NBC News reported on a sting operation that took place in Volusia County, Florida over four days ending June 8, 2017. The undercover sting, dubbed “Operation Park Hopper” resulted in the arrest 18 males who, according to authorities were engaging in lewd conduct, including one 75-year-old man who was caught masturbating. The proper designation for the crime according to Florida Statute 800.02 is committing an “unnatural and lascivious act.”
Opinion by C J Oakes
Which is More Unnatural? Masturbation, Gay Acts, or Public Shaming?
There is so much wrong about the righteousness by which the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office executed its sting operation I don’t know where to begin. So, let us start with masturbation, that super shameful act that nearly every person on the planet has done at least once.
Frankly, I have little issue with the fact that most of the men were engaging in sex in a public space. Society has every right to pass laws regulating public behavior. Sex in public is one of the behaviors we denounce. But I have a real problem with banning nudity in public, namely because of the scientific evidence that doing so causes more harm to society than good.
Still, I am kind of ok with that, provided the law is properly written and equally enforced. The real problem I have with this story, well five problems really are:
- That the sting operation appears to have been targeting gay males. Anytime law enforcement targets a particular group, be it African-Americans, Muslims, or Homosexuals, law enforcement is crossing a very thin line between what is right and what is abuse. When law enforcement does this, they only come out looking like Nazis or worse. Conducting sting operations against any group smacks of oppression and even if well-meaning, the department loses some measure of their credibility and public support. It weakens their authority.
- Arresting men for having male-on-male sex under a law which calls the acts “unnatural” is troublesome at best. This should be just as offensive to heterosexuals as to the LGBTI community. By calling gay sex unnatural, the lawmakers are clearly imposing their religious views on society. If they can get away with imposing their religious views on the gay community, they can and will eventually impose their Puritanical views on others. It was not that long ago (1965) when the state of Connecticut arrested a married couple for having sex while using…contraception.
- Masturbation is Unnatural? Really? I would love to challenge any one of the police officers who made these arrests to pass a lie detector stating they have never masturbated. Oh, please. Make me gag. Oh, wait, that is likely what was happening in the park.
- But now, I REALLY want to gag. This last part is so foolish, such a height of stupidity, so irregular, that if the Sheriff of Nothingham, I mean, Volusia County is re-elected, the folks living there should pray that climate change washes away their sins along with the coastline. Any first-year law student knows that a law is useless if it is vague. Yet, the law which was used to arrest these men uses the term “unnatural,” which is about as vague as it can get. If the men fight it, they will likely win, making the entire operation one big costly snafu.
- Which brings us to the last issue. Clearly, the Sheriff’s Department knows this and chose to use public shaming as part of their efforts. They published the men’s names, pictures, and home addresses. This is known as doxing and is generally considered shameful, perhaps even criminal if done by a new reporter. But this was the news working WITH law enforcement, so that makes it ok, right?
Masturbation, Frustration, and the Inundation of Fools
OK, so there are some problems with the actions of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Department. Sure, they were likely sending a message to the gay community. They engaged in Scarlett Letter public shaming. They arrested an old man for playing with himself in public. No sweat.
I don’t live in Valusia County and likely never will. If they want to believe that masturbation is unnatural, ok. Clearly, they have an issue with science and fact. Which means they likely oppose solutions to climate change. This means that within fifty years or so there will be no Valusia County. Problem solved. All it takes is time…and that is a part of nature no one can deny.