Sticks and Stones

The man they call "Porno Pete" is a little chafed.

Jim Burroway

June 4th, 2007

Peter LaBarbera doesn’t like his nickname.

For several years now, it’s been reported that Peter LaBarbera has made it his quest to attend various leather and S&M events, report on what he sees, and claim that it somehow is representative — or even relevant — to the gay community at large. Whenever he goes to events like these, he takes several salacious photos and posts them on his website. Then he exhorts his readers to “take action” of some sort (which usually involves harassing the hosting venues) and demands that everyone in the gay community condemn the event.

He takes this work very seriously. He even compares his mission to those of Simon Wiesenthal and Mother Theresa. That’s pretty serious.

It’s been reported that Peter LaBarbera has a collection of leather outfits to wear to these events. It’s also been reported that he likes to go undercover to gay bathhouses — Chicago’s Steamworks seems to be a favorite. And it’s been reported that LaBarbera maintains an impressive collection of gay porn — for research purposes, of course. In fact, LaBarbera’s storied reputation for being inordinately fascinated by all things pornographic — well, not all things, just gay male things — has led to his being dubbed with the well-earned moniker of “Porno Pete.”

LaBarbera credits Wayne Besen for the nickname, one that has spread LaBarbera’s fame far and wide. When I mentioned Peter LaBarbera to my partner over the weekend, he didn’t know who I was talking about. As soon as I said “Porno Pete” though, he knew instantly. “Oh, that guy.” It has now reached the point where you have to refer to his nickname at least once just so everyone will know who you’re talking about.

But Porno Pete doesn’t like his nickname. He calls it a smear. He brought his objections up in a comment on this web site, and he repeats his objections on his own site.

By the way, he also generously mentions this humble web site on his blog, describing us as alternating “between high-minded critiques of pro-family research and mean-spirited name-calling.” The “high-minded” part is quite a compliment. Thanks. We do try. Sorry about the name calling though. We try to be high-minded, but it’s hard to stay focused when dealing with low-minded people, particularly those who go through more exclamation marks in a single post than normal people do in a lifetime. But I’ll give it my best shot.

At any rate, Porno Pete, err… Mr. LaBarbera attended an “International Mr. Leather” event in Chicago recently, and he’s all up in arms because of how awful the whole thing was. If I had gone, I might have agreed with him. That’s probably why I didn’t go. I have no interest in these things whatsoever. What’s more, none of my friends went. I don’t think they were interested either.

Now that I think of it, if someone were to point a gun to my head and demand I give the names of all the people who went, the only name I could give would be Mr. LaBarbera’s, and I’d have to pray that that would be enough to save my life. Otherwise, I’m doomed.

Several years ago, I did happen to attend an event where public nudity was on display everywhere I turned. It wasn’t pretty. I had gone along with some (straight) friends and rented a sailboat to cruise around the British Virgin Islands. We anchored one afternoon off of the tiny island of Sandy Cay for a day of hiking and just generally hanging around the pristine beach. We had been on that island for no more than an hour when we saw a Windjammer-style sailing vessel on one of those “barefoot cruises.” It dropped anchor and began to discharge its passengers onto the beach. Except this was no mere barefoot cruise. This was a “bare all” cruise of mostly retired Minnesotan nudists — heterosexuals all. On our beach. In public. In blindingly broad daylight.

They were very nice and friendly. I talked to one kind lady who reminded me of my grandmother, except of course for the no-clothes thing. They invited us to join them, but we decided to leave when we saw them organizing what looked to be a game of nudist leapfrog. We didn’t stay around long enough to learn the rules.

I don’t know what horrors Mr. LaBarbera saw at International Mr. Leather that weekend, but I would have dared him to take pictures of these pasty-skinned, gray-haired (yes, even there!) naked Minnesotan retirees. I doubt he would have made it off that island alive.

I bring this up because I think there’s a simple lesson to be learned. If you don’t like something, don’t go. Or if you’re there by accident, leave.

Mr. LaBarbera doesn’t like International Mr. Leather, which I totally get because neither would I. So next time it comes to town, he should do what I did. Or didn’t do — whatever. Don’t go. I mean really — they had a sign at the door saying the event was closed to the general public, didn’t they? Mr. LaBarbera even took a picture of it. I wish there had been a sign on Sandy Cay, but there wasn’t. Mr. LaBarbera should consider himself lucky to have been forewarned.

But no, he barreled right past that sign (after pausing to take a picture of it first) and went right in. And then he took lots more pictures. He even took pictures that he said he couldn’t post on his web site. I’m not sure why he took those pictures — but hey, different strokes, right?

And now that he’s posted his “report,” he wants the rest of us homosexuals to condemn the event. Well heck, I didn’t even know about it, and I don’t know what responsibility I have for it. Why should he call me out on it? I don’t hold Mr. LaBarbera — or even heterosexuals in general — responsible for spoiling my afternoon in the Virgin Islands. Why should I be tied (get it? That’s a joke!) to that thing in Chicago?

But okay. I’ll set aside that complete breakdown in logic and offer my condemnation for something I have nothing to do with:

I don’t think I’d like it. I don’t like any public display of fetishes, even though this wasn’t entirely public. Next year, I will be sure to boycott it.

