One of the most unfair stigmas about gay men is that for them, sex is not connected to attraction or love, but instead to pathology. The myth perpetuates the homophobic belief that gay men will have sex with any male at any time, with little regard for passion or connection. Such erroneous belief is the cause for homophobic heterosexual men to be ill at ease when in the presence of a gay man, as if to suggest gay men will penetrate anything. The axiom dehumanizes the homosexual community, and conjures images of predatory monsters.
In the wake of actor Anthony Rapp’s allegations Kevin Spacey attempted to sexually assault him when Rapp was 14, Spacey took to Twitter to “apologize.” Instead, he used the opportunity and the platform to come out as a gay man, and in an instant conflated homosexuality with predatory behavior.
For so many people, coming out as gay, lesbian or transgender is one of the most difficult processes they will ever experience. There is inherent risk of lost familial support, rejection by church and discrimination in the workplace. Such risk is why affirming oneself as a member of the LGBTQ community is considered an act of bravery. With his deft attempt to deflect attention off of his possible proclivity for pedophilia, Spacey reduced a brave act to one he hoped would be construed as the lesser of two evils.
There is no connection between homosexual orientation/activity and pedophilia, but there are often attempts made at merging the two. Men who are accused of pedophilia, or who are diagnosed with pedophilic disorder, do not engage in sexual acts with young males because they are gay. If they were, reason dictates they would have sex with other gay or bisexual men, and the sex would be consensual and in no way related to power. Pedophilia is more connected to fetish, paraphilia and objectification.
Research is beginning to connect pedophilic disorder with neurodevelopmental disorders of the brain, or comorbidity with other mental disorders related to impulse control. The notion of impulse control is important regarding this issue because to live with pedophilic disorder does not automatically mean the pathological behaviors must occur. Kevin Spacey’s behavior toward Anthony Rapp when Rapp was a boy is clearly more about pathological impulse control than it is about homosexual attraction. Had Spacey been able to control his urges, there is no story here.
Further troubling is the blame Spacey places on alcohol consumption. Spacey scapegoated alcohol by describing the episode as a drunken moment about which he has forgotten, while Rapp bears the pain of trauma. Although alcohol can be correlated with lowered inhibitions, and impaired judgement, it is not known to be a cause of sexual crimes against children.
Members of the LGBTQ community, as well as advocates for this vulnerable population, constantly fight to mitigate stigma and discrimination while facilitating cross-gender equality. When Kevin Spacey conflated pedophilia and homosexuality, he attempted to gaslight anyone who read his explanation on Twitter, and concurrently perpetuated a stereotype long used to stoke homophobia, and amplify ignorance.