GOP state Rep. Richard Curtis resigned last week in the wake of a sex scandal involving a male prostitute, ladies' lingerie, and an alleged extortion plot. Dan Savage heads to Spokane to recreate Curtis's big gay adventure.
The lobby, my God, the lobby.
"Everlasting Love," an early disco hit, is booming over the sound system. The walls and floors of the L-shaped room are covered in beige and tan marble. Faux-Victorian chandeliers dangle from the ceiling. Huge bronze elephant heads with gleaming brass tusks top every column, stained-glass panels with giraffe motifs enclose the bar area, and overstuffed chairs and banquettes are upholstered in black-and-tan leopard-print velvet. It looks like all the furniture has been upholstered with Siegfried and Roy's old thongs.
There's some trouble getting the room I requested—968. When I made the reservation yesterday, I was told that my room request was no problem. But today, the room is "off-line," the receptionist informs me. A pair of stained-glass tigers stares down at me from the wall behind her. The receptionist is blond and perky, and she doesn't seem to suspect anything. She sets about trying to get the room back online for me and invites me to have a drink in the hotel bar—where the waiter is wearing a zebra-striped apron—while she works on the problem. When I return to the reception desk 15 minutes later, a noticeably cooler receptionist informs me that the room I wanted will be off-line for the "duration of my stay," which is only one night.
So I don't get "the" room—the room where Washington state representative Richard Curtis (R-La Center), 48, had anal sex—twice—with Cody Castagna, 26, "a part-time waiter and porn model," as Castagna was tagged by the Spokesman-Review. But I do manage to get a room on the ninth floor—room 957—and the evacuation map on the back of the door shows that 957 is a mirror image of 968. It's a small room (but pricey, at $300 a night) with oil paintings of rhinos and elephants and cheetahs; a flat-screen TV on the wall opposite the bed; a large, beveled mirror over the bed serving as a headboard; and a large leopard-print pillow.
I'm in Spokane to retrace Curtis's footsteps on that fateful night. But before I can party like a Washington state rep, I need to gather a few things: lingerie, a sack, some rope, a toy stethoscope, condoms, and a few items I can not identify.
After the last humiliating detail about Representative Richard Curtis and his adventures with an admitted male prostitute and alleged extortionist dribbled out early last week—that would be the plastic sack police found in Curtis' room containing rope, a stethoscope, and other items the police "could not immediately identify"—I thought to myself, "Well, at least Washington State's GOP gay sex scandal had a dignified setting." Curtis wasn't busted, for instance, in an airport bathroom or a public park.
The reported location of Curtis's undoing, the Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane, is a grand hotel in the style of Seattle's Fairmont Olympic Hotel. The Davenport opened its doors in 1914, enjoyed several successful decades, went into decline in the 1960s (along with the rest of downtown Spokane), and closed its doors in 1985. After several close calls with the wrecking ball, Walt Worthy, a Spokane developer, bought the Davenport in 2000 for $6.5 million, poured $36 million into the hotel, and reopened it to rave reviews in 2002. "With dedication, taste, and respect for history, [Worthy] has restored the Davenport to its former grandeur," reads the essay about the Davenport at HistoryLink.org.
But—I figured this out later—it turns out that Curtis wasn't staying at the grand old Davenport Hotel. He was staying across the street at the brand-new Davenport Tower, a sister hotel that opened in January of this year. As for Worthy's lauded sense of taste, well, it appears to have been fatally struck by an automobile as it attempted to cross the street. The Davenport Tower, for no discernable reason whatsoever, is done up in an African safari theme—hence the elephants, leopards, tigers, giraffes, hippos, and rhinos crowded into the lobby, the restaurant (The Safari Room), and the guest rooms. Not even the elevators are spared.
So there was nothing dignified about Curtis's spectacular pratfall from grace—not his attire, not his behavior, not even the setting.
"Man," I think looking at the mirror behind the bed, "this wouldn't look out of place on Aurora Avenue."