(Can you boycott something if you don’t know about it? Do I have to join the International Mr. Leather mailing list just so I’ll know what not to go to? I’ll have to think about that one.)

But as long as we’re on the topic of demanding that people condemn things that have nothing to do with them, I’d like to point out to Mr. LaBarbera that this year’s Fetish Con will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Tampa this coming August. Even though this is a heterosexual event, this should be right up Mr. LaBarbera’s alley. There’s even bondage among the plethora of commodified sexual pleasures. He can take pictures and describe everything he sees. (He can even take some more of those pictures he can’t put on his web site.) And he can preface his report with a warning:


Graphic photos below with offensive depictions of real-life heterosexual depravities

And he can demand that all heterosexuals “condemn the perversion.”

If past performance gives us any indication of future behavior, we won’t see anything like this. Americans for Truth never comes close to being “high-minded.” I’m sorry I can’t return the compliment. The only thing Mr. LaBarbera is interested in is finding weaponry he can use against every LGBT person on the planet, and he doesn’t care where he finds it.

I doubt we’ll see Porno Pete in Tampa, and that’s a terrible shame. I think Mother Teresa would be very disappointed in him.


June 4th, 2007

Undoubtedly Peter LaBarbera sincerely believes that homosexuality is inherently immoral and a threat to society. Why, then, shouldn’t one expect him to find whatever material he can to attack ‘LGBT’ people?

From LaBarbera’s point of view, this is a perfectly rational and appropriate thing to do. It’s quite pointless to criticise him for not recording heterosexual perversions as well – it is not possible for one person to do everything, since everyone has only a finite amount of time at his or her disposal.

Willie Hewes

June 5th, 2007

Excellent write-up Jim. This little kerfuffle just got funny.

Jim Burroway

June 5th, 2007


That is a specious argument at best. If he were the least bit concerned about “truth” (As his “Americans for Truth” web site proclaims) then he has a responsibility toward it, a responsibility he refuses to exercise.

I have criticized the APA’s Alicia Salzar for misusing Shidlo and Schroeder’s research even though we both share a passion for equal rights for LGBT people. I have defended Focus on the Family against the false charge of colluding with Paul Cameron, even though I oppose almost everything they stand for. I also suggested that an apparent act of vandalism committed against a Colorado Springs family who opposed gay rights should be investigated as a possible hate crime.

Peter LaBarbera has a choice. He can be faithful to the truth, or he cherry pick his version of the truth to use as a weapon. To accept the latter as “rational” and saying that criticizing him for doing so is “pointless” is to buy into the notion that being a false witness in the service of a “Christian” cause is perfectly acceptable and compatible with ethics and moral values. Is that what you’re suggesting?


June 5th, 2007

You made me laugh this morning. And I happen to know that you do know at least a couple of guys that went to IML. lol


June 5th, 2007


I think Pathetic Porno Pete just does this for attention from gay men. I know he can’t stay away from his best buddies (and apparently ONLY buddies), the “ex gays”.

Jim Burroway

June 5th, 2007


I must be out of that loop. I don’t know who you’re talking about. You’ll have to tell me offline so if that gun is ever pointed to my head I can offer up a few more names.


June 5th, 2007

Peter likes to stereotype gay people and attribute the activities of some gays to all gays.

His real objection [which he probably does not even realize himself] – is men and their sexuality – straight or gay.

Much of the efforts and energy of the relgious right goes into controlling MEN and their sexuality – regardless of orientation.

All men need to rise up against the tyranny of the religious right and their obsession with controlling other people.

Regan DuCasse

June 5th, 2007

Ever since I started working in the forensic photography unit with LAPD, there is no bottom to how ugly and vile and terrible the creativity for bad things there can be.
Sometimes there is the bumbling, numb to accuracy and intellegece…AMATEUR.
That nagging and obssessed person that’s constantly in need of validation that they are one of the pros and fully respected by the people they most want to impress.

What actually happens is, they make the work of better people, better equipped and the more insightful, that much harder.
They are anathema to the progress or edification of a process.
When you encounter people like that, they have an indefatiguable ego. There is no amount of brutally frank criticism that will move them. Or move them to move on. They not only don’t know when they are incompetent, they don’t know how badly they are making a mess of things.
Peter LaB is like that. He’s got this fierce need to impress his anti gay supporters, and at the same time, he enters into territory (many times), that turn up nothing new, or important.
The smarter set, you’d think-would get wise to the fact that there ISN’T anything new. There is no criminal activity and he’s not really able to stop the activity he’s chronically fixated on.

