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Kevin Spacey linking abuse to his sexuality was relevant

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This was an absolutely relevant example of one man’s struggle

The moral outrage about Kevin Spacey coming out as gay as he’s accused of sexually abusing actor Anthony Rapp when he was a 14-year-old boy rings hollow. ‘How dare you?’ asked the Guardian’s Owen Jones arguing that he was ‘fuelling a vicious lie’ which links gay men with child sex abuse.

How many human beings, I wanted to ask Owen Jones, are utterly straightforward in their sexuality? How many completely understand their own sexuality? How many have never behaved sexually ambiguously, against their own or another’s better judgement? 

Sexuality is both an expression of our vibrancy and a barometer of our emotional wellbeing. Each plays into the other as we seek to make sense of ourselves in the world, reaching out and trying to create what we want in life, while trying not to get burnt; the path we tread between risk and safety. 

Sexuality often seems to have a life of its own, independent of rational decision making. It’s a reflection of a part of ourselves that psychological theory makes great attempts to understand and unpick, though I suspect has a long way to go.

For those who have both enjoyed a fulfilling sex life, and always behaved sexually impeccably throughout their lives, well done. I suspect you are in a minority. I’m not attempting to defend Kevin Spacey’s inappropriate advances on a 14-year-old boy, which clearly left their scars. I’m simply saying don’t pretend that there’s not and shouldn’t be a link between that behaviour and confusion about sexual identity. 

To my mind the Kevin Spacey revelation demonstrates just how hard it still is for people to come to terms with being gay - or, in fact, any representation that is outside the sexual norm - and this act, more than 30 years ago, was an absolutely relevant example of one man’s personal struggle with this. Drunkenness, as it doesn’t take great insight to see, often brings out sides to people they’ve been trying to suppress. 

The outrage suggests that we understand all there is to know about sexuality, and there are guardians out there - Owen Jones chief among them - who can simply tell us how to behave, what’s expected of us as human beings, the limits and extremities of our permitted behaviour. It’s a view just as bigoted as those of the gay oppressors. And as the LGBT community becomes increasingly vocal, will they too start to sound more and more authoritarian about right and wrong, good and bad? 

To claim there is no link between gay men and abuse is like saying there’s no link between freedom fighters and terrorism. It’s precisely because there was a closet that this link emerged. Try to keep something as natural as human sexuality in and down, fail to give it oxygen, and it will emerge in all kinds of uncontrolled and possibly dangerous ways. 

Similarly, sexuality and power are often presented as distinct. Yet to believe that power is and should be no part of our sexuality is an impossible dream. We are attracted to people’s strength as well as their vulnerability, and recognising for ourselves when any of us is abusing our power, as we struggle to make the best of ourselves and our lives, is the holy grail - certainly something to aim for, probably impossible to achieve. I say this as I emerge from a broken marriage, with two teenage children. We’re all doing pretty well and each of us, in our way, has fought to keep our eyes in the moral compass as we’ve veered between anger and love, humiliation and compassion, grief and remorse... while also rebuilding our lives and changed sense of family. 

So when I read Owen Jones’s outright condemnation of another human being’s behaviour, I want to caution. I want to say, can’t we just listen to Kevin Spacey, hear his whole story? And, of course, Anthony Rapp’s? Could debate and discussion not simply be about who can shout the loudest? Then maybe we could learn something. Something worthwhile about what it is to be human. Five hundred years after Martin Luther began the Protestant revolution, it behoves us all to remember that bigotry comes in all guises - and that it’s our condemnation of the sinners that that says most about us and our humanity.  

 

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