Just wondering—what exactly was the news value of the New York Times’s recent front-page Metro-section spread: a sex stop on the way home? Subtitled just off a park’s playing fields, another game thrives, with an eye-catching cropped photo of the gut (but not the shoulders or head) of a beefy man in shorts and pink socks standing just inside his SUV’s open door, the story recounted in jaw-dropping detail the pick-up rituals of anonymous homosexual sex in a Queens parking lot. The lot adjoins athletic fields used by both youth and adult
Reporter Corey Kilgannon had obviously done extensive research, which allowed him to regale readers with a clinically precise description of the sex transaction’s initial stages:
Each newcomer trolls this thoroughfare [formed between two rows of parked cars facing each other] with all eyes upon him and surveys the other men in cars, who may either perk up and look interested or shut the window and look away. Then with a dramatic swoop, the driver will back his car next to the car of the man he is pursuing.
Kilgannon captured the sexual stratification in the parking lot, between the voluble older gay regulars who “spent the halcyon days of [their] youth” in this “paradise,” and “another set of parking lot users [that] is much more reluctant to discuss the cruising activity.” These tight-lipped (to reporters’ questions) patrons “arrive sometime after 5 pm wearing shirts and ties and driving SUV’s and snazzy sports cars. These men tend to be slightly jittery. . . . Generally, they refuse to discuss the parking lot with a reporter.”
Heady with his anthropological prowess, Kilgannon describes another stratification: between the parents and children using the ball fields and the gays negotiating their next quickie:
One recent evening, a half-dozen mothers stood chatting, waiting for their children to finish soccer. A stone’s throw away, a group of gay men stood narrating the attempt of a man trolling the lot in a tan sedan to woo the cute man parked in the black SUV. . . . “Woop, there he goes,” the narrator said [as the man in the sedan hopped into the SUV]. “You go, girl.”
So what was the point of the billboarded story? It’s not as if the Times were performing a valuable public service to gay men in need of their next anonymous sexual thrill: the lot is already listed on websites publicizing gay cruising spots. Nor is this gay “paradise” breaking news: gay boys and men have used it since the 1960s.
Could it be that the Times was hoping to shame the vice squad into cleaning up this inappropriate public spectacle? Perish the thought! The story does quote the president of a volunteer park support group, however, who admits reluctantly: “I don’t think that 10-year-olds in a parking lot on the way to soccer should see some guy getting oral sex in a car.” Give the man a star for reckless bravery!
No, the reason that the Times found this story so worthy of the public’s attention was certainly the claim made by the older gay regulars that the “vast majority” of cruisers are family men drawn to the parking lot’s blandishments. One “longtime parking lot user” tells Kilgannon: “I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve had here who were wearing wedding bands, with baby seats in the car and all kinds of kids’ toys in the floor.”
This makes the parking lot even more of a “paradise” for the Times’s anti-bourgeois staff: it allows them to throw mud for the ten millionth time on the Leave-It-to-Beaver “normalcy” (scare quotes courtesy of Timesian worldview) of the white-bread suburbs. One would have thought that the Times’s own story this summer about the new “multicultural” suburbs would have finally provided these long-suffering neighborhoods a respite from elite scorn. Alas, it was not to be. Undoubtedly chagrined by the findings in the latest nationwide sex survey that only 2 percent of men self-identify as homosexual, rather than the 10 percent trumpeted by gay activists, the Times has found a rebuttal: self-declaring heterosexual married fathers with a “suburban . . . house, a mortgage, a wife and children” perform gay sex acts with strangers in the privacy of their SUVs.
Given the amount of time Kilgannon obviously spent at the lot researching his piece, you would think that he could have confirmed this crush of family men seeking gay sex in Queens. But he provides no independent evidence for the claim.
The Times notes nonchalantly that the gay cruisers ogle the male softball players who change their shirts outside their cars. Neanderthal readers may ask: and what about the boy ballplayers? Are they ogled, too? And if so, tell me again why we should risk gay Boy Scout leaders. But such benighted readers—if one can even imagine such thinking—are not worth the Times’s worrying about.
One does wonder, though, who the Times thinks its readership is. Presumably, some families share the paper in the morning; some parents may encourage their children to read it to increase their involvement in current affairs. By now, many a parent has undoubtedly learned to dispose discreetly of the twice-weekly Style section, unfailingly devoted to the latest gay trend. But does the Times regard its report on a parking lot doubling as a trysting place for gay men (the headline over the jump) as suitable for family consumption? Would the Times’s editors happily pass the sex-stop Metro section to their preteen kids, along with the Cheerios? And what about the “donate your vacation papers to schools” program that the Times relentlessly promotes—would that Metro section provide valuable reading material for a 9th-grade civics class?
At a time when matters of urgent public moment cry out for investigation—such as how in the world New York’s leaders plan to evacuate millions from Manhattan in an emergency—the Times’s preference for the insignificant trivia of the gay lifestyle defies comprehension. Either the Times is even more clueless about the narrowness of its worldview than previously thought, or it knows how out of the mainstream it is and hopes to shock the leaden bourgeoisie with its sexual obsessions. Either way, its judgment—news and otherwise—is appalling.