Ben Stein’s Libel

Jim Burroway

October 2nd, 2006

I figured it was only a matter of time. And I wouldn’t have to wait for very long.

Former Congressman Mark Foley, Republican from Florida, resigned after sexually suggestive Instant Messages between him and a 16-year-old page were made public. It had been rumored in the mainstream press that Mark Foley was gay, but closeted for several years. And now that those rumors are confirmed by way of a scandal, the supposed link between homosexuality and pedophilia is being trotted out once again.

This time, these charges aren’t confined to a few web pages of militant anti-gay activists. Ben Stein offered this bit of wisdom in the American Spectator today:

We have a Republican man in Congress who sent e-mails to teenage boys asking them what they were wearing, and an entire party, the Democrats, whose primary constituency, besides the teachers’ unions, is homosexual men and lesbian women. I hope it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that a big part of male homosexual behavior is interest in young boys. (Take a look at anyone renting Endless Summer next time you are at the video store.)

Ben Stein presents himself as someone who is knowledgable about a lot of things. He even cashed in on that reputation in a game show called “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” in which contestants were challenged to “steal” his money by outwitting his vast knowledge of all sorts of minutia.

Unfortunately, Ben Stein is horribly uninformed about pedophilia. Where’s the isolation booth when you need one?

In our report, Testing the Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?, I looked over countless articles in the social science literature and could not find any evidence that there was any link between homosexuality and pedophilia. Instead, I found researchers saying things like this:

The research to date all points to there being no significant relationship between a homosexual lifestyle and child molestation. There appears to be practically no reportage of sexual molestation of girls by lesbian adults, and the adult male who sexually molests young boys is not likely to be a homosexual.

Of course, that’s not to say that there aren’t any predatory gay men or women. It looks like Foley provides us with one shameful example. But when child abuse experts have studied this problem closely, they clearly state that there is no evidence of a greater proportion of predators among gays than anyone else. (A few experts have even argued that openly gay men and women are less likely to be sexual predators.)

No, the fact that Foley went after teenage boys is not an integral part of his homosexuality. It’s a part of something else. What is that something else? I don’t know. Maybe we should ask Debra LaFave, who at 25 repeatedly had sex with a 14-year-old boy in 2005. Or maybe we should ask Tracy Tapp, who molested three male high school students.

And maybe we should ask every straight person we meet why “a big part of heteroseuxal behavior is interest in young boys and girls.”

Ben Stein tries to justify his ignorant remarks with this laughably classic line:

Don’t get me wrong. My very best friend is gay. I have many gay friends and they are great people. But…

But… no. This isn’t about homosexuality, and certainly not healthy homosexuality. The closet has a terribly corrupting influence. And with few exceptions (and certainly, exceptions exists), almost all of our “gay scandals” involve closeted gay people. Andrew Sullivan puts it this way:

What I do know is that the closet corrupts. The lies it requires and the compartmentalization it demands can lead people to places they never truly wanted to go, and for which they have to take ultimate responsibility. From what I’ve read, Foley is another example of this destructive and self-destructive pattern for which the only cure is courage and honesty. While gays were fighting for thir basic equality, Foley voted for the “Defense of Marriage Act”. If his resignation means the end of the closet for him, and if there is no more to this than we now know, then it may even be for the good. Better to find integrity and lose a Congressional seat than never live with integrity at all.

And therein, I think, lies part of the problem. As long as gay men and women continue to be marginalized by large segments of our society, and as long as people continue to feel pressured to hide who they are to everyone around them, they will continue to seek out human contact in the most inappropriate ways. Maybe Ben Stein should get to know his “gay friends” a little better and observe exactly what it is about them that makes them great people. I’ll bet a princely sum that he knows these great people because they’re not closeted.

We will see many attempts to link pedophilia with homosexuality in the next several weeks. Like the famous “blood libel” that Ben Stein’s ancestors suffered under, this libel is not likely to go away anytime soon.

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