On Sexual Immorality

There's nothing like watching a bunch of naked gay guys frollick in the pool to take your mind off the likes of Tom Delay and Newt Gingrich-- two men who are, apparently, no longer particularly close, if you're to take Tom Delay's recent criticism of Gingrich-style adultery ("eatin' ain't cheatin'," as MC Chris would say) in his new book at face value. It turns out that Delay feels that it's best to cheat on your wife earlier in your marriage/ political career, in order to have a clean conscience when you later try to impeach the president for the same thing. I'm not convinced, and neither was Emily when I suggested that now might be the perfect time for me to get started with my own infidelity.

Our recent trip to Key West served to remind us that we're not the only ones who find this obsession with sex and "immorality" just silly. The day that the Huffington Post reported Delay's criticism of Gingrich's inability to project a "high moral standard, a high moral tone," Emily and I found ourselves surrounded by people at the Atlantic Shores resort who, quite frankly, don't tend to concern themselves with the far-right's repressive (and inherently hypocritical) views of sexuality.

That's not to say that the people who frequented the Atlantic Shores (a motel with a clothing-optional beach and pool area that traditionally catered to gay men and women) are immoral-- the regulars, from what Emily and I have seen, are fun, friendly people who are very inclusive-- but not overbearing or intimidating-- of the open-minded breeders who enjoyed the place. And that's not to say that adultery isn't immoral-- if you betray someone you've promised to love and honor, of course that's a terrible thing.

However, the "moral standard" that so many Republicans prattle on and on about has less to do with issues of respect within a marriage (or other long-term, monogomous relationship) and more to do with an obsessive preoccupation with-- and shame about-- physicality and sexuality. When someone like Gingrich or Delay has an affair, I suspect that the guilt that results comes not from the realization, "Oh no-- I've just betrayed my wife and potentially hurt this other woman whose only crime was having sex with me," but, rather, from the thought "Oh no-- once again I could not control my physical impulses. Why am I so weak?" Sure, it's stil guilt, I suppose, but the latter is a much more self-centered, less empathetic type of guilt.

As someone who's recently lived in the midwest and whose family is overwhelmingly Republican, I would say I've lived most of my life in Delay and Gingrich's world of shame and hypocrisy. To look at me now you probably wouldn't know it, but as a teenager I felt tremendous guilt over what I thought of as "my double life": altar boy and bright student by day; anxious, sweaty sex fiend by night (and, let's face it, sometimes late afternoon). And, as you can suspect, this shame only fueled my obsession with sexuality, to the point that-- even now-- I'm the person most of my friends turn to when a phrase or word like "pegging" or "glass-bottom boat" or "salad tossing" appears in Savage Love, and they require an explanation.

All this is to say that the reason the Atlantic Shores has been our preferred vacation spot the last three times Emily and I have felt like going out of town is that this is a place where people know that obsessing over the physical impulses that motivate us all is a ridiculous and destructive waste of time. Often, when people have asked why Emily and I would choose to stay at a clothing-optional, mostly-gay resort, I've replied, "Because there are no kids there." And that's part of the charm, sure-- if I'm drinking and smoking cigarettes, I don't really want to feel like I'm contributing to anyone's delinquency through my bad example. But the truth is, even though I don't personally have much desire to frollick with naked gay men, I really prefer the company of those who do-- or, at least, those who find nothing objectionable in such frollicking. And where else can you really be surrounded by fun, friendly people who love life and live without shame?

Sadly, the Atlantic Shores is closing today. In fact, I'm pretty sure that yesterday was the last day the beach and pool were open. This summer, they'll demolish the whole place in order to build a "family-friendly luxury resort." The sad part is, such places-- with their red state obsession with customer service and bland, cookie cutter, one-size fits all notions of just what is "luxurious"-- are decidedly unfriendly towards families like the Bradley-Isaacsons. But you can't fight progress-- the Atlantic Shores had, apparently, been losing money for years. It's easy to imagine that, once, it was a haven for people who were mocked and shunned in other places because of their sexuality. As society's become more progressive and understanding, such havens have been less and less necessary.

So, in that sense, it's hard to see the closing of the Atlantic Shores as a bad thing. Though I'll certainly miss the place, and will always imagine Tom Delay vacationing in Key West, hoping to do some fishing and jet skiing. A less-than-competent staff member makes a reservation at this "resort" without actually looking the place up on the web... I think such a mistake would be very good for him.

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