Friday, January 23, 2009

Interesting Story/Ethical Dilemma

Does your mother know that you're out?

The story: Portland, Oregon just recently elected the nation's first gay mayor of a city with a population of its size or greater, Sam Adams. The mayor was an important city administrator and, by all accounts, did a superb job. However, turns out, during the campaign, the guy lied about an affair he had with a rather young Mr. Breedlove (seriously).

Some facts and details important to the story:
  • The relationship was with an 18 year old intern, but the intern wasn't his or even an intern in the city of Portland. The fact that Breedlove is an intern is immaterial. He may as well have been an intern at Fidelity in Boston.
  • Nothing illegal happened.
  • The only reason anyone ever lied about the relationship to begin with is because a political opponent brought it up, trying to smear Adams, suggesting Breedlove was under age.
  • That said, the fact that it came up during the campaign and was so easily discredited made it easy to spin as a homophobic attack. Adams ended up winning in a landslide.
  • However, there's no question that there are inherently different standards for the way the public and media reacts to gays in particular when the issue of affairs comes up, as well as sex in general. It doesn't surprise me that someone who was gay would deny the allegation, rather than explain it.
  • And here's why: the media loves gossip, but doesn't love context. Case in point: the way the media has painted the story makes it seem as if the kid was the Mayor's intern, when, in fact, they didn't even work in the same city, never mind building. Breedlove worked at the State House in Salem, Oregon. Furthermore, the media also leaves the allegation of Breedlove's status as an adult as something up in the air, when both Breedlove and Adams deny any relationship occurred before Breedlove turned 18.
  • Isn't this all a little hypocritical? If Breedlove killed someone, we'd be rushing to treat him as an adult. Since he had sex, though, everyone wants to treat the same person as a kid, which is legally false. Apparently, when a young adult pulls a trigger, they're completely in control of themselves, but when they have sex, they're a slave to their emotions, unable to make decisions for themselves and must be coddled and protected. Not only is that hypocritical, it's puritanical and irrational.
  • Breedlove, from what I've read, seemed to be the one who pushed the relationship, while the Mayor said no until Breedlove turned 18. That's not to say the Mayor didn't want it or did nothing wrong (he was politically stupid, at least), but nevertheless, this fact does separate him from the likes of Larry Craig, Mark Foley and Elliot Spitzer - all of whom broke the law in their affairs and committed acts with no moral grey.
So, where does the Mayor and society go from here? Some people, including from within the gay community, are ready to lynch the Mayor calling for Adams's resignation. Given that it was a legal relationship and Breedlove was never working for the Mayor to begin with, that seems harsh. Many of those same people only claim that they're asking for the resignation because of the lie, but given the fact that the relationship was legal to begin with, should the two have ever been forced to acknowledge it? Especially knowing the way the media and political opponents work?

Age and relationships are tricky issues for culture and society. People get evil and angry when a man has a relationship with a much younger person, but when Demi Moore does it, wow, she's hot and sexy and middle aged and the envy of society. Or, it's okay for celebrities, but not for politicians. The fact of the matter is many people are attracted to those who are much older. My friend, for example, thinks Hugh Jackman and Colin Firth are perfect and pursued relationships with people in their mid 30s and close to 40 while she was in her very early 20s. On the other hand, many others are attracted to youth, or, as some gay men would call it, 'twinks.' Is that necessarily wrong if the 'twinks' are old enough to know what they're doing? Old enough to die in war for this country?

What's the litmus test for acceptable sexual behavior? Legally, that's defined: 18. That number's always seemed reasonable: an 18 year old is capable of making his or her own decisions and mistakes. They may not sociably be ready to engage in a long term relationship with someone in their 30s or 40s (or at all), but who says everyone has to engage in a sexual relationship for the purposes of a long term one? This is all conjecture, of course, but at the very least Breedlove, given his public statement, seems to be having a tougher time with the current publicity than the actual relationship: he still defends the Mayor to this day.

So, we have an attractive, charismatic and well-off city administrator of the age of 40. There's a lot of young adults in the gay community, or any community, who would lust after that, including someone as particularly young and attractive as Breedlove. Should that doom a political career? Or even color it? Should Adams be judged based upon job performance, four years from now during his reelection campaign, so long as his relationships stay within the bounds of law? Or does the Mayor deserve all the current flack he's getting and should answer positively to the calls by some for his resignation? Something in between? I'm honestly interested to hear what people think in the comments below.


Anonymous said...

I was right about Sal.

Globe 1
Sal 0
Sal Resigning - Priceless

Anonymous said...

Sal's spokesman apparently does not agree with WBZ and Lowell Sun news reports. Word is that DeLeo is the man. The movie Dumb and Dumber comes to mind. I know not why.

Anonymous said...

The litmus test for sexual behaviour is 18? In Mass isn't it 16? He however is a public official who lied about things. They both say nothing happened until it was legal, but there would be the same skepticism if it were a hetero coupling, considering the age difference.
I beleive we need to re-define the age of consent for sex based on the younger of the two people involved. If the older person is not more than say 15% older, then things are fine. Then you won't have some 17 years olds going to prison for statuatory rape when they do their 16 year old girlfriends. Beyond the age of 18 anything is OK, sex, voting, drinking etc.

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