THE SCENE OF THE CRIME
Until he resigned from the state legislature on October 31, Richard Curtis represented La Center, Washington, a small town you've never heard of somewhere between Vancouver, Washington, and the state capital of Olympia. A beefy Republican with a bushy gray moustache, Curtis is a social conservative. In this context, "social conservative" means, of course, "antigay." Curtis voted against adding gays and lesbians to the state's antidiscrimination statutes; he voted against domestic partnerships for gay couples; he voted against gay marriage.
When Curtis spoke to the Columbian, the daily paper in Vancouver, Washington, before all the details were out, he echoed the words of Larry Craig. "I am not gay," Curtis told a reporter from the Columbian on Monday, October 29. "I have not had sex with a guy."
But the morning of Friday, October 26, in room 968 of the Davenport Tower, Curtis, who was in Spokane attending a retreat with other state GOP lawmakers at the nearby Red Lion Hotel, told to two detectives from the Spokane Police Department that earlier that morning he had engaged in consensual anal sex with a much younger man whom he met in an adult bookstore. Curtis had called the police after the man, whose name he never knew, took off with his wallet while Curtis was asleep.
The man later called demanding $1,000—and threatened to out Curtis as gay if he didn't pay up.
"[Curtis] only wanted his wallet back and wanted to keep the incident as low-key as possible," Detective Tim Madsen wrote in his report. "If the incident became public, it could cost him his marriage and career."
Terry, my boyfriend of 12 years, is from Spokane and pretty happy about it. In fact, the further he is from Spokane the happier he gets. But he agreed to join me in his hometown on a Saturday night because, like me, he assumed we would be staying at the storied Davenport Hotel. He gets a rude shock when he arrives a few hours after I do.
But I don't have time to worry about that—I have supplies to get. Two blocks from the hotel is River Park Square, Spokane's downtown shopping mall: Nordstrom, Restoration Hardware, Abercrombie & Fitch, Macy's. Built to revitalize the downtown area, River Park Square seems to have removed what little foot traffic there was in downtown Spokane from the streets. I pass a dozen or more shuttered storefronts on my way to the mall.
To River Park Square's credit, I quickly find a toy stethoscope, lingerie, some condoms, and a tasteful card for a friend whose mother recently passed away—and every item comes in a plastic sack, so that's taken care of, too. But, alas, there's no rope for sale at the mall.
THE DIRTY BOOKSTORE
Sometime after the first day of the GOP retreat wrapped up on the evening of Thursday, October 25, Curtis drove to Hollywood Erotic Boutique in Spokane Valley, a neighboring nothing of a town. It wasn't Curtis's first visit to Hollywood Erotic Boutique. According to an employee quoted in the Spokesman-Review, Curtis had visited the adult bookstore at least three times in the past month. The employees had even given him a nickname: "the crossdresser."
A young man named Cody Castagna was also at the bookstore that night. Castagna, according to the police report, approached Curtis and asked him for a cigarette sometime around one in the morning. After determining that Curtis wasn't a cop, Castagna asked him if he "wanted to get together." Curtis told Castagna that he would not pay for sex "because that would be prostitution"—well, that's what Curtis told the police he told Castagna. But Curtis did offer Castagna $100 "to help him out for gas." Curtis then gave Castagna his cell-phone number and left Hollywood Erotic Boutique for a casino near Spokane's airport.
Hollywood Erotic Boutique is housed in a crumbling, two-story building marooned in the endless sprawl of parking lots that characterize Spokane proper and Spokane Valley. There's a discount tire dealership on one side and a plasma center on the other. When my boyfriend and I walk in, the very first thing we notice is a picture of Castagna on the wall. "This person is banned from the premises!" reads the hand-written note tacked above a screen grab from an interview Castagna did on MSNBC. "No prostitution allowed!"
When I ask about Curtis and Castagna, the friendly, heavy-set woman behind the counter tells us she just started. The only thing she knows about Curtis is that he was living a lie.
"And that's just sad," she says. "You have to be who you are!"
She tells us about her son—now her daughter, who lives in California. She had the courage to come out as transgendered.
"And she's six-foot-three!" she exclaims. "And you're telling me Richard Curtis was too scared to come out as a gay man?"
