Hetero Another Toilet Cruiser Busted
posted by September 18 at 10:32 AMon
This time in North Carolina.
The charge against a Boca Raton Episcopal priest who was arrested in a sex sting operation in a Waynesville, N.C. park restroom may violate his constitutional rights…. Fr. Michael Penland was charged on June 28 with “soliciting for a crime against nature” in Waynesville Recreation Park….
Who’s coming to the defense of the reverend? Not the Episcopal church, which suspended Fr. Penland from his duties at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Boca Raton. It’s the gays that are coming to his defense—“Bathroom sting violates priest’s rights, lawyers say,” reads the headline in Florida’s Express Gay News—and the American Civil Liberties Union. Yesterday the ACLU submitted a “friend of the court” brief backing Sen. Larry Craig, arguing that the “secret sting operation used by the police to arrest Senator Craig was not ‘carefully crafted’ to avoid ensnaring innocent speech.”
Returning to Father Penland: the disgraced priest, like the disgraced senator, is not gay identified. He’s been married for 17 years. As I pointed out when the Larry Craig scandal broke, most of the men out there cruising public toilets are straight—or straight-identified—and not openly gay. (Although some openly gay men do, of course, cruise toilets.) Yet it’s openly gay people and publications that rush to the defense of these men when they get into trouble.
But there’s an important distinction to be made between Penland’s case and Craig’s, a distinction that puts Penland’s arrest for—hardy har har—soliciting “a crime against nature” in an entirely different light. The priest didn’t intend to have sex in a public place. Returning to Express Gay News…
According to the arrest report, Penland followed Det. Tyler Trantham into a public restroom around 11:30 a.m. and asked Trantham to go home with him to have sex. Penland allegedly got into his car and followed the officer to another location. He was pulled over by a second officer, Crystal Shuler, who issued a citation, took his picture and released him. Penland did not go to jail.
Says the Express Gay News:
The report does not depict any sexual behavior taking place in the bathroom, public park or in Penland’s vehicle. It only states that Penland propositioned the undercover detective to engage in anal sex at a private location.
Says the ACLU:
“What [Penland] did was not a crime,” the ACLU’s Rosenwald said. “It’s not wrong to proposition someone and then go home.”
Look, I sympathize with people that have been arrested in public sex stings. It’s gotta suck. But as I said in “Savage Love” last week, part of the thrill of public sex is the risk. You might get caught, you might get into trouble. But Penland wasn’t engaging in public sex, and didn’t intend to engage in public sex. It’s clear—beyond all reasonable doubt—that Larry Craig did intend to get it on in that toilet at the Minneapolis Airport. As gay journalist and one-time toilet cruiser Rex Wockner proved, Craig’s actions meant one thing and one thing only. Craig didn’t invite that undercover to accompany him to Idaho. He intended to get it on in that airport toilet.
Now do I think paying cops to sit in cruisy toilets at aiports is a wise use of police resources? No, I don’t. But getting it on in public restrooms is illegal, and I’m not going to rush to the barricades to defend closet cases, straight men with a taste for cock, or the odd openly gay sexual adventurer. I agree with the ACLU: if a public restroom becomes a cruising spot, “[the police] should put up a sign banning sex in the restroom and send in a uniformed officer to patrol periodically.”
But I will man the barricades to defend Father Penland. It is not illegal for for one man to hit on another; a pass may be unwelcome, and it may be ill-advised (Waynesville, N.C.?), but it is not a crime—against nature or anything else.
This case, unlike Craig’s, is all about criminalizing the brand male piggishness that women are forced to endure every day. It’s about protecting straight men from the treatment they meat out to straight women.
Penland should sue. But, alas, it’s unlikely that Penland will challenge his arrest. Says the Express Gay News…
Penland could sue the Waynesville Police Department for false arrest or for violating his constitutional rights. [But] Penland and others who are caught in similar stings frequently choose not to challenge the charges because of the stigma associated with such an arrest.
Fighting public sex stings is nearly impossible because the kind of men arrested in bathrooms—straight-identified messes, cowardly closet cases—are the least likely to stand up for their rights to adult, private, consensual sexual conduct. And that’s all Penland was looking for: sex in private, between consenting adults. Which is legal in all 50 states, including North Carolina.