Episode 56: Dollop: Newport Sex Scandal

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This episode is so strange and convoluted–and creepy–it gets two quotes–both from Gareth:

Honestly, I think I’m out of eyes to roll at this point.


How long until they’re tickling?

This story is as complicated–and lurid–as any soap opera, so let me start off with Wikipedia’s handy summary. TIght and clean, like the military is supposed to be:

The Newport sex scandal arose in 1919 from the United States Navy’s investigation of illicit sexual behavior on the part of Navy personnel in Newport, Rhode Island. It targeted homosexual contacts between Navy personnel and the civilian population. Initially it attracted little public notice, but eventually the investigation – its methods and use of enlisted personnel – and the trial attracted national news coverage and provoked a Congressional investigation that ended with Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and Assistant Secretary of the Navy – future President of the United States – Franklin D. Roosevelt being rebuked by a Congressional committee.

There. Now break out the hand sanitizer. From this point on, you’ll need it. Not for the sex acts involved–the Dollop fully believes consenting adults can do whatever they wanna do. Now, for the creepy overlord sex puppets making underlings have sex with each other for vicarious thrills. That’s just nasty and a gross perversion of power.
The reporter that broke the story, and stayed on it, despite a “tart exchange of telegrams” with Roosevelt, was John R. Rathom.
I swear, I am collecting the juiciest historical phrases, and I am going to create obnoxious cross-stitch samplers out of them, and “tart exchange of telegrams” is going to be at the top of the list. I might even stitch it as if it were a telegram:


Let’s follow that image (I’m going to do it, y’all, I am) with the best book title ever:

Perverts by Official Order: The Campaign Against Homosexuals by the United States Navy * Demetrios Simopoulos, John Dececco, and Lawrence Murphy
’cause that’s exactly what these boys were. Homosexual or heterosexual, they were ordered to do this by the government, which is skeeeeeevy.
Outing the Senator: Sex, Spies, & Videotape * David O’Toole
Sexual orientation and the American military. If you don’t know anything about this, take just a minute to read this first sentences:

The United States military excluded gay men and lesbians from service from its origins until 2011. The military consistently held the official view that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are unfit for military service.

2011. That was just yesterday.
Let me put this into a more human perspective for you, more human cost. MTV’s New Orleans season of The Real World aired in 2000. One of the kids on the show had a boyfriend in the military, stationed nearby, that was able to take regular, sanctioned leave to visit him. But, to visit his boyfriend and not ruin his career, he could not use his real name or show his face on screen. In the beginning of the 21st century, this man who was willing to die for our country had to have his face blurred because he could be dishonorably discharged for kissing his partner.
Murica. Fuck.
And how did this fine mess all start? My home state, Virginia, was the first to have a written sodomy law, 1610. insert sound of exasperation
Time travel through a miasma of worrying about someone else’s sex, sex police, and general nasty discrimination, and you get to 1917, North Dakota, and the first American conviction for cunninglingus.
Sorry, I lost all sense of librarian decorum, I just, that means, that means a lot to me and
Okay, I took a break, washed my face, did a shot,  okay, did two shots, I’m better, we can continue.
So, 1920. The Navy had a field day with its privates (see what I did there!), many tart telegrams were exchanged, and then homosexuals were left alone, right? What happens next?
The secret tribunal at Harvard, that’s what.

The Secret Court of 1920 was an ad hoc disciplinary tribunal of five administrators at Harvard University formed to investigate charges of homosexual activity among the student population. During two weeks in May and June 1920, the Court headed by Acting Dean Chester Noyes Greenough conducted more than thirty interviews behind closed doors and took action against eight students, a recent graduate, and an assistant professor. They were expelled or had their association with the university severed. Two of the students were later readmitted. The affair went unreported until 2002.

Excuse me won’t you, I live in the mountains, and the Blue Ridge creates such lovely echoes, bear with me a moment, I think such an echo is called for:
Rage comic
I hope you heard that banshee wail wherever you are, my dears. I’m going to go imbibe a little more. I leave you with the soulful stylings of the Village People. I had no idea when I was a wee lass in the 1970’s that these quirky lads were trying to teach us some history.

And, if your boss tells you you have to do something sexual to keep your job, come tell Momma Carla