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A too-warm embrace?
A too-warm embrace?

 News News Archive  
December 2002 Email this to a friend
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Sex & the Snipers
Are homosex & crime bedfellows?

In a free marketplace, consumers get what they want. In America's free market in news– with thousands of competing TV channels, magazines, and web sites– consumers get the demons they desire. So it follows– as inexorably as if decided by a focus group fine-tuning plots for prospective Hollywood thrillers– that the sniper who terrorized the Washington, DC, suburbs in October turned out to be a black, possibly queer, intergenerational couple, one of whom was named Muhammad.

Of course, we don't know that 42-year-old John Allen Muhammad and 17-year-old John Lee Malvo– besides sleeping together at a Virginia YMCA and in their 1990 Chevy Caprice– were also having sex. We only know that they worked out together at various gyms with the devotion of Chelsea muscle studs– and that they seemingly plotted crimes of staggering lawlessness and cruelty, exceeded only by what goes down at the Pentagon and White House.

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The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has issued a media advisory to the effect that any particular pair of same-sex snipers is no more or less likely to be homosexual than any other, at least barring some smoking-gun evidence to the contrary.

"Even if the snipers were in a sexual relationship, their sexuality has nothing to do with the crime they are accused of committing," says GLAADS's Beth George.

A smoking gun– an M-16 acquired from a Tacoma weapons emporium, to be precise– has indeed been found. But so far not the proof that sucking, fucking, or fondling went on between Muhammad and Malvo.

Of course, there were bold assertions otherwise in the National Enquirer.

"When Muhammad's wife regained custody of their three children, Muhammad's latent homosexuality was triggered," the Enquirer quoted one Dr. Andrew Hodges, "a leading forensic psychiatrist and expert on serial killers."

"They were always whispering to each other and giggling together," the Enquirer goes on.

But even higher up on the media food chain, reports have been coded to hint at something queer. "The Sick World of the Snipers," blared the Newsweek cover– sick being a word that conveys not just simple viciousness but perversion's sweet notes of decay.

A vignette recounted in the Washington Post about a visit the accused couple paid to a store is also suggestive: "The fresh-faced teen was looking through fabric patterns. Muhammad playfully put his arm around Malvo's neck and began to horse around." Consult your stock of unconscious stereotypes: what kind of fresh-faced guys go to the sewing department just for yuks?

Heart of darkness

Prosecutors must be distressed that one particular bit of fabric has not been found. By publicly waving the, say, semen-stained underwear, the trial could be quick and easy. Without having to prove the presence of the tell-tale Caprice at any particular Wal-Mart Supercenter or Ponderosa Steakhouse, or show beyond a reasonable doubt who pulled the trigger, the DA could readily convince a jury what would be claimed as the dark heart of the crime– Muhammad's transport of an innocent minor across state lines for immoral purposes, in express violation of the Mann Act.

So as things stand, trials over the shootings seem inevitable. Survivors will be re-traumatized who otherwise could be speeding toward closure. The case has been handed to Virginia, in order to insure that young Malvo– in addition to elder Muhammad– can be executed, as Virginia's laws helpfully allow for the state-sponsored killing of the teenagers they protect from the defilement of blow-jobs.

Armies of lovers

But even in the absence of proof of homosexual– in addition to homicidal– conduct, GLAAD's position is too simple. Homoerotics– in particular between males older and younger– are in fact closely connected to deeds that– either dastardly or heroic– are, in any case, beyond the law. That is part of their character– and their potential social value.

The debate on this subject goes back to ancient Greece, where it was widely agreed that the homoerotic bond was one that fear and the law could never touch. An army of lovers could not fail, Plato wrote, because each warrior, to insure he remained worthy of love, would aim to outdo his beloved in acts of heroic devotion (this was before missile-firing unmanned robot aircraft). Partisans of pederasty said that the practice protected people from tyrants– because homosexual couples could create almost perfect conspiracies against any usurpers.

Greece being Greece, these claims provoked spirited dispute. Naysayers said this tight, private male pair-bond was simply a breeding ground for conspiracy, faction, and civil strife. One historical datum suggests this side of the argument had the weaker case: when Greece was finally swallowed by the Roman empire, the colonizers tried to impose heterosexual matrimony.

Youngsters' mischief-making– sexual or otherwise– has a silver lining. By giving young males the chance to test the boundary of the law– ideally perhaps with sympathetic adult co-conspirators making sure things don't go haywire– you get, later on, citizens who regard the law as their own.

There's no good without the freedom to be bad, most everyone agrees. But there's a less well understood corollary– that it's hard to turn out good without some earlier testing of the bad. Freud noted that preternaturally good children, lacking boisterous animal spirits, were the precursors to troubled adults.

That their mere demographics made Muhammad and Malvo such suspicious characters shows how far the American regime of zero-tolerance has prevailed, stamping out in the process healthy Boy Scout circle jerks and neighborhood scenes of old where teenagers could readily find a friendly older neighbor with whom to drink beer and snag a joint.

Apply disinfectant regularly to a bathroom floor and harmless microbes are slaughtered wholesale, clearing the space for super-resistant über-bugs. American consumers already were demanding thoroughly policed, surveilled public space. Now they will want more. In the snipers, has America gotten what it secretly desires?

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