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Friday, Jun 21, 2024

'A Kiss is Just a Kiss, but 'Caveat Emptor' Still Applies'

Author: David Castonuovo, Assistant Professor of Italian

I have taken some heat because a number of articles in last week's Campus imply that Gay and Lesbian Employees at Middlebury (GLEAM, of which I am coordinator this year), had somehow approved the presentation of the "Art of Kissing." Please let me set the record straight (so to speak).

When I was contacted about this event last November, it was originally described to me as a sort of "safe sex" program aimed primarily at heterosexuals (the idea, as I recall, was that kissing can be lots of fun and that kissing comes in handy when one wants to avoid sexual behavior that is overtly risky). Basically, I was (and am) interested in anything that promotes safe sex, even a program where "inclusion" is not the primary focus. But I advised the Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) to find out more about issues of "inclusion" before going ahead and booking the "show."

Now, we know that heterosexuals as a group face enormous pressure from society (pressure exerted by almost every film, television show and commercial they ever see!) to have casual sex with multiple partners, rather than commit to long-lasting marital relationships. Indeed, most heterosexuals would probably claim that their right to divorce is a "civil right" rather than a "special privilege." Even Christian heterosexuals and the institutions that speak for them — once the primary defenders of marriage — seem no longer to care that divorce (unlike homosexuality) was explicitly condemned by Jesus as "adultery" (see Matthew, ch. 19).

Mindful, then, of the tremendous societal pressure to copulate that is placed on heterosexuals (especially young heterosexuals), I was certainly in favor of considering any program on campus that would educate them. As a homosexual who lost some very dear people to AIDS, I remember all too well the nightmare of the Ronald Reagan and New York City Mayor Ed Koch era: their REFUSAL to educate the public (the result of their anti-gay and anti-minority prejudices) helped create a true health epidemic in the United States (not just among gays, but among hemopheliacs, drug addicts, inner-city residents, and people who needed blood transfusions). That epidemic ripped apart the hearts of many individuals and their families. (The same thing is still happening in Africa today.) Luckily for you students, by the time you were old enough to begin to be educated about sex, things in the United States had begun to change.

After proffering my advice about inclusion to MCAB, I received the following answer from someone planning the "Kissing" event: "Allow me to first and foremost thank you for all the advice and consideration that you've offered duting [sic] the course of planning this program. Since I last spoke to you, there has been some new information that has come to light. After having spoken with the [sic] Michael Christian's (the performer) agent last night, I was able to clarify what was meant by the program being 'heterosexual.' There is one small portion of the show in which Mr. Christian speaks on how to make yourself more attractive to the opposite sex. That's it. I asked whether there would be any problem with having homosexual couples going up on stage and demonstrating and I was informed that there would not be a problem with that at all." It appears that MCAB — to quote Humphrey Bogart's remark about the healing waters of Morocco in the film "Casblanca" — was, at the very least, "misinformed."

When the "Kissing" show did not happen on Feb. 14 as planned, I assumed it had been cancelled.

I was never told that it had been rescheduled. One imagines that Mr. Christian charged MCAB a pretty penny for his performance. So I think the lesson for you all to take from "The Art of Kissing" is that whether you are straight or lesbian or gay, there is always someone out there who will try to make a buck off of you. This appears to be what happened (unwittingly, I assume) to MCAB. Yes, a "kiss is just a kiss," but the adage "Caveat Emptor" still applies.