It was at Hollywood Erotic Boutique that Curtis was spotted wearing "long red women's stockings and black sequined lingerie," according to an employee quoted in the Spokesman-Review. Before meeting Castagna, employees observed Curtis receiving oral sex from "a man who appeared to be around 40 and [walked] with a cane." This may have been captured on the store's security video from the night Curtis met Castagna, a video that is now in the hands of the police and could ultimately be released to the public.
Despite being described as an "adult bookstore" in every newspaper account of the Curtis scandal, there aren't any books for sale at Hollywood Erotic Boutique. There are hundreds of old DVDs, dildos and butt plugs, cheap blowup dolls with "O" mouths, and exactly two sad pieces of lingerie.
A handful of men come and go while we're standing at the counter talking with the clerk; clearly the scandal hasn't been bad for business. Hollywood Erotic Boutique's regular customers eye us suspiciously. Our demeanors aren't furtive enough, I guess. We're obviously together, Terry is dressed a little too stylishly, we didn't arrive in a pickup truck—we're interlopers, openly gay men, and we're ruining the vibe.
No one is interested in the merchandise for sale at Hollywood Erotic Boutique. Every customer who comes through the doors while we're in the shop pays $10 and heads immediately up the stairs to the "porn theaters"—really five small video viewing booths. For $10 you can stay upstairs for up to six hours.
According to the reviews posted at CrusingForSex.com, the Hollywood Erotic Boutique is a "very nice, very safe" place to meet men. "This is a great spot to get a load or dump one," reads one of the longer reviews. "It's mostly straight men and they usually don't care who sucks their cock—they just want it sucked... Also, I have met several guys who would get a room and have a fuckfest."
Curtis had a room; Castagna was game for a fuckfest.
Before we leave the bookstore, I ask Terry if he wants to slip upstairs and give me a little head. You know, in the spirit of following in Curtis's footsteps.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" he says.
"Yes," I lie. "Of course. I mean, come on."
On our way to the casino, we swing by the General Store, a Spokane institution. Picture a Chubby & Tubby (RIP) on steroids and with guns. For serious kinksters, a hardware store is a sex-toy shop—well, Seattle kinksters would love Spokane's General Store. Christ, the rope selection alone! We select a nice pack of soft, blue-and-white nylon rope and toss it in the backseat of our rental car.
Out of all the pleasures Curtis pursued during his adventures in Spokane, the hour or two he spent at the Northern Quest Casino in the middle of the night mystifies me most. Who doesn't enjoy blowjobs and buttfucking? As for crossdressing, well, it's not my thing, but I can see how it could turn some men on. Rope and stethoscopes? I feel compelled to admit that I've got a few bondage and medical toys at home.
Perhaps this is a good time to get this on the record: I don't think Richard Curtis did anything wrong that night in Spokane. I'm all for men having sex with other men. I certainly don't think it should be illegal for men to wear women's underwear, or for men to get blowjobs from other men at dirty bookstores, canes or no canes, lingerie or no lingerie, nor should it be illegal for men to pay male porn stars for their time and attention. I also don't think it should be illegal for men to marry each other. What makes this case a scandal—besides the alleged extortion attempt, of course—is that Curtis led people to believe he thought all those things should be illegal. Just as Idaho's Larry Craig would certainly have voted against a bill decriminalizing toilet sex had one come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate, Curtis would have voted against a bill that decriminalized public sex and crossdressing and porn-star renting had it come up for a vote in the Washington State House of Representatives. I, of course, would vote to legalize every supposedly "criminal" thing that Curtis did in Spokane—and ever so much more.
But casinos? I'd vote them out of existence if I had the chance. Casinos are grim. We're not three steps into the massive Northern Quest Casino before I spot her. There's one of her in every casino in the country: a little old lady hooked up to an oxygen tank, feeding coins into a slot machine, a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. (Cigarettes and oxygen tanks? When, I wonder, is one of these little old ladies going to explode?) I'm beginning to think casinos plant these women by the doors so that writers like me can dash in, get the one squalid detail that sums up the whole scene, and dash back out, without disturbing any of the real gamblers.
