Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sex Scandals In The Media – Something’s Gotta Give

One of the most curious entrances the GLBT community has had into the American political sphere was when a gay sex website called Manhunt.net became a political hot potato during the 2008 Presidential race.

In a condensed version of the story, the trouble started when gay activists learned that the popular “hook-up” website had donated the maximum allowed to Republican candidate John McCain. The larger gay community, usually assumed to vote Democratic, felt as though they had been betrayed by the website and that their membership fees were going toward their own political demise. The story became exponentially more complicated when conservatives had their own problems with the news. They wanted to know how their Republican candidate could justify using money from a gay sex website and still be considered morally sound.

In the end, Manhunt.net attempted to regain some of their fiercely Democratic customer base by issuing statements, firing people and even making an equal donation to the Campaign for Change. But their donations were returned from both Presidential campaigns and then Manhunt users were left with an even weightier question: Why are political candidates so fearful of accepting money or words of support from the adult industry?

Perhaps the answer to that question can be found in a would-be scandal that I call “Bondage-Gate”. In the Fort Lauderdale Mayoral race of 2009, Fox News decided to get involved by releasing a “news story” about one of the 3 leading candidates, Earl Rynerson.

Rynerson was one of two openly gay candidates for Mayor running against another Democrat who eventually won - Jack Seiler. Rynerson’s campaign was rather slow compared to his opponents, so on some level, the controversy brought him a bit of attention, but it wasn’t the kind of attention he wanted. According to Fox News (who had gone digging through his old credit card receipts), Rynerson had rented pornography and bought a lifetime membership to an internet bondage website a few years ago. Fox News has since removed the inflammatory piece from all their websites, the election is over and both Rynerson and Trantalis (the other gay candidate) lost the election.


However, there are two internet websites which found value in keeping the article online. A neo-NAZI website operating out of West Palm Beach (the infamous Stormfront.org) keeps the story up, as well as a similarly fascist anti-gay website called AmericansForTruth.com. These websites use the story as a platform to show their readers that those “filthy” gay people should not be elected to public office because they will supposedly “turn the office into a sexual playground”. But according to an ABC poll (in which less than 5% of the people polled were GLBT), a whopping 12 percent of Americans are already having sex in the workplace, literally… on the clock.

Now, even the most prudish among us can see that there a number of problems with this sort of smear campaign. First and foremost, it’s just not a big deal. Pornography made by consenting adults is just not quite the political pipe bomb it used to be back in the 60’s and 70’s. In fact, the heavily Mormon population of Salt Lake City Utah has been found to consume more internet pornography than any other place in America. Let the record show that even as I write this post, I have a second window open with some very naughty things going on… and yes, I’m very much ok with that.

Secondly, these kinds of non-news stories only serve to divert our attention away from bigger issues and real life “sex problems” that people face. Perhaps nobody remembers that there was a much more serious Floridian political sex problem in late 2007 that actually involved murder and suicide. You might not be familiar with this story, because to my knowledge, the only person who covered it was Pam Spaulding on her blog.

According to PamsHouseBlend:

* the bodies of Republican political consultant Ralph Gonzalez, 39, president of The Strategum Group, his roommate David Abrami and "a friend," Jason Robert Drake, were found in the house of Ralph Gonzalez.

* Gonzalez served with the Republican Party of Florida's House Campaign Division and executive director of the Georgia Republican Party and counted the Alabama Republican Legislative Committee as a client, producing an anti-gay flier accusing a Dem candidate of supporting marriage equality.

* A newspaper, Florida Today, initially reported that there were signs of a struggle, printing "Lovers' fight may have sparked three deaths" as its headline. The paper later scrubbed any references to a love triangle.


Now, these are the sorts of sex-scandals that we need to hear more about because they present the cold hard truth about the society we live in. These poor guys would rather kill each other and commit suicide than come out of the closet and admit to their Republican colleagues that they are gay. Yet, the mainstream media would rather focus on the non-story of a South Carolina Deputy Assistant DA who committed the heinous crime of being caught with sex toys in his SUV. He was not using the sex toys in his car and from what has been reported, the toys and a single tablet of Viagra were not even visible from outside the vehicle when police pulled him over. The Assistant DA was flogged by the media and then fired from his job even though no crime had been committed. The big question we should be asking here is why a man deserves to lose his entire livelihood over the possession of perfectly legal items in the privacy of his own property. But absolutely NOBODY in the mainstream media has raised this question in relation Roland Corning’s non-scandal.


America has hang-ups when it comes to sexuality. The human mind is capable of going to some very dark places and when we can’t even admit that we enjoy sex, the dark recesses of our minds begin to consume the entire landscape of our thinking… leading to sex addiction, sinister behavior and yes… even victimizing children.

I would put forth to any Fascist organization (Stormfront, AmericansForTruth, NARTH) which demonize the expression of sexuality that THEY are responsible for every child who has been harmed and every life that has been taken by the inability to receive mental help in terms of self-acceptance and release from the pseudo-religious dogma we have come to call “group-think”. Predators go undetected and parents are left without the necessary resources to raise their children with awareness and dignity.

This “disease” of sexual dishonesty is not just one for politicians, although they seem to be the most inflicted. A good majority of Americans are living in the psycho-sexual dark ages according to just about every world survey on sexual dysfunction. Unfortunately, in our tabloid-centric society, nobody is learning "the moral of the story" anymore. Rarely is the opinion presented these days which reflects that "the problem isn't the sex they're having, it's the lying about it."

