Home/Rod Dreher/Dimensions Of Kevin Spacey’s Creepiness

Dimensions Of Kevin Spacey’s Creepiness

Everything's not coming up roses for erstwhile closet case Kevin Spacey (lev radin/Shutterstock)

The New York Times, on its webpage, buries the Kevin Spacey sexual assault of a male minor allegation waaaaaay down at the bottom. The Guardian gets proactive, outpacing the actor’s coming-out story, laying down the right-thinking line:

Kevin Spacey is facing criticism for the way he linked his sexuality to his apology about allegations of sexual advances towards a 14-year-old actor.

The House Of Cards star and former artistic director of London’s Old Vic theatre said he could not remember sexually harassing Star Trek actor Anthony Rapp in 1986.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell lamented the timing of Spacey’s decision to come out as gay.

“It is tragic that it has taken allegations of sexual harassment for Kevin Spacey to finally come out as gay, after not disclosing his sexuality for decades. It is even worse that he mixes up his sexuality with inappropriate behaviour. His gayness is irrelevant. It’s his actions that have prompted concern,” he told the Guardian.

Stonewall, the LGBT lobby group, echoed Tatchell’s concerns. Kim Sanders, communications manager for the group, said: “Usually when celebrities come out we’re quick to send on our congratulations and to talk about the importance of role models. But for Kevin Spacey to choose this particular moment to come out is harmful to the LGBT community. His sexual orientation bears no relevance to the serious allegations he is facing, and to conflate these things is extremely damaging.”

OK. Let’s stipulate that it is a slur to say that all gay men seek to have sex with minor males. But the story is more complicated than that. A lot more complicated, in ways that contradict the Right-Thinking Story Line. For example:


Spacey has a reputation for going after young men. This is the first I’ve ever heard about him hitting on a minor, but he’s known for preferring his lovers to be barely legal.



That’s mostly true (the age of consent in most states is 16 or 17, though this movie is set in Italy in 1980, among Americans living there, and I don’t know what the age of consent would have been in those days). It’s Call Me By Your Name, a story of a 17-year-old boy and a 24-year-old man falling in love. Indiewire puts it at the top of its list of “Most Exciting Queer Films of 2017”. The Guardiangives it five stars, leading its review thus:

There is a moment just before a teenage crush bursts its dam and becomes a fully fledged first love. It’s a moment in which time is briefly suspended; it’s that shiver of uncertainty before you dive over the edge of the waterfall into the kind of love you could drown in. It’s this – the exquisite torture of not knowing if feelings are reciprocated followed by the helpless flood of emotions – that is captured so intensely and urgently in this gorgeous work of yearning.

In fact, this is lining up to be one of the best-reviewed films of the year. Here’s Brian Tallerico, writing at RogerEbert.com after seeing the film at Sundance:

This sense of nature taking course is at play in Chalamet’s revelatory performance as well. It is both one of the most subtle performances by a young actor in a very long time and so marvelously physical. Watch the way he shrinks or plays at being a callous teen in early scenes and then watch as his body literally responds to the passion and love he’s feeling. He’ll dance his way into a room, or bound up a flight of steps. And those eyes—from how they reflect his insecurity by often aiming down in early scenes to the way they will literally break your heart in the final ones. This is a stunning performance—lived-in, heartfelt, poignant and true. Hammer is very good here, and Stuhlbarg has what will be one of the best scenes of 2017, but it’s Chalamet’s film and he owns it.

Many of us have only learned to love ourselves when we are loved by another. “Call Me By Your Name” is a breathtaking love story, but it is also about a young boy figuring out not only who he is but how to love that person. It is unforgettable on every level, the kind of film that has the power to move and inspire. It is art of the highest caliber, and Sundance was lucky this year to have it.

This movie has everything. From a People magazine feature about it:

[Director Luca] Guadagnino and [co-star Timothée] Chalamet also found themselves on the same page creatively. For example, in one memorable scene from the novel, Chalamet’s character makes love to a pitted peach. Guadagnino had reservations about including the scene in his script: “I was struggling with the possibility that you can masturbate yourself with such a fruit,” he explained.

“So I grabbed a peach and I tried, and I have to say — it works,” he said, adding, “I went to Timothée, and said, ‘We shoot the scene, because I tried it and it worked.’ And he said, ‘I tried, too, and I already knew it worked.’”

