Love, Inc

The intersections of emotion and capitalism.

In Russia Obama is Gay and other Reversal Jokes

Homophobe Paul Cameron exports his hate to Russia

It's not like Russia needs more homophobia, but they just imported a whole lot of it this week with the visit of Paul Cameron. Known in the US as that completely discredited psychologist who was fired from his job at the University of Nebraska and kicked out of the American Psychological Association- and then went on to found the Family Research Institute, Cameron is translated completely differently into the Russian context.

In Russia Cameron was welcomed as a respected expert on homosexual issues and testified before members of the Duma about why it is so important to keep homosexuals away from children. This is something the Russian government is already doing with their anti-homosexual propaganda ban that was signed into law this past summer not to mention a bill that would allow the state to remove children from gay or lesbian parents. Still, there's nothing like the imprimatur of expertise on some good old-fashioned hate. 

It's like a Russian reversal joke: in America Cameron has no power; in Russia power has Cameron.

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In his typical fashion, Cameron rambled on about the dangers of the gay lobby and homosexuals seducing children on the Russian news show "Coffee Break." Cameron said that it is homosexuals who rape children, that not all homosexuals do so but about 25% of them, linked homosexuality to the married and straight Jerry Sandusky, and then talked about how academic thinking and Hollywood propaganda have convinced people of the "golden rule" of sex: that as long as it's between consenting adults, people should be allowed to have whatever kind of sex they want. 

The interviewer, as is now typical in the highly homophobic space of Russian news and politics, eggs him on asking why politicians would pass such laws and whether or not it's because the politicians are gay. Then Cameron says well yeah, Obama might be gay since there are men who insist they have been with him. I imagine in some genuine moment of trying to be fair and balanced, Cameron does say that Obama might just be supporting gay rights for principled reasons, but this comment is lost on the interviewer who goes onto ask how many of the Russian legislators with whom Cameron met are gay.

It all ends in a sort of apocalyptic vision of no one having children and tying it all back to the birth control pill which allows even straight people to be married but not engage in reproductive practices and if marriage is not about reproduction then we are doomed as a society.

The link between anti-homosexual sentiment and a real desire to end reproductive choices for women (not just abortion, but also birth control) is not just the crazy ramblings of a discredited homophobe, but also in Russian translation the general idea behind the law banning propaganda for nontraditional sexual relations. I was at a conference on queer studies in St. Petersburg last week and several lawyers and scholars presented work suggesting that the real reason the law is against "nontraditional sexual relationships" and not "homosexuals" per se is that its very vagueness will allow it to be used against all non-reproductive sex. Furthermore, this tight link between homophobia and anti-choice among America's far right is already quite clear.

So it is that in Russia Obama is gay and Paul Cameron is an expert. A Russian reveral joke. But sadly the joke is on the US since it is here that the strange marriage of homophobia, conservative Christianity and expertise grows bumper crops of hate. So much hate that we have to send some to Russia. 

Laurie Essig, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology and women and gender studies at Middlebury College.

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