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Public and/or private

by Gert Hekma in Columns & Opinions , 20 november 2000


A member of a right-wing party in the Second Chamber (the Lower House/the House of Representatives) voted against opening marriage to gay couples. This person is seen regularly at sex parties in Amsterdam, Paris and who knows where. In the Lower House he specializes in right-wing denunciation of drugs and wants to see more police blue on the streets and for Justice to adopt stronger policies. What haunts the feeble mind of a right-wing politician voting against gay marriage by day and seeking his pleasure by night amongst gay men?

This case shows crystal clear how difficult it is to separate private from public life. Everybody is entitled to his privacy and his own sex life, but for this sex life we have to roam the public world of parties and bars. As soon as a queer starts looking for a partner, and who of us didn`t/doesn`t, he has to hit the streets, the parks, or go surf on the internet. Like straight people he will only find potential partners in public places, because guys don`t happen to stand on his doorstep offering him their sexual services. Every private life of necessity has a public side to it. For a long time queens have tolerated the closeted life of their kind since they knew how dangerous it was to step out. But in the Second Chamber, the political body in Holland with the highest percentage of openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people, you gotta be a fool to stay in your closet and vote against gay marriage. Even the shining example of that other right-wing politician and party member Joop Wijn (out of his closet and voting in favor of gay marriage) this man in the closet didn`t dare follow.

Intimate partners

I think it`s admirable he gets his rocks off by night amongst other gay men. Saddening though I find his choice for the right wing, hitting bottom with his incomprehensible vote against gay marriage. I can imagine that as a promiscuous gay he doesn`t see much in marriage, but in that case add a statement in this vein to your vote. Left-wing Apostolou, no queer, yet Greek, did so. He opposes gay marriage, since he feels the private life of citizens is none of the government`s business. Another politician as stupid as an owl, juggling magically with argumentations from the conjuring-box of public versus private, a box offering all things indiscriminately to everyone. Would this Greek also oppose traffic rules, taxes, heterosexual marriage, compulsory attendance at school, identity cards, legal prohibition of carrying arms, police and justice, in short anything the government does, simply because all of it interferes with our private life?
The distinction between private and public is an impossible one. The public government, at times rightfully so, at times going overboard, tries to control private life with numerous laws and rules concerning marital affairs, parental rights, financial transactions, working hours, living situations, fire prevention, and what not. The public media devoting so much attention to the private life of individuals have become intimate partners of many people. For the development of a sex life most children get group education in school or elsewhere. People have to go out on the streets to find lovers or sex partners. For good reasons prostitution was called a public vice and whores were public women. These are examples of situations where the distinctions between private and public become blurred.

Queer stuff

Gays are faced with the impossible situation that their sexual preference is seen as private while in public life heterosexuality is the norm. If you stand up for it, people whine that such private affairs don`t matter and have nothing to do with your public functions. When you aren`t open about it, they blame you for hiding matters so essential to social conduct. If the name of the Second Chamber member had been mentioned on this page, this magazine would have been sued with violating the privacy of a (closeted) gay man who struts his queer stuff himself at night.

Speaking of public sex most people don`t think of laws, rules or talks but of deeds. Of tangible sexual acts in often semi-public places like dark corners in the park, back seats of cars, porches or dark spaces. There are people who leave their curtains open so the neighbours can share in the fun. Not that long ago dwellers of a high-rise in Weesp sued two of their fellow tenants for making them share in their panting and crying while making love. Many people get excited by peeping into other people`s sex lives or listening in (voyeurism) while some enjoy having other people spy on them (exhibitionism). Internet offers an ideal, anonymous location for playing mutual peeping Tom.

Public amusement

Though many people get off on such public sex, the general opnion is it should be forbidden. To me it seems a innocent pass-time blending as well with public life as driving a car, playing sports, gardening or all those other public amusements only a limited part of the population is interested in but which are experienced publicly. It takes up relatively little space and pollutes minimally. In ancient Greece sports clubs were the semi-public places where men and boys tried out their athletic know-how in sex. Thus youth got an optimum sex education, by way of the practical experience we lack so miserably in Holland and to which we attach such importance in technical studies. A government stepping back and loosening up in their constant surveillance of citizens doesn`t seem such a bad idea, especially when the public arena becomes available for public sex.
There is an article in the law against public violation of virtue" which in the past was regularly used against gay men having sex in public places. Since 1970 the police uses this article mainly but with little success against exhibitionists who despite legal threats repeat their offence nevertheless. As far as I`m concerned they can do away with this law altogether. To my mind the dislike of the innocent behaviour of exhibitionists and homosexual park users is one of the best examples that the sexual liberation of many Dutchmen isn`t that free after all.

Next time: disasters, stretching, rubber



 







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