So “pedophile” is the new hip buzzword. Great. It’s curious that whenever conservatives run the world, we’re all encouraged to think in the safety of black and white and head doggedly back to a time when, as Republican legend would have it, men were men, single women were dreaming of husbands, and gays and lesbians were predatory misfits. We get Martin Lawrence buddy flicks, The Bachelorette, and the easy disgust of the child pornography charges against Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Reubens and Who guitarist Pete Townshend.
Richard Goldstein’s recent cover story for the Village Voice had the sanity to point out in all the frenzy that the materials confiscated from Reubens proved to be mid-century, kitschy gay erotica—nothing like the satanic cult-led, molested-toddler pics that the entire nation is surely imagining. Prosecutors know that none of this is prosecutable, but after a year of digging through Reubens’ massive collection of dated stag films, they’ve managed to find scant minutes of footage showing teenage boys giving each other a helping hand. Oh, the horror.
Even media gossip tried to make a big deal over the fact that Paul Reubens’ right-handed treasure trove included that infamous video of Rob Lowe in a hotel room gettin’ funky with two underage young ladies. Shudder, shudder. It seems most likely that Reubens bought the tape to get a good look at ex-West Wing star Lowe’s freshly erected south wing, don’t you think? Poor Pee-Wee can’t be the only person to have witnessed Rob’s trampoline-tight tush in About Last Night and wondered if there’s more where that came from. I’d jump at the chance to watch Lowe’s notorious bit of nasty, and so would everyone I know—gay, straight, or Seventh Day Adventist.
Townshend’s case seems to be a little hazier, and his claim that he was surfing the kiddie Web as research for a book about his own childhood abuse doesn’t sound like the best defense to me. Yet I don’t find his much-berated statement that everybody has a little natural curiosity to be disgusting and outrageous. The marketing campaigns for many of this nation’s most successful companies depend largely on the easy commodification of young bodies—and it obviously ain’t just Pete and Pee- Wee enjoying the results. Do I think anybody should be sexualizing an 8-year-old? Of course I don’t, just as I don’t think that a person should be allowed to manipulate the appeal of a hard-bodied but still vulnerable high-schooler, or that a man of intellect like Jerry Seinfeld should marry someone who looks like his niece. I’d personally rather drool over 39-year-old Brad Pitt’s abdomen than slobber over someone who’s failing algebra any day. But I’d never pretend that a glance at a beautiful young body shirtless on a skateboard doesn’t give me a moment of blessing the Lord for His Many Wonders.
There are gray areas in even the blackest of circumstance, and only lying fools would claim to live apart from natural human response. Diane Sawyer, continuing the deadly serious type of journalism akin to her cutting-edge interview with Jennifer Lopez, reflected on the Townshend uproar by bringing an “Internet expert” onto Good Morning America last week to show viewers how easy it is to download kiddie porn. The first shocking photo they found featured a 16-year-old guy in a tight swimsuit. Excuse me for going out on a limb here, but I’ll bet even my mother has had head her turned by the sight of a teen in a Speedo.