To be fair, if you are going to condemn Call Me, then you have to condemn Manhattan. in Woody Allen’s much-admired 1979 comedy, the director played a character who is dating a 17-year-old girl. In her 2015 memoir, Mariel Hemingway, who played the girl, said that Allen tried to seduce her in real life — and her parents tried to facilitate it. The fact of the matter is that older men, straight and gay alike, are often drawn to young lovers. I wrote recently about seeing the movie Rambling Rose when it came out in 1991, with a gay friend. We were talking in the parking lot about the scene in which Rose (Laura Dern), a sexually aggressive young woman, allows a 13-year-old sexually curious boy to masturbate her. I don’t remember exactly what I said about it, but my friend quite rightly pointed out that if the older partner had been male, and the younger one female, or both of them been of the same sex, I wouldn’t have been so forgiving. I stood corrected.

As we know, in classical Greece, pederasty was a common and socially sanctioned practice.  It may not be socially sanctioned today, but it is a real thing in gay male culture. Here’s a short essay by Nick Malone, a gay college junior who lost his virginity at 15, didn’t mind it at all, but is troubled by the phenomenon. Excerpt:

As I got older, moved to the city and thus into a larger population of gay men my age, I found that I wasn’t alone. Almost every single gay male acquaintance or friend I’ve made has a story about sneaking out of the house as a teen in high school to meet up with a guy in his twenties, thirties, or sometimes even older. There are rarely any questions asked or eyebrows raised about it- the circumstances of the hookup can sometimes be gasp-worthy (He booked us a hotel! He spent a hundred dollars on dinner! He could club a seal with his d**k!), but age never seems to be a factor. Even when exchanging stories with gay guys a decade older than me, there’s never a flicker of surprise or concern when I detail a Grindr hookup where I didn’t find out he was thirty-nine and married with kids until after he [had an orgasm].

I spent a lot of time thinking about the fact that there is no shot in hell that hookup stories like these would ever fly if teenaged girls were telling them to an adult, gay or not. I also thought about how the majority of the members of pedosexual advocacy groups are gay men- very few straight men are involved in these sorts of circles because of the public outcry that follows the mere mention of any relationship between an adult man and a young woman. Sometimes it disgusts, sometimes it titillates in a Lolita sort of way- in either case, those sorts of relationships are taboo. We don’t talk about them, because our culture has deemed them disgusting. As it follows, relationships between adult gay men and teenaged gay men are not as controversial, because our culture had already deemed gay men themselves disgusting.

But now our culture does not deem gay men themselves as disgusting. Relationships between adult gay men and teenaged gay men are not as controversial because we don’t talk about them in the media — precisely because political correctness deems it taboo (hence the Times burying the story and the Guardian‘s defensiveness).

Back in the 1980s, when I was in college, I knew a barely-closeted gay professor who was middle-aged, and had a thing for undergraduate males. He propositioned me once; I declined, but kept my distance from him after that. I found out shortly thereafter that he was notorious for openly hitting on his male students, and was resented by his straight colleagues, who rightly believed that he got away with it because he was gay, and the administration did not want to deal with the issue. They would not have stood for the same behavior from heterosexual professors, was the view. I should point out that I was over the age of 18 at the time, as were all of this professor’s targets. He was more than twice our age, and in a position of authority.

The point is that this guy’s homosexuality protected him within the culture of the university, and let him get away with things straight professors could not have done.

A related point: the one aspect of the Catholic clerical sex abuse scandal that the media refused to investigate was the role of homosexual clergy networks — the so-called “lavender mafia” — in perpetuating the scandal. They didn’t want to touch it. At all. One Catholic journalist of progressive sympathies told me back in 2002 or so that it was the third rail of progressive Catholicism. I told him it was also the third rail of mainstream media coverage of the scandal.

I wrote about that back in 2002 in National Review. Excerpts:

The raw numbers [of gay Catholic priests] are less important, though, if homosexual priests occupy positions of influence in the vast Catholic bureaucracy; and there seems little doubt that this is the case in the American Church. Lest this be dismissed as right-wing paranoia, it bears noting that psychotherapist [Richard] Sipe is no conservative – indeed, he is disliked by many on the Catholic Right for his vigorous dissent from Church teaching on sexual morality – yet he is convinced that the sexual abuse of minors is facilitated by a secret, powerful network of gay priests. Sipe has a great deal of clinical and research experience in this field; he has reviewed thousands of case histories of sexually active priests and abuse victims. He is convinced of the existence of what the Rev. Andrew Greeley, the left-wing clerical gadfly, has called a “lavender Mafia.”