Unlike downtown Spokane—deserted despite a boom in condo development—Northern Quest is packed. The parking lot stretches for acres in all directions, and we had to hunt for a spot. Once inside, we have to fight to find an open table. Poker is all the rage these days, and the crowded poker tables have pride of place in the middle of Northern Quest's gambling floor. Terry and I finally find an empty blackjack table—shoved into a corner, by the bathrooms. We sit down, buy $100 worth of chips. Fifteen minutes later, our $100 gone, we slip into the bar for a drink. The casino is working its magic—we are, despite our best efforts, having a blast.
Curtis was at the Northern Quest Casino at 3:00 a.m. when Castagna called his cell. Castagna asked if Curtis still wanted to get together. The men arranged to meet back at the Davenport Tower. When both men arrived, Curtis again told Castagna he wasn't paying him for sex, just giving him $100 to "help him out." Once they got up to Curtis's room, Curtis gave Castagna the money. After Curtis—still wearing women's lingerie—got fucked, he asked if he could fuck Castagna without wearing a condom. Castagna told Curtis that unprotected anal sex was unsafe—well, that's what Castagna told the police he told Curtis. When Curtis asked him how much "help" it would take for Castagna to consent to unprotected sex, the men agreed on a price: $1,000.
Castagna, according to the police report, was crying when he related these details.
THE GAY BAR
Richard Curtis spent an awful lot of time in his car the night he met Cody Castagna. It's 12.5 miles from the Davenport Tower to the Hollywood Erotic Boutique, 20 miles from the Hollywood Erotic to Northern Quest Casino, and another 8.5 miles back to the Davenport Tower. Spokane's only gay bar—Dempsey's Brass Rail—is just a block from the Davenport Tower. Terry and I walk over to the bar after returning from the casino.
If Curtis was after a little gay sex, why didn't he just go to Dempsey's?
We arrive around midnight, hoping to catch one of Dempsey's tragic drag shows before putting on our own tragic show in front of that mirrored headboard back in our hotel room. Sitting on a pool table at the back of the room, my eagle-eyed boyfriend spots some familiar-looking facial hair—it's Castagna, in a red T-shirt, tucking a dollar bill into the bra of a lip-synching drag queen.
Castagna is a star in Spokane's gay demimonde. He's blowing kisses, accepting hugs, and chatting with friends. I get close enough to eavesdrop and hear Castagna retell the story of that night. He can relate the story now, it seems, without weeping. He's laughing.
For some reason, I'm nervous about introducing myself. Castagna looks rougher in person than he did on MSNBC, like the kind of guy who might take a swing at someone who pissed him off in a bar. He's a small guy, gone to seed a bit, certainly not in the shape he was when he was making porn (Damon Blows America #3). But he's charismatic in that slightly crazed way the kings of small-town gay bars typically are.
When I finally work up the nerve to introduce myself, Castagna tells me he can't talk right now—but he tells me he'll come and find me before he takes off. I ask him one quick question: So is Richard Curtis gay or what? I'm trying to be funny. Castagna looks at me like I'm crazy.
"Richard Curtis is a freak," he says. "A big, gay freak."
We don't see Castagna again.
Tracing Richard Curtis's footsteps through the Spokane area was easy. Now comes the hard part. Bondage is practically vanilla these days, but I've never played with a stethoscope. I listen to my boyfriend's heartbeat for a minute, then roll him over and listen to his buttbeat. And there we give up on playing doctor. I break out a few items I can not immediately identify. Terry says no dice. Now I'm feeling pretty silly in the red stockings I bought at Nordstrom early in the day, which—did I mention this?—I've been wearing under my jeans most of the night. The boyfriend implores me to take them off, take it all off.
It turns out there's a limit to how much fun you can have following in someone else's footsteps. You can enjoy entertainments that aren't your own—playing blackjack, lurking in adult bookstores, chatting up small-town porn stars—but it's nearly impossible for a couple to enjoy kinks that aren't their own. (And, yes, we have kinks of our own—plenty.)
