Sticks and Stones
The man they call "Porno Pete" is a little chafed.
June 4th, 2007
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.
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:
WARNING: *** NOT FOR CHILDREN ***
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.