the past few days. As a result, his doctor advised him to slow down and make some changes in his life.

DiFatta, who has served on the St. Bernard Parish Council since January 1996 and is currently its chairman, denied he is stepping down from the Senate race for fear that the reports would become public. In fact, he said he did not know the reports had surfaced when he made his decision.

Kenner police issued a misdemeanor summons to DiFatta in September 1996 in connection with a peeping Tom incident in a men’s bathroom at the former Mervyn’s department store at The Esplanade mall, according to a Kenner Police Department incident report obtained by The Times-Picayune.

The report states that DiFatta watched a man use the bathroom while peering through a hole in a bathroom stall. The man held DiFatta until police arrived, at which time he was issued the misdemeanor summons and ordered to appear in court.

DiFatta said the man eventually withdrew his complaint, and the case was dismissed. A spokeswoman for the Kenner Police Department said the record was expunged.

Tapping foot in stall

In the second incident, Jefferson Parish deputies working an undercover detail in a men’s bathroom at Dillard’s at Lakeside Shopping Center in March 2000 stopped DiFatta after he indicated a desire to engage in sex with an undercover deputy in an adjoining bathroom stall, according to an interoffice memorandum written by Sgt. Keith Conley, one of the deputies involved in the investigation.

The report said DiFatta slid his foot into the deputy’s stall and tapped the deputy’s foot. In the report, Conley noted that such activity is common among men to indicate a willingness to participate in sex.

The deputy inside the stall, Detective Wayne Couvillion, responded by tapping his foot, and DiFatta reached under the partition and began to rub the deputy’s leg, the report states.

The detective asked DiFatta, “What do you want?” according to the report, and he replied, “I want to play with you.”

DiFatta also used a hand signal to indicate that he wanted to engage in sex and used language that indicated the same, according to the report. Conley, who is now the Kenner city attorney, confirmed the report’s authenticity Thursday.

The incident did not culminate in an arrest because the deputy in the bathroom with DiFatta terminated the investigation after several children entered the bathroom, the report states. Conley noted in the report that DiFatta appeared well-versed and comfortable with the routine.

Conley wrote that had the investigation been allowed to continue, it likely would have concluded in DiFatta’s arrest on obscenity charges, including a possible attempted crime against nature.

Conley confronted DiFatta outside the bathroom, and DiFatta apologized and said he would not return, according to the report. DiFatta also said he has a problem with such behavior and had sought counseling for the addiction in the past, the report states.

In both instances, DiFatta produced his commission from the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office identifying him as a captain. DiFatta said Thursday he did not show his commission either time until officers asked him for identification, all of which he keeps in his wallet.

Struggling after Katrina

When he chose to run for state Senate, DiFatta relinquished the opportunity to run for re-election to the St. Bernard Parish Council. His term ends in January.

DiFatta said he has enjoyed serving the parish and its people and thanked his supporters.

A jeweler who had received several political endorsements in the Senate race, DiFatta also noted that the stress from enduring Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath might have gotten the best of him. He lost his Chalmette home to Katrina, and it took him almost 14 months to rebuild.

In the interim, he has been a strong voice for his constituents, traveling often to Washington, D.C., to fight for recovery help.

DiFatta has notified the Louisiana secretary of state’s office that he intends to withdraw from the race, but his withdrawal won’t be official until he files the paperwork, said Jacques Berry, the office’s spokesman. Regardless, DiFatta’s name will remain on the ballot for the Oct. 20 primary, as the state already has printed the ballots, he said.

Any votes to be invalid

Poll workers will place signs in the precincts where DiFatta’s name is on the ballot letting the voters know he is no longer in the race and that a vote for him will not be valid, Berry said.

DiFatta’s latest campaign finance report shows that he has almost $69,000 in the bank. DiFatta said he will use the money to pay some outstanding bills, though he noted he can hold onto the money to use later.

DiFatta’s abrupt departure from the race leaves two candidates — Reps. A.G. Crowe and Ken Odinet — fighting for the 1st District seat, which includes St. Bernard Parish and parts of St. Tammany, Plaquemines and Orleans parishes.

