The Perils Of Not Having A Secret Gay Decoder Ring

Ken AshfordCrime, Sex/Morality/Family Values3 Comments

It looks like Senator Craig is toast, and I’m shedding no tears.  As I stated before, I have no problem with his homosexuality alleged homosexuality.  And while cheating on one’s wife is not moral or honorable, I don’t think that alone should disqualify one for public office either. My problem with Craig is that he advocated social policies which were blatently anti-gay, while (apparently) engaging in homosexual relationships, and then denying it.  So I’m not sad to see a bad senator go.

But there’s a larger issue that concerns me, and it goes outside of politics.  And that is the Craig’s behavior itself.  Unlike other Republicans in the news, he didn’t actually solicit sex.  At worst, he merely exhibited behavior which — if you know the code — suggested that he was available for sex (which, strictly speaking, isn’t a crime either).

From reading the news and blogs, I was directed to this post at a gay group blog called

I’ve never had a sexual encounter in a public bathroom. Quite honestly, I think I would have been too scared even if I wanted to. But I know exactly how to get a blow job in a stall if I wanted it. And I always knew.

Tap, Tap, Tap.

Any gay man who is at least my age knows what tapping your foot while sitting on the john in a public toilet means. It means you are available. And here’s another thing. Any gay man at least my age knows the difference between some guy in a stall tapping his foot to the beat of the latest song on his Walkman and a

Tap, Tap, Tap

that means you are “looking.”

Here’s the thing: The cops know it, too. If a man in the stall next door goes, tappity, tap, tap, tappity, tap, tap, the cop knows that the person is not looking. If the person is going

Tap, Tap, Tap

it’s plenty obvious.

I have no doubt about what Larry Craig was doing in the bathroom stall at that airport. And I know the cops knew what he was doing.

And he wasn’t listening to his Walkman. No gay person who is at least my age would argue with that if he was honest. We may not have ever solicited public sex in a bathroom, but we definitely knew how to do it if we wanted to.

(Emphasis mine)

Okay.  I didn’t know that foot-tapping means is a signal for gay sex**.  Apparently, "any" gay man knows this, and cops know this, but being neither, I didn’t know this.

Now, I think I’m not inclined to tap my foot in public restrooms.  I can’t say for sure; it’s not something I think about.  But now it’s got me paranoid.  What if I go in to a public restroom and absent-mindedly tap my foot?

Or… what if I scratch my nose?  What if THAT is a signal for something?

And I worry about this not because I wish to avoid getting hit on by gay men.  Should that (unlikely) event arise, I would simply tell my "suiter" that I’m not interested.  Awkward, but not unbearable.  No, what I worry about is some undercover cop arresting me for public lewdness merely because I tapped my foot (or scratched my nose, or whatever the signal-du-jour is).

Let’s look at a different situation.  Say I go to a bar or hot spot.  There’s a girl at the end of the bar.  She keeps looking at me.  She smiles at me.  She winks at me.  And then she pointedly licks her lips.  (This, of course, doesn’t happen to me in reality, but I bring it up for illustrative purposes).  Is there any doubt what she is interested in?  And more importantly, has she done anything illegal at that point?  She’s giving signals — that’s all. 

Now let’s take the facts of the Craig matter.  What is different?  A public place.  Signals indicating an interest and/or availability.  Same thing.  In BOTH cases, it’s not "solicitation" in the criminal sense.  And I would suggest that foot-tapping, being ambiguous, is far less "lewd" than overt lip-licking.

Sure, an argument can be made that it’s different when you are in a public restroom, as opposed to a public bar.  But what if the fictional lip-licking girl and I were in one of those unisex bathrooms?  Assuming she’s not in my stall, would she be commiting an illegal act?

Given the fact that the lewd behavior was an ambiguous "signal", I can’t help but wonder how much this has to do with gay-ness, as opposed to standards of public decency.

I don’t know.  Maybe it’s best for me to just "hold it" and wait until I get home — at least until we live in a society where people don’t have to engage in cloak-and-dagger silliness in order to identify who they are and what they want. 

** To my credit, I know that if you shake a man’s hand, and his finger is folded, that’s his way of telling you he’s gay.  Learned that in college from a gay friend.  But that was 25 years ago, and I suspect times have changed.

RELATED:  Speaking of bathroom behavior and subtle clues, here’s a quiz….