We turn on the television.
Sitting up in bed, Terry leaning into me, I start to feel something unexpected for Curtis: pity. No, not pity. Sympathy. I hopped on an airplane this morning intending to run around an easily mocked city so that I could mock the latest GOP elected official exposed as a hypocrite. And why not? It has been tremendously gratifying to be a gay person in this country over the last 18 months. After the horrors of 2004—when gays and lesbians were attacked on daily basis by Karl Rove and George W. Bush—it has been thrilling to watch a party united, it seems, only by its loathing of gay people, weather the storms of Ted Haggard, Bob Allen, Larry Craig, and now, Richard Curtis.
Some people credit the Republicans losing control of Congress in 2006 to the Haggard scandal. I don't know if that's true. But GOP sex scandals have unnerved and alienated the Republican base and shredded the party's claim to moral superiority. GOP no longer stands for Grand Old Party. It's Gross Old Perverts now.
But I find myself feeling bad for Curtis. What a sad and solitary figure. He couldn't risk staying at the same hotel with the rest of the GOP colleagues, lest they spot him coming and going with young thugs. So he slunk off to the soulless Davenport Tower alone, before slipping into the Hollywood Erotic Boutique alone, before heading to the Northern Quest Casino alone, before heading back to his hotel to have sex with a man whose name he didn't know—a man who thought he was a freak.
I don't think Curtis is a freak—not on account of his kinks, anyway. Curtis is a very kinky girl—but guess what? I am, too. (After writing Savage Love for 16 years, I'm convinced that abnormal is the norm, and that we're all kinksters and freaks to greater or lesser extents.) I would like to go into greater detail about my own kinks to balance the detail I'm giving on Curtis's, but 12 years ago when I met my boyfriend I promised to keep his sex life private. But I can say this: Thinking back on all the sexual adventures I've had with my boyfriend over the years, I realize how close they've brought us, how central they are to our bond, to our sense of well-being and satisfaction, to our love for each other.
Then I think of Richard Curtis hiding his kinks, lying to his wife, sneaking around Spokane, realizing his fantasies with the likes of Cody Castagna, and I'm even more grateful for what Terry and I have, for what we're able to do and be for each other.
How sad for Richard Curtis that he's never had someone with whom he could truly share himself—lingerie, stethoscopes, rope, items that can not be identified, his full name, and all.
THE FLOWER POT
Unable to sleep, I decide to take a stroll to the Washington Street Bridge, which isn't too far from our hotel.
There's a point in the police report where the Curtis scandal jumps through the looking glass. At 20 minutes to noon on October 26, Curtis is being interviewed in his room by the detectives. The police are trying to talk Curtis into allowing them to collect physical evidence—dirty sheets, a used condom containing Castagna's semen, a DNA sample from Curtis. Curtis is reluctant. He doesn't want to prosecute the case. He wants to keep this quiet.
"I told Curtis that the toothpaste was already out of the tube," Detective Tim Madsen's report states. "Curtis told me he was just trying 'to put the cap back on the tube.'"
Suddenly Curtis's cell phone rings.
"Curtis tipped the phone so I could hear," writes Madsen. "I heard a male voice telling Curtis to leave [the money] in the last flower pot on the west side [of] Washington Street Bridge at the far north end. Curtis asked the male how he would get his billfold back. The male told Curtis that he would drop it off at the front desk of the hotel lobby after receiving the money."
Castagna tells Curtis he wants to pick the money up in 25 minutes. The police tell Curtis to stall—they need time to get surveillance personnel "to the specific flower pot on the Washington Street Bridge."
Curtis stalls long enough for the police to get into position. The police videotape Curtis slipping an envelope full of money into the flower pot and a man—not Castagna—picking up the envelope a few minutes later. The whole thing reads like something out of a bad spy novel.
The flowerpot is an ugly, concrete box with some tall ornamental grass growing out it. The Red Lion Hotel—the hotel where Washington's GOP legislators were meeting, the place where Curtis was supposed to be staying—looms over the bridge. I take a picture. When he dropped off that envelope Curtis was probably wishing he'd stayed there, and stayed in, that night.