Odinet, who lives in Arabi, said Thursday that he was saddened to hear DiFatta has been ill. Crowe, a Pearl River resident, said he wishes DiFatta a speedy recovery.

August 9, 2009

Secret Signals: How Some Men Cruise for Sex

Filed under: Gay Cruising — Tags: , , , , — cruisinggay.com @ 1:51 pm

lewd_conduct_washroomWhile many Americans may only be vaguely familiar with the idea of “cruising,” there is a secret world of sex between men that exists in public places across the country.

The police officer who arrested Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, in a men’s restroom at the Minneapolis airport for allegedly looking to engage in gay sex wrote in his June report that he “recognized a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct.”

Craig tapped his foot up and down and swiped his hand underneath the bathroom stall in which the undercover cop was sitting, according to the police report.

Those actions led to Craig’s arrest by Detective Dave Karsnia and the senator’s guilty plea to a disorderly conduct charge. Craig told reporters today that he did nothing inappropriate and said his guilty plea was a mistake.

Public places like men’s restrooms, in airports and train stations, truck stops, university libraries and parks, have long been places where gay and bisexual men, particularly those in the closet, congregate in order to meet for anonymous sex.

Over time, people familiar with cruising told ABCNEWS.com, gay men began using a codified system of signals to indicate to others that they were interested in sex. In an effort to curb lewd acts in public — or as some gays argue, in an effort to persecute gay men — undercover police began sting operations in places known for sex soliciting and employed the same codes.

“Tapping of the foot is pretty standard for men who cruise in toilets,” said Keith Griffith, owner of Cruisingforsex.com, a Web site on which visitors post locations popular with men looking for anonymous sex.

“They will usually go to the stall at the far end of the strip of toilets. They will see each other and usually decide to go someplace else. The vast majority have no interest in being seen. They may be meeting in public locations, but they will be as discreet as possible,” Griffith said.

Cruising areas traditionally have been those parts of town “women and children are told to avoid,” but through word of mouth, bathrooms at places like Wal-Mart or Home Depot can become cruising locales, he said.

Griffith said that officers involved in such stings tend to be young and that anecdotal posts on his site indicate the local arrest rates increase around the time of elections or when media attention focuses on the issue.

Because much of the signaling is itself benign behavior, some gay rights activists and lawyers have admonished police departments for arresting men who have done little more than tap their feet.

“Citizens have a right not to confront lewd activity in public places,” said Steve Sanders, a lawyer and gay rights activist. “But if there is evidence that a sting is motivated by anti-gay animus, that may represent a more troubling issue.”

At trial, Sanders said, police would have to prove that actions such as foot tapping were known signals for soliciting sex.

“What constitutes probable cause to arrest someone? If a case like this went to trial, police officers would have to produce evidence to say here is how we can say with certainty this is was really a lewd act,” he said.

Craig pleaded guilty to the charges and therefore opted against a trial.

Today, Craig denied being gay and said he made a mistake by pleading guilty.

Police officers, for the most part, only investigate an area after members of the public have complained about it being used for sex, said Rich Gregson, executive director of the California Peace Officers Association.

“Police officers will investigate areas that have known histories of this sort of activity. They rely on their own knowledge and experience to tell what is happening. Most officers know the difference between an intentional signal and a stray motion,” he said.

The public has a right to enter public areas without worrying about inadvertently seeing lewd acts, Gregson said. The 35-year veteran police chief said he believed this sort of activity took place “in every jurisdiction” and heard stories of “off-duty officers and even judges being caught and arrested.”

With many other options available for gay men to meet each other, Gershen Kaufman, a professor emeritus of psychology at Michigan State University and author of the book “Coming Out of Shame,” said public cruising is practiced mainly by deeply closeted men.

“Cruisers are not sex offenders. They are deeply, deeply closeted. There is a lot of self-hatred and shame and they can’t allow themselves to come to terms with their sexuality. There is also the added element of danger and being discovered,” he said.

Aug. 28, 2007

abcnews.com

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