I wrote in more detail my objection to the romanticizing of an adult-teen sexual relationship in a piece titled, ‘Call Me By Your Name’ is not controversial because of an ‘age gap’, but a larger message it sends to LGBT teenagers. I have continued to speak out against the film and its ongoing praise as best I can, but have found little empathy from the liberal side of the equation. In truth, I have only experienced total dismissal or hostile outrage from that perspective.
It seems the Left views my objection as criticizing the same-sex nature of the film itself. I have received many messages from people asking if I had seen the movie, implying that doing so would change my mind and opinion. This is the standard ‘you are ignorant on this subject and if you only opened your mind you could see the beauty of it’, tactic the Left used in the normalization of same-sex relationships for decades. I used this argument myself many times, believing that if people could see the love and happiness between two people of the same sex, they would soften their views and embrace us.
The problem, of course, is what they are asking me to keep an open mind towards is morally impossible. I am opposed to the nature of an adult-teen relationship regardless of the genders involved. I believe adults should not engage sexually with minors, regardless of how strongly they feel towards them or their good intentions. That is not a view subject to the emotional persuasion of a beautifully made film or story. No matter how much you attempt to convince me the 17 year old is truly in love with the 24 year old, it remains irrelevant to the reality of the issue itself.
As Scott Adams is fond of saying, we are watching two movies on the same screen. I am finding that those in support of the movie simply do not view it in the same way as I do. They see it as a genuinely beautiful and moving story of love between two men — a theme they are emotionally dedicated to sharing with the world. They still believe people oppose homosexuality based on a belief of it being unnatural or sinful. They still imagine most people need to be exposed to the beauty of same-sex relationships in order to be freed from their closed-minded cages.
The problem, of course, is that this does not reflect society. Even those I engage with who religiously oppose homosexuality do not view my personal relationships or who I am as something they are hostile towards or fear. America no longer needs to see love stories as proof of the legitimacy of same-sex relationships and the LGBT world should no longer require that validation. Same-sex stories are just a part of all stories in our current media, as they should be.
What is ironic here is that the story being presented reinforces the negative stereotype of a predatory class of gay men seeking to recruit young men; a message the LGBT world has fought for decades. This image was formed when younger gay men explored their sexuality in secret and often illegal bars where the only option was older men. Our collective memory (preserved in oral traditions, books, language and media) holds a special place for those men who gave shelter to lost and afraid outcasts and initiated them into a life of freedom and personal expression. The gay male world celebrates this time period as heroic and courageous. Many of the leaders of the LGBT movement today found their sexuality in this exact way and look back on it fondly.
The view from the regular world, of course, was that normal young men were lured into dark and seedy places by sick men who infected their minds and bodies and sons were lost to drugs, immorality and eventually AIDS. The stereotype of an older man hiding in the shadows waiting to prey on impressionable young men became a boogeyman of the sexual revolution only escalated in terror by the outbreak of AIDS. Visually it was common to see younger men paired with older men. The cover of ‘Dad and Son’ evolved into a fetish movement celebrated by the culture and is still very much alive today in gay male erotica and public expression.
The movie itself is based in 1980’s Italy, surrounding itself in both beauty and fantasy an older generation of gay men cherish. They can see themselves in the younger character and long for the romance the older character provides. To challenge this as exploitation is, in effect, to accuse the whole of the gay male experience as such. This is why I believe they so protectively shield this particular movie from relevant criticism.
The Left celebrates this film because of the emotion it provides and the memory of a time when our very idea of love was new, exciting and rebellious.
Ellen DeGeneres, a pioneer for LGBT acceptance in mainstream media, further validated this emotion by gushing praise for the film, calling it her ‘favorite movie of the year.’ The Los Angeles Film Critics Association named the movie the best film of 2017 and it has had Oscar buzz since it was announced. While nearly all articles on the film mention controversy, they do so as an exception to the overwhelming praise.
The Left and certainly the LGBT media has decided to fully back this movie despite all relevant criticism. It will win awards. It will be raised as a breakthrough film giving hope to LGBT youth. It will be held as a classic beloved LGBT film. After several months of tirelessly battling the narrative, this seems to simply be inevitable fate.
It is humbling to witness the power of the media in shaping our world. They have successfully positioned criticism of the film and its theme as ‘anti-LGBT’ and as backwards fear and opposition to homosexuality. They see it as a knee-jerk reaction to sexuality and merely a conservative and prudish repulsion to sex. Worse, they seem utterly dedicated to shaping this relationship as idealistic.
Had the characters been adults no one would have ever challenged them on the film.
Several on the Right have spoken out against the film.
However, a search for ‘Call Me By Your Name’ on twitter demonstrates an overwhelming view that the movie is profoundly beautiful and I believe nothing will scratch the surface of that shell. I have come to realize the sheer inertia of positivity has drowned out any hope for critical view. Voices like my own are completely ignored.
I am often challenged with the argument that it is simply a movie and I am overreacting. They position my opposition as similar to concerned, fretful parents worried about violence in video games. But I believe my primary concern is valid. This movie so deeply romanticizes the idea of the possibility of true and powerful love as a teenager, teenagers in real life will feel validated in their own sexual exploration with older men. The hero of the movie is a 17 year old boy, secretly engaging in an affair with an older college student who takes him away from the life he knows and gives him a temporary experience of pure joy and purpose. That is a powerful image for a teenager.
Gay teens will be encouraged to seek out older partners wishing to live out this fantasy portrayed as the ideal experience of a young gay man. Worse, adult men will see this as permission to seek out and engage sexually with teenage boys believing they are giving them a beautiful and powerful experience.
We live in a time when teenagers can freely explore their sexuality with other teenagers. We no longer need to wait in dark parking lots at 11PM for an older man to pick us up after an online chat. We don’t need to sneak into gay bars with fake ID’s hoping to have an exciting night with an older stranger. LGBT youth have options now and the LGBT world should be dedicated to protecting youth rather than allowing them to be exploited.
Adult gay men should know better. We should view teenagers as off-limits regardless of their behavior towards us. We should be mature enough to suppress our own temporary desires and recognize the importance of protecting childhood. We should respect the difference between a teenager on the edge of adulthood and a man who has graduated into full autonomy over his actions.
We should be more secure in who we are than to ignore or justify exploitation in favor of an idea of beauty and love to feel validated.
Sadly, no one with any influence is hearing us.
No one has responded and only individuals have chosen to chastise me over my pleas for reason and responsibility. We have come to a social split where one side views sex with teenagers as beautiful and acceptable and the other strongly opposes it. The former being the loudest voice in the room and the authority making it all seem normal.
It makes it incredibly difficult and frustrating to keep fighting such an unstoppable tidal wave of narrative. But that is my job and the job of everyone dedicated to truth and reason. We can’t give up just yet.