A week ago, a Huffington Post columnist argued that it was homophobic to criticize gay men who use Internet sex sites to meet teenage partners. You might shrug that off as an anomaly, if you didn’t realize that in May, Huffington Post was enthusiastically aboard the “Free Kate” bandwagon to legalize sex with 14-year-olds in Florida.
In June of this year, I sent out a story to be considered for Best Lesbian Erotica 2014, a popular anthology put out by Cleis Press. The largest independent queer publisher in the U.S., Cleis has established itself as the de facto clearinghouse for lesbian erotica. . . .
The story I submitted, called “Cottonmouth” . . . is about two teenage cousins who go for a walk in the Mississippi woods to escape the afternoon heat and end up face-to-face with the mystery of sexuality and nature and the myths created about the two. The story was accepted by the guest editor, Sarah Schulman. While Sarah loved it, she had a tussle with the publishers about whether or not the story’s focus was “bestiality.” Sarah’s position was, “So what?” . . .
Then August came, and I received another email from Sarah saying that Cleis wanted to remove “Cottonmouth” from the collection because the characters were underage, and claiming that Cleis faced “legal vulnerability.” Sarah, whose novel The Child, about a sexual relationship between a 15-year-old boy and a 40-year-old man, faced no legal consequences, immediately recognized this as censorship and wrote, “I cannot permit this and will go to the wall.” . . .
Now I see that the discomfort generated by my story marks a shift in what Cleis Press is targeting as their main audience. The “queer” label associated with the publisher is no longer so much about making a space for outsiders to be heard as it is about niche marketing. This is where the fear comes in. Ultimately, the anxiety around the homosexual as pedophile and the uncomfortable linkage of homosexuality with bestiality still looms large in a certain sector of the American public’s imagination
Translation: “Hey, it’s just a harmless story about two teenage cousins who have sex with a snake, what’s the big deal? And I mean, c’mon, the guest editor wrote a novel about pederasty, so obviously you didn’t have a problem with that, right?”
But remember, there’s no such thing as a “gay agenda.” Anybody who says there is such an agenda is a paranoid homophobic bigot.