Stephen Measure

Our Halfway State of Absurdity
September 21, 2015

Earlier this summer I flew across the country and had the pleasure of going through airport security. The baggy pockets of my jeans seemed threatening, so the TSA agent gave me a brief pat down, which included running his hand right up into my crotch. There was a male TSA agent there and a female TSA agent there. The pat downs were professional and strictly same-sex. But why were they same-sex? Why do we not allow male TSA agents to give pat downs to women? Actually, let me ask another question first: What if the male TSA agent who gave me my pat down is someone who chooses to engage in same-sex sexuality? Would the TSA have prohibited him from giving me a pat down? Now let me return to my prior question: Why exactly do we not allow male TSA agents to give pat downs to women?

Let's jump to a different, related topic. When learning about the dorm rules at a local public university, I was surprised to hear that the university prohibits a man from sharing a dorm room with a woman. I was pleasantly surprised, but I was surprised nonetheless.

But then I started thinking: What is the logic here? What are the consequences? Does this university prohibit sex in its dorm rooms? No. Does this university prohibit same-sex sexuality specifically? No. So a same-sex couple could share a dorm room, but a boyfriend and girlfriend could not. Isn't that discrimination?

And it goes further. If a man claims he is a woman, this university will allow him to share a room with a woman. And what if he himself sleeps with women? What if he calls himself a lesbian? Would the university prohibit him from sharing a room with a woman? What if his female roommate objected? How would the university respond? Let's be clear here: This is a man—a physical, biological man—who sleeps with women, sharing a room with a woman in a university that claims to prohibit men and women from sharing rooms.

Consider the absurdity of it all and then ask yourself: How long before ambitious lawyers start swimming in the fertile waters of this murky swamp?

We know the reason for these rules. For generations, our society has held the expectation that same-sex environments should be safely asexual. But that expectation no longer exists, and organizations that provide same-sex asexual spaces are under attack. The Boy Scouts of America have fallen. Universities that prohibit same-sex sexuality are under threat. Yet, at times we still pretend that the old expectation remains, leaving us in a halfway state of absurdity, with rules that simply make no sense now that we have rejected their foundation.

How many parents today still allow their children to have sleepovers with same-sex friends? Would those same parents allow their children to have sleepovers with opposite-sex friends? How do they justify the difference? They are playing by rules that applied when the world made sense, but the world doesn't make sense any longer.

Why do we separate the sexes in the locker room? You know the reason. As I said above, it's because of the expectation that same-sex environments are safely asexual. But that expectation doesn't exist anymore. What difference is there between allowing a boy who sleeps with girls into the girl's locker room and allowing a boy who sleeps with boys into the boy's locker room? The answer: None. We're just pretending that the old expectation still applies so we can delay facing the consequences of society's changes.

Perhaps you claim that the different locker rooms are justified because boys' bodies and girls' bodies are different. Please. Haven't you been paying attention? If a boy claimed to be a girl, how many schools would allow him to change in the girl's locker room regardless of his physical reality? I can guarantee that number is higher than zero.

Don't get me wrong. I'm happy our bathrooms and locker rooms remain segregated by sex. I'm happy the TSA doesn't allow men to give women pat downs. I'm happy some universities still prohibit unmarried men and women from sharing a dorm room together. These are only half measures, only lingering remnants of a world that made sense, but I'm still happy they exist. Yet, at the same time I'm realistic. The logic that justifies these things has been discarded, and the consequence is inevitable. We are standing on the last good boards of a dock that is rotting away. At some point, we're going to fall in.

And where does this leave us? Can safe asexual spaces exist in this future we have created? No, they can't. We have discarded the logic that would have permitted them. The changes society has accepted have consequences, leaving us with two choices: Either we abandon the very idea of safe asexual spaces, or we choose isolation. This is the path we have chosen.

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