“This is a system. This is a whole community. You have many good people covering it up,” Sipe says. “There is a network of power. A lot of seminary rectors and teachers are part of it, and they move to chancery-office positions, and on to bishoprics. It’s part of the ladder of success. It breaks your heart to see the people who suffer because of this.”


Sipe believes gays shouldn’t be admitted into seminaries at the present time – for their own protection, against
sexual predators among the faculty and administration, who will attempt to draw them into a priestly subculture in which gay sex is normative behavior. Fr. Thomas P. Doyle, another critic of celibacy who has been deeply involved in the clergy-abuse issue, concurs: “Ordaining gay men at this time would be putting them, no matter how good and dedicated, in a precarious position.”

No one wants to stigmatize homosexuals as abusers, because most of them are not. Still, it’s hard to gainsay the contention that if there were few homosexuals in the priesthood, the number of sex-abuse victims today would be drastically lower. “We’re learning a significant lesson from all this,” says Dr. Fitzgibbons. “We have to protect our young. The protection of children and teenagers is more important than the feelings of homosexuals.”

That story appeared 15 years ago. It is possible that Sipe and Fr. Doyle have changed their views.

Sipe, now in his 80s, is a former Benedictine monk turned sociologist. He has spent his career studying the sexual lives of the Catholic clergy. Here’s a piece on Sipe published earlier this year in the Baltimore Sun. Excerpt:

A five-year study in Australia, he says, supported his findings. And a comprehensive study by John Jay College of Criminal Justice, published in 2004, confirmed his original estimate of the percentage of American priests involved with minors. The study found, he says, that more than six percent of priests ordained between 1960 and 1984 were alleged to have had sex with children. A longer look, from 1950 to 2002, found 10,667 children allegedly victimized by 4,392 priests. Half of their victims were found to have been between 11 and 14 years of age; about 80 percent of them were male. [Emphasis mine — RD]

The story, predictably, focused on these statistics as a way of bolstering Sipe’s view that priestly celibacy has to go. But the elephant in this particular room is that half the minors abused were sexually mature adolescents, and four out of five were males. This is not, technically, pedophilia, which is sexual desire for pre-pubescents.

Does it strike you as plausible that the men who abused these kids did so because they couldn’t get married, or find a sexual outlet with an adult male partner?

In my reporting on the scandal, I learned (from Sipe and others) that the clerical gay networks, especially in seminaries, sought to draw in gay priests in part to neutralize them. If a seminarian became sexually involved with other men, even if that seminarian never abused a minor, the network had his name, and had compromised him. He knew that he could never rat out those who did abuse minors, because they had his own sexual secrets to hold over his head.

Again, I remind you that these are things I learned in 2002-03. I have not reported on these topics since around 2005, so I don’t know how things might have changed since then. The point I want to make here is that the lavender mafia phenomenon is pretty well known among journalists, both religious and secular, who cover or did cover the church and the scandal. And in many cases, it was deliberately not reported on, mostly, in my opinion, out of fear that it would validate the views of those journalists considered bigots.

We will know that gays are reaching real equality in our society when gay men are held by the media and others to the same standards as straight ones regarding sexual behavior. And we will know that we are all closer to a just society when all powerful people — straight and gay, male and female — who prey sexually on others who are more vulnerable by virtue of age or status, are held to account.

But I have to ask: how can you celebrate a movie like Call Me By My Name as an exploration of gay sexual awakening while at the same time trashing Kevin Spacey as a sexual predator of the young? True, the age of consent in most American states is 16 or 17, and that makes it legally a different thing than an adult trying to sexually involve himself with a 14-year-old, and perhaps morally too. But it’s awfully close for comfort.

UPDATE:Netflix has cancelled House Of Cards.



UPDATE.3: Kevin Spacey’s brother Randall Fowler says their father was a neo-Nazi who beat and raped him (Fowler) throughout his adolescence, and turned Spacey’s childhood home into a house of horrors. Fowler says he took his father’s abuse in part so his father would keep his hands off of Kevin. He told the Mail On Sunday this in 2004, and the paper is resurrecting the interview in light of Spacey’s troubles.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

leave a comment

Latest Articles