We he as tenacious about going undercover among domestic abusers or drug dealers…he’d be doing the public a real service.
But the thing is, that’s work for the courageous and the committed to ending a social horror that has destructive consequences universally.
And Peter LaB, isn’t qualified. He’s too fixated on one thing. He can’t wrap his brain around more than one social context or interconnected social problems.
He keeps going to the SAME events and venues, over and over.
There may be some new faces there…but it makes you wonder if he’s looking for the school teacher or local sheriff to turn up there as a participant. He seems more like a creeping blackmailer than someone out to clean up a dirty business.
I won’t even compare him to Carrie Nation. At least she came into drinking places with an axe and came face to face with her adversaries.
P. LaB, going stealth, hasn’t the balls to challenge anyone stand up.
What a weenie. An amateur and nincompoop.
There are plenty of causes out there to fight. Plenty of depraved human beings out there running loose.
Homosexuals are NOT a problem in comparison.
And I know this in the most profound and irrefutable way.
I know what kinds of lies and distortions are being furthered. And what it does, is create MORE issues for the police to have to deal with. Like bashings, murders and vandalism against gays and lesbians.
All this does is keep people from appreciating that gay people are not the reprobates that LaB wants his readers to think.
And they can’t be relieved of the fear they think they require. I would consider it wonderful news that gay folks aren’t the problem once thought of. That way more important things that harm everyone will be dealt with.
Gay folks are quite a huge compliment to society, rather than a detriment if people like Peter LaB would just get out of the way.

If there weren’t innocents out there paying the price for this man’s obssession, it would be funny.
But dangerous bungling makes the man someone to be challenged, if not stopped.

Timothy Kincaid

June 5th, 2007

Just as night follows day, we could have predicted that Wayne and his fellow “gay” comrades, including the folks at Box Turtle Bulletin (who alternate between high-minded critiques of pro-family research and mean-spirited name-calling),

Please please please can I do the mean-spirited name-calling?

Timothy Kincaid

June 5th, 2007

I may have to go to Fetish Con. They have a booth for “Kinky Tax” and I could write off the trip as continuing education – I really know nothing about the “kinky tax” and you never know, some client just might need that.


June 5th, 2007

This was my 13th year at International Mr. Leather. I didn’t see Mr. LaBarbera this year–though I believe I did see him last year one evening while volunteering at the event the help desk. He looked at the flier on the help desk alerting attendees to his likely presence and suggesting that we pretty much ignore him. He read it then walked over to look into the lobby of the hotel, which was packed with men drinking, talking, meeting new friends and greeting old ones not seen since last year. He stared for a while, lifted his camera then dropped it without taking a picture, then moved on.

The vendor market is the only part open to the public–and even to enter that, people must show a photo ID, be over 21, sign a statement certifying that they are not offended by sexually explicit materials, and make a $3 donation to the Leather Archives and Museum. This is AFTER they have passed the “Closed to the Public” signs–so no one is going to wander into these rooms accidentally thinking they were going to see Macy’s jewelry collection. Of course this means that Mr. LaBarbera either doesn’t take the signing of sworn statements seriously and thinks that any lie is acceptable in order to smear others, or he, well, is feigning his feelings of being offended. At least the Leather Archives and Museum will benefit from his $3.

I’d be curious how many people call the Hilton chain and the Palmer House at Mr. LaBarbera’s suggestion. Could it really be enough people–people that the Palmer House actually thinks would have stayed there anyway–to compensate for an event that filled every room in the hotel and enough rooms at the Hilton a mile south to merit a hotel-paid shuttlebus between the hotels on a holiday weekend–an event that is often referred to as among the biggest hotel-based conventions in the city.

Guys come literally from around the world (I met men from Germany, the UK, Spain, India and New Zealand this year, as well as a lot of Canadians) in numbers well over 10,000, and they pay high room rates, exhorbitant bar fees ($6 for a domestic beer), and buy enough at the leather market to make it worthwhile for vendors from the UK, Canada (and Australia in previous years) and across the US to drag their inventory to Chicago.

There is camaraderie, celebration, a competition, dances, a lot of display and flirtation–and, yes, sex, but it’s amazing how often I talk to friends after the event who admit that they were so busy meeting friends, flirting and ogling strangers–and shopping–that they never got around to having sex with anyone.

But when I take two steps back, what I see is relentless capitalism. A communist would not be happy here.


June 5th, 2007

I will be high-minded and not stoop to making crude jokes…

I will be high-minded and not stoop to making crude jokes…

I will be… oh, screw it…

“He even took pictures that he said he couldn’t post on his web site. I’m not sure why he took those pictures — but hey, different strokes, right?”

Yes, I’m sure there is quite a bit of stroking involved when he looks at those pictures. What else would you do with that amount of porn… er… photographic documentation?


June 7th, 2007

Porno Pete’s insistence that water-sports, fisting and pig-sex are somehow confined to homosexual circles is wildly disingenous or (to use his adverb) heinously dishonest.

Take the references to bodily fluids in Mr LaBarbara’s (I like his nickname better; his real name is so…well…GAY!) report; are we to believe that heterosexual don’t have bodily fluids? That straight women have minty toothpaste up their asses and pee mineral water?

No, the heterosexual world is just as down and dirty as the homosexual world. Mr LaBarbara should face the fact that what he is fighting is not homosexuality but sexuality in all but it’s least interesting form. He is fighting secrecy, fantasy, fetish, exploration, consent, experimentation and the entire human sexual subconscious.

And he will lose; because people who express will always triumph over those who hide; because lies always wither in the face of the truth and because freedom frees and feeds itself; oppression needs to be on constant wearisome guard.

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