THE STRAIGHT DOPE
Sitting up in bed, I think of an e-mail I received shortly after the Curtis scandal broke. A friend, a sex researcher, read an item I posted about Curtis on Slog, The Stranger's blog. I titled my post "XXX-Gay," a reference to the adult bookstore and the porn films Curtis purchased for Castagna to watch while the men had sex.
My friend was writing to say it was possible that Curtis was telling the truth when he said he wasn't gay.
I scoffed when I read my friend's e-mail. Curtis was recycling Larry "I'm Not Gay" Craig's talking points, for crying out loud. That's pretty damn gay. Curtis had been fucked in his ass by a dude. It doesn't get any gayer than that.
By the time we arrived in Spokane, of course, no one believed Curtis was anything other than gay. From Fox News to the Seattle Gay News, the headlines read: "GOP Lawmaker Resigns Over Gay Sex Scandal." The Seattle Times, like the woman working at Hollywood Erotic Boutique, argued that Curtis' real offense was being a closeted gay man. The Seattle Times quoted a psychologist who said, "People are more upset about covering something up, living a lie, than being gay."
The gays, myself included, were only too delighted to claim Curtis for our team—look, another GOP hypocrite! The homophobes were delighted to let us have him. In the Spokesman-Review, unfunny "humor" columnist Doug Clark composed a song in Curtis's honor: "Well, he says that he's not gay/He just dresses that way," go the lyrics.
Only thing is, I don't know any gay people who dress that way. Crossdressing for sexual thrills, not for laughs or attention, is an almost entirely heterosexual phenomenon. Cruisy "adult bookstores" are primarily patronized by straight and straight-identified men, according to sex researchers and the reviews on sites like CruisingForSex.com.
And not only did Curtis not act like any gay man I know, he didn't act much like a homophobe in the Washington State legislature.
"While Representative Curtis had an anti-gay voting record," Washington state senator Ed Murray tells me on the phone, "he was never an ideologue." Murray served in the Washington State House of Representatives with Curtis. Curtis sat on the transportation committee, which Murray chaired. "He didn't seem driven by antigay stuff," recalls Murray. "He wasn't one of the jerks. He wasn't one of the members so obsessed about the gay issue that you started to wonder why."
Openly gay Washington State Representive Jamie Pedersen describes Curtis as "decent and kind" in an e-mail. He was one of two
Republicans who, after the [domestic partnership] vote, came across the floor to shake my hand and congratulate me," Pedersen recalls.
"Mostly, the whole situation makes me sad," Pedersen adds. "For his family, for him, and for a world that makes people feel like they can't be who they are."
So who is Richard Curtis exactly? Sitting in bed at the Davenport, rope and stethoscope and items that can not be identified strewn about me, I entertain the possibility that a married man with two kids and a taste for cock could be bisexual. But not gay? P'shaw. I send my sex researcher friend an e-mail asking for more info. She forwards my e-mail to two experts.
The next morning I check my e-mail.
"When I first read about the Curtis affair, I assumed that Curtis's principal sexual attraction was to men, that his marriage was essentially one of convenience," writes Anne A. Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D., a Seattle physician and psychotherapist who specializes in gender identity issues. "[I interpreted] that his statement about 'not being gay' simply meant that he didn't identify as gay, even though he was a man who had sex with men."
But as more information came in about Curtis, Lawrence arrived at a conclusion opposite to the one everyone else was arriving at. The crossdressing, the rope, and, yes, even the anal sex—it all pointed to Curtis's heterosexuality.
"The information that has come out about Curtis allegedly wearing women's lingerie while engaging in receptive anal intercourse suggests the alternative hypothesis that Curtis's principal sexual attraction is to women but that he is also sexually aroused by the idea of being a woman himself," writes Lawrence. Curtis is so into heterosexual sex, according to this theory, that he wants to experience it from both sides. "Hypothetically, when being penetrated anally by a man, he might imagine himself as a woman being penetrated vaginally by a man. This hypothesis would also be consistent with his statement that he is 'not gay.'"
