The puritans are at it again. Last week, 115 people were arrested at an Atlanta club where a live sex show took place. "It was a sex scene that had to be seen to be believed, and for three hours undercover Atlanta cops watched," gushed a reporter in the July 30 Journal-Constitution.
I guess it took the cops three hours of watching a woman have sex with 10 different men before they felt confident to make any arrests. You know how that goes: You can't get the full measure of disgust until you see a porn video from start to finish. Otherwise, it's a bit like coitus interruptus for your sense of moral indignation.
When the sex police had their fill, they busted 45 females and 70 males, arresting them all for disorderly conduct. Ten of those also were arrested for public indecency. Sgt. Wayne Whitmire explained that had they waited even longer, they might have arrested 300 people.
My God! Imagine all those people turning out for a sex show. "Anybody who was there knew why they were there -- there were no innocent walkups," Whitmire said, without explaining exactly what the crime of watching other people have sex is.
Granted, the spectacle of a staged gangbang may be as dis-edifying to many people as it was apparently stimulating to our boys in undercover blue. Granted, too, the club apparently wasn't checking identifications and one of the arrested sex participants turned out to be a 16-year-old girl. And it's true that the owners of Club Zinc, where the event took place, were operating without a business license, undoubtedly under the dubious logic of being a "private club."
Moreover, they were charged with serving alcohol without a license. The latter claim is controversial, because the club was not technically charging for drinks. The $25 cost of admission included the sex spectacle and free booze. It seems pretty clear, though, that if you charge money for admission to an event and booze is part of what you're offering customers, you are technically selling alcohol. It's also pretty clear that claiming to be a "private club" when anyone can actually pay $25 to enter is rather bogus, too.
Whether the club required a pouring license to dispense alcohol at a supposedly private party is important because the great majority of the arrests were under a silly provision of the disorderly conduct law that allows police to arrest people for patronizing an establishment that is pouring drinks illegally. That means if you show up at a club that hasn't renewed its liquor license and the police bust the establishment, you can be arrested even though you had no way of knowing about the club's license.
Lest you think there's anything more than the moralistic logic of in loco parentis inherent in such a law, consider Sgt. John Quigley's explanation of the Club Zinc arrests in the July 31 AJC: "They were arrested because we wanted to send a message that this is painful for participants. Otherwise people will think, 'This is painless. Let's go somewhere [similar] next weekend.'"
Well, God knows, sinners should suffer as much as possible and nobody should feel they are free to have sex in group settings. Yes, Club Zinc's owners seem to have been quite stupid in the way they organized their event. Nothing enrages the Bible Belt's moralists more than mixing booze and sex, to say nothing of spoiling the innocence of dewy-eyed 16-year-olds. But the salient fact is that hundreds of people showed up for the event and, even though you can go to a movie in nearly any mall to see people screwing, the law is written to make events like Club Zinc's nearly impossible to host. And the reasons are, at heart, moral.
Of course, one has to wonder, too, what kind of investment the state, including our own city government, has in regulating the enormously profitable sex industry. Imagine the loss of jobs, the loss of tax revenue, the loss of license fees, the loss of kickbacks to corrupt officials, if the sex industry were treated like the rest of the entertainment industry. The so-called war on drugs operates similarly: It funds government jobs and the world's largest prison system. If drugs became legal, how would we replace those thousands in jail for possession? If consensual sex were deregulated, think of the loss in prostitution fines! I mean, sodomy is legal now, and you can't haul homosexuals off to court and bribe absurd amounts of money out of them to keep their names out of the papers. We need whores and patrons of sex businesses to bust now more than ever!
Maybe one day, America will wake up and realize that the billions of dollars spent on sex toys, porn, strip clubs, prostitution and sex venues means we are not who we think we are. As Freud wrote, we are all inherently perverse. The repression of desire, not its free expression, is the cause of suffering.
Those fantasies enacted at Club Zinc belong to all of us but -- ain't it strange? -- the only people who get to see them without those "painful" consequences are the police.