Even so, the lies and cover-ups of everyone from Carrie Prejean to John Edwards really amount to people who are trying so desperately to protect the sanctuary of their private lives from the monster created by their media-induced public image. Can you blame them?

They don't owe us any explanations, really. We should concern ourselves with more important matters. That's the real "moral of the story."

10 comments:

  1. Sex sells . America needs to grow up.

    The real perverts are running the show with their fingers in everyone else's private lives rather than having a satisfied sex-life of their own. Too bad the mass media doesn't do an expose on that! And surveys regarding intrusion and condemnation, and quilt over destroying persons for their sex lives.

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  2. Earl Rynerson was never a serious or viable candidate for Mayor. Seiler and Trantalis both had a long history of public service, both had been elected to public office before, and both were well known and well respected in the community. Seiler and Trantalis both ran clean campaigns based on the issues. Earl Rynerson ran an attack campaign where he tried to smear the good names of Seiler and Trantalis, and Earl Rynerson ended up embarrassed and looking like a clown when his background was exposed. In fact, both Seiler and Trantalis refused to comment on the sexual bondage allegations against Earl Rynerson. You need a better example than Earl Rynerson.

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  3. We covered the Gonzalez-Abrami story at Pensito Review, and our coverage was picked up by BuzzFlash, which has 6 million daily readers. The story was also covered at big sites like BradBlog and Crooks & Liars.

    But your larger point is correct. We still don't know, and probably never will know, what led to the murders. For example, Gonzales' professional connections with Jack Abramoff and Tom Feeney were never thoroughly aired. In fact, it's likely that local law enforcement did not even investigate these ties.

    It's been a while but if memory serves, after a little digging, we were fairly convinced that Abrami was not gay. And, for what it's worth, the ex-wife of the alleged shooter, Iraq-invastion veteran Robert Drake, also questioned police and reporters' assumptions about Drake's sexuality.

    The police may have accurately detailed events that led up to the shootings, but their theory about the motive is full of holes.

    Another development from last year's campaign is that Troy King, the Alabama attorney general who was outed, was also a client of Gonazeles. King was scrubbed from McCain's Alabama campaign website, but weathered the outing is running for reelection.

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  4. Rynerson was definitely not a legitimate candidate for Ft. Lauderdale Mayor. Jack Seiler and Dean Trantalis were the only legitimate candidates for Mayor. In fact, there was a fourth candidate (name escapes me) who almost beat Rynerson. Rynerson spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money (he could not raise any money in the community), and he got crushed. Trantalis and Seiler were both well known, well liked and well respected in the City, and both had served in public office before. Rynerson tried to use his own money to attack Trantalis and Seiler, but then his own background buried him. Rynerson will never be able to run for public office again in Florida.

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  5. @Anonymous - I'm sorry, but I just disagree with your assessment of Rynerson. I voted for him because he had been on the city commission in San Francisco (that is indeed more experience related to a mayoral position than Trantalis) and he was the only candidate who addressed the issue of city officials who draw huge salaries and don't even live in the communities they represent. This is a HUGE problem in South Florida because when an official is allowed to "take the money and run" they have no allegiance to the community that they are supposed to represent. Furthremore, Rynerson did a lot better than many gays expected in the end, and he did it without the gay vote (which mostly went to Trantalis). There is a lesson to be learned there.

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  6. @Jon Ponder - I am very new to the "blogosphere" and I suppose that when that particular scandal came about, I was probably only ingesting mainstream media networks. In fact, it's only a recent development that blogs dictate what makes the mainstream headlines in some instances. There is still a bit of a disconnect when you ask readers to trust in information that they've been exposed to through a blog (or internet-based news source) - even a popular one.

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  7. Jarrett:

    Rynerson was never an elected city commissioner in San Francisco. That was just one more misrepresentation that backfired on him during the election. Rynerson has never been elected anywhere and, further, he has never served or volunteered in any capacity in Fort Lauderdale. With respect to how he did, Rynerson got less than 15% of the vote - you can't spin that number to make it look good! Please do some research next time.

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  8. @anonymous:
    I do not like being accused of "spinning things". Especially by an anonymous commenter. In the future, please identify yourself.
    For the record, here are the election results:
    Seiler 9,216 (57.28%)
    Trantalis 3,634 (22.5%)
    Rynerson 2,458 (15.5%)
    Rossi 781 (5%)

    Furthermore, you are correct that Rynerson was not "elected" to the city commission, he was appointed... the same as Trantalis. Rynerson was honest about his background as a Lieutenant Air Force Colonel and a private business owner who funded his campaign at 80% out of his own pocket. This to me, means that he believed in himself enough to not need the backing of any lobbyists or special interests. Please do not comment on my blog if you're only going to accuse me of not doing any research and spinning things. Wrong on both counts, my "anonymous" friend...

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  9. Also, for the record - Jack Seiler, the clear winner of the election, was the only candidate who had been elected to public office in the past, as Mayor of Wilton Manors. The two attorneys and 1 private business owner who ran against him, although doing their honorable best, failed to beat him. There was nothing inherently wrong with any of the 4 candidates in my opinion.

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  10. I want to know more about the JibJab video showing Seiler dancing at Chippendale's as a joke

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Florida Squeezed would love to hear your take on it...