"A small percentage of men who are principally sexually attracted to women—perhaps as many as 2–3 percent—are also sexually attracted to the idea of being women themselves. Canadian psychologist and sex researcher Ray Blanchard coined the term 'autogynephilia' (literally, 'love of oneself as a woman') to describe this phenomenon."
Autogynephilia most commonly manifests itself in erotic crossdressing—which is practically unheard of among gay men.
"Roughly 30 percent of male heterosexual crossdressers report some sexual experience with men, so Curtis would not be unusual if he were, in fact, a heterosexual crossdresser who engaged in sex with men when crossdressed."
Shortly after the e-mail from Lawrence, another arrives from Ray Blanchard, Head of Clinical Sexology Services at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. Blanchard, again, gave autogynephilia its name. He didn't want to comment directly on Curtis but was willing to discuss autogynephilia.
"There is a class of heterosexual men called autogynephiles, who are sexually aroused by the thought or image of themselves as women," Blanchard confirms. "They may act out this fantasy in various ways. One common way is to dress up as women and seek sex with men. It is not rare that they employ pornographic movie theaters for this purpose, although that strategy usually limits them to wearing brassieres or panties beneath their male clothes."
Which is precisely what Curtis did.
"The exciting aspect of the men they have sex with is the symbolic value of the male partner, which enhances their fantasies of being women," Blanchard continues. "Autogynephiles are not interested in men's bodies, they rarely or never have sex with men when they are not crossdressed, and they are being truthful when they state that they are not gay. In their normal lives, they are unremarkably masculine and they often have wives or girlfriends."
But Curtis didn't seek penetration only; he got a blowjob, he fucked Castagna—how does that jibe with his desire to be a woman?
"Some autogynephiles will allow or even seek to be fellated or to perform anal penetration on a partner as part of the interaction," says Blanchard. "A penis is, after all, the sexual organ that they have, and if they want to achieve orgasm as part of the encounter, that is what they need to have stimulated, one way or another."
Curtis's heterosexuality—if he is heterosexual—doesn't excuse his antigay voting record, of course. If anything, his willingness to vote against gay people while indulging in inarguably gay sex acts—whatever was going on in his head—is less defensible in light of his potential autogynephilia. Even if Curtis's attraction to men was a kink, a means by which he was able to indulge his fantasies about being a woman himself, having sex with men should have sensitized him to the issues faced by men who are capable of loving other men, not just using them.
But it casts Curtis's actions, and his early statements, in a different light. It certainly explains the cross-dressing, which is out of character for a gay man. It also might explain why Curtis didn't go to the nearby gay bar, opting instead for a far-off adult bookstore patronized by straight and "straight" guys. Yes, Curtis is a victim of the very homophobia that his votes worked to sustain, but he was not, as Murray says, one of the jerks.
Sitting in bed on the ninth floor of the Davenport Tower, my boyfriend sleeping beside me, my anger with Curtis—just Curtis, not Craig or Allen or Haggard—softens somewhat. He's already lost so much—his job, his dignity, potentially his marriage, the respect of his children. Maybe we should let him have his heterosexuality.
THE MORNING AFTER
"Sure, there are hypocrites everywhere—it's awful!"
We've stopped in the Safari Room for a quick meal before heading to the airport. When I ask our impossibly cute, dark-haired waitress about Richard Curtis, she says she doesn't know all that much about it. But she knows he was doing one thing at the hotel and another thing in the legislature.
"It's like Jodie Foster," she goes on, smoothing her zebra-striped apron. "She's like this big Hollywood liberal and she wants to take our guns and there she is in her new movie shooting guns! Another hypocrite, you know?"
"Yeah," my boyfriend offers, pushing his eggs around on his plate. "And think of all the actors who have played serial killers, thieves, and cheaters but disapprove of actual murder, robbery, and adultery."
"Yeah," the waitress says, nodding vigorously. "Can I get you guys anything else?"
No, we say, we have to head to the airport.
"We'll see you, then," she says, smiling. "I hope you enjoyed your stay in Spokane."