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On, Wisconsin! The Sex Prosecution of the Month

February 11, 2009, 10:34 pm

Despite everything I had to do today, I could not help but read this article in today’s New York Times. As a historian who is working on late twentieth century federal campaigns against pornography in the United States, I read anything with the phrase “Sex Predator” in the headline. When that headline also includes the word “Wisconsin,” as in “Sex Predator Accusations Shake a Wisconsin Town” — well, hold onto your hat, Harry.

Anthony R. Stancl, a good student who particularly loved political science, was expelled from Eisenhower High School last fall when he emailed a bomb threat to the school. Oh yeah. Can we spell “federal domestic terrorism laws?” Left with time on, and perhaps something else in, his hands, Anthony set up a Facebook page, using a female pseudonym and a fake profile (also actionable, as a recent verdict in a cyberbullying case establishes.) As a “woman,” Anthony then solicited nude pictures and videos from male classmates: 39 folders full of these images were found on his computer, although there are only 31 counts against Anthony and 31 boys from Eisenhower currently being “counseled.”

“But,” as the Times write, “the authorities said Mr. Stancl did not stop there. In addition, they said, he threatened to release the photos to the victims’ friends or even all of Eisenhower’s 850 students if the youths who had sent them to him did not agree to perform sexual acts he demanded. The tactic was successful, officials said. Mr. Stancl is accused of using it to sexually assault seven boys.”

Not surprisingly perhaps, as it is Wisconsin, folks at Eisenhower High, “opened in 1969 and known for its championship sports teams and above-average test scores” (not, I guess, for raging homosexuality) don’t have much to say. What is quite peculiar is that none of this would have come out if Anthony were not a guy soliciting guys: in other words (and read the article for yourself, folks) teenage girls and boys emailing nude pictures of themselves to each other, as well as videos where they expose themselves, seems to be Standard Operating Procedure in boy-loves-girl land.

Not that this is a surprise.

I understand the focus on criminalizing Anthony: he has a very peculiar sense of humor. And he’s not what you would call a nice boy, although I would argue that enough faggy men in United States history have suffered from the humiliations imposed by “normal,” supposedly nice, boys that there is a kind of cosmic justice here. I would also say part of what I find peculiar about Anthony being charged as a sex predator is that the seven boys who are admitting to having had sex with Anthony had another choice. They could have gone to Mom and Dad and admitted what a humongously stupid thing they had done by mailing beefcake to a total stranger in the first place. But they didn’t. They thought it was a better idea to have sex with Anthony instead. This means that these boys are either dumber than anyone wants to admit, or that they actually wanted to have sex with Anthony when given the opportunity. Anthony is not, after all, being charged with assault, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or felony rape.

Which leads me to my main point: it is a big, nasty, open secret in American high schools that there are more gay boys in any given student population than will reveal themselves until they are much older; and that there are lots of straight boys who think it’s hot to have sex with gay boys.

And in looking for illustrations for this page, I discovered just how many boys and young men upload naked and semi-nude pictures of themselves to web pages, I guess because they think it is fun. Some pages let you vote on who is the “hottest guy.” It seems to be a common practice, even beyond Wisconsin, that our Anthony tapped into: try Googling phrases like “Beefcake,” “hot boys,” and “hot men” and see what you get. My favorite was a calendar featuring Mormon boys back from their two years of evangelizing. There is a picture of each one in his normal black tie, white shirt and nameplate getup, accompanied by a bunch of photos of them bare chested! Yay! The calendar is called: “Men on a Mission.” Buy it here. Isn’t that hilarious? Well, the Elders don’t think so: apparently the creator of the calendar, Chad Hardy, was excommunicated by the LDS church.

But back to Wisconsin. Unfortunately for Anthony, he is eighteen, and I suspect that several of the seven boys who had sex with Anthony are not. This means that Anthony is also not as smart as he thinks he is, and will be charged under a set of enhanced statutory rape, internet and child pornography laws that make this bit of trouble at least as serious as the bomb threat to the school (how did he beat the federal terrorism rap? Enquiring minds want to know.) Fortunately Anthony has an attorney who, presumably, is pleading down these charges in exchange for not publicly exposing (heh, heh) the defensive backfield and/or the senior class president and/or half the student council of Eisenhower High as a bunch of raving queens. But Anthony’s lawyer will have to agree to something in order for the many law enforcement agencies now in pursuit to forget about this. My recommendation is that all charges be dropped in return for the following:

a) Anthony stops telling people he is from Wisconsin;
b Anthony goes into therapy;
c) Anthony leaves town immediately;
d) Anthony gets an agent and attends to his true calling, writing memoirs for Oprah’s book club.

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