Beats the Hell out of me

by David Trumbull

September 7, 2000


I had just left the "Execute Mumia Now!" rally and was on my way to the day's next conservative gathering. It would be the usual drill: cocktails and light chit-chat about the difficulty of finding decent help; followed by guest speakers and candidates for office. Later, the group would adjourn to the bar for cigars, twenty-year-old tawny, and general lamentation over the deplorable state of the Union and of the Commonwealth. The port in particular is requisite, as being a conservative in Massachusetts is best not attempted while totally sober.

At some point in the proceedings, a candidate for office, unburdening himself of a weighty and original observation will declare: "let's get government out of the pocketbook and out of the bedroom." I agree government taxes too much, but, personally, I really don't care to hear what happens in someone else's bedroom. Nor, do I imagine, does anyone from the government. Frankly, this candidate's concern about other people's interest in his sex life sounds rather like wishful thinking.

Have I misunderstood the speaker? Perhaps the government over-regulation of the bedroom is a pressing issue for him. Picture if you will a poor terrified child of God, cowering in a closet, expecting, any moment, Janet Reno in a predawn raid. And all because he tore the tag off the mattress. You know the one with the warning DO NOT REMOVE UNDER PENALTY OF LAW.

I've always assumed that, as far as consensual sex is concerned, most people subscribe to the adage: "I don't care what you do, so long as you don't do it in the street and frighten the horses or in the drawing room and scandalize the servants." So just what is going on with the police in Attleboro? Remember the infamous raid this summer of a private S&M party?

I was reminded of that raid this past weekend. I noticed, in a secondhand shop in Inman Sq., an old cricket bat and wondered whether its purchase would require a weapons permit and background check from my local police chief. After all, it was possession of a common wooden kitchen spoon that landed one of the Paddleboro defendants in court answering a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon.

The Paddleboro prosecutions will not dissuade fans of kinky, but basically harmless, spankings and leather accouterments. What the case will do is open to ridicule various "morals charges" such as operating a house of ill-repute (AKA impersonating a state legislature?). These laws against "victimless" crimes are hard to defend, and carry a risk of selective enforcement against unpopular individuals and groups. Still, I wonder if it is such a good idea to abandon longstanding public norms. Perhaps those repressed dead white males who wrote our laws understood that some things need to be placed beyond approval, even if only by passing a law that is seldom enforced.

Call it the "broken windows" theory of crime control applied to sex. New York City saw a huge decline in major crimes after Mayor Giuliani initiated a crackdown on minor offenses such as jaywalking. Perhaps a symbolic gesture condemning consensual S&M has a real benefit of reducing involuntary sexual beatings. Maybe a little societally induced embarrassment over our sexual proclivities is needed to keep us from going sex mad.

Our postmodern hygienic and therapeutic society is no longer supposed be embarrassed by sex. But we all know that, as the old joke goes, "Is sex dirty? Yes, if you do it right." Even married missionary-style intercourse seems a little weird if you visualize real people you know--let alone your parents--doing it. Imagine a child's reaction to a vivid description of almost any sex act-- "you put what in someone's what? That's gross!"

Speaking of gross indecency. What's next? Is bestiality a victimless crime? Not according to the Old Testament--Leviticus, chapter 18, verse 23 (Authorized Version): "Thou shalt not lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: it is confusion." To which we might add, "it certainly is for the beast!"


[David Trumbull is Chairman of the Cambridge Republican City Committee.]