"Horsing Around" and the Penn State Scandal

The evolving story of the alleged victims of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky has struck an enormous nerve with me.

In reading the Sandusky indictment, it appears that Mike McQueary walked in on Sandusky raping a boy he approximated to be 10 years old. The indictment says that McQueary saw what was happening, and that both the boy and Sandusky saw McQueary observing them.

The indictment does not indicate whether McQueary intervened or stopped this. It states that McQueary was distraught and left the scene. The indictment gives no indication that he was disturbed enough to stop the activity right then and there.

McQueary reported what he saw to Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley. Curley later denied that McQueary mentioned anything about witnessing sexual intercourse between Sandusky and the boy and categorized the behavior as "horsing around".

"Horsing around." That phrase rang out at me like an alarm.

I read the indictment three days before Sandusky's interview with Bob Costas on NBC's Rock Center. In that interview, Sandusky also referred to his behavior as "horsing around."

The alarm bell went off again.

As a gay man, over the years I have met men with varying degrees of comfort with their sexuality. The most repressed men were insistent that they were 100 percent heterosexual, and that any same-sex activity they would engage in was "just horsing around."

I heard the phrase "just horsing around" so often I determined it was a code phrase. It allows for deniability and its use implies that any same-sex activity is "nothing to be taken seriously." It's a "way out" and rationalization of the shame and the guilt so-called "straight" men feel for having same-sex attractions or experiences.

Because of the connotation I have where certain types of men equate "horsing around" with same-sexual activity they are ashamed of, I am convinced that the sexual abuse Jerry Sandusky is accused of occurred. He may have used the phrase to try to deny the allegations of pedophilia during the Costas interview, but to me, he only gave himself away.

But what about men like Tim Curley? Why are they writing off what happened as "horsing around"? If it's true that McQueary left the locker room scene without intervening in the actual rape, why did he (beyond psychiatric experts saying that his brain couldn't handle the shock of what he saw)?

I think it's this.

Most ignorant people, especially sexually repressed or deeply homophobic men, believe that "gay" and "pedophile" are the same thing. Therefore, any sexual behavior that occurs between adult men and young boys is written off as "gay." The boys involved become viewed as willing participants instead of victims.

I believe it's the unspoken reason why many people who witnessed the behavior of Sandusky at Penn State stayed silent, said nothing, or didn't do enough. The idea of "horsing around" or "horseplay" is incorrectly viewed as natural sexual experimentation for boys and men. More men who identify as "straight" have had these types of experiences than would care to admit, whether it occurred as abuse or otherwise.

Additionally, my experience is that hard core "sporto types" of adult men expect boys to behave as if they are also adult men, even when they're ten years old.

So, even if you're a ten-year-old boy, you are not supposed to allow these things to happen to you. You're supposed to be tough and stand up for yourself; fight back or call for help. You're not supposed to let any man touch you, certainly not rape or have sex with you. If you do, then it means you're gay.

It's the equivalent of people saying a woman who dresses provocatively and then gets raped, 'asked for it.' If a boy allowed this to happen to him, then he must be gay and probably wanted it. So the adults who witnessed it say nothing; again, because they confuse "gay" and "pedophile."

That is the only way I can even come close to coming up with an explanation why so many men, according to the indictment, witnessed what Jerry Sandusky was doing with these boys and consistently turned the other way and protected Sandusky by staying silent.

Now, I certainly cannot claim to put myself inside Mike McQueary's head or know what his life experiences are. However, I suspect that if he had walked in on Sandusky sexually assaulting a ten year old girl in 2002, we would have heard about this story almost immediately and Sandusky would have long been behind bars.

Parents and observant adults, know this. There is no reason for a naked adult man to be "horsing around" or engaging in "horseplay" with a naked young boy in a shower unless there is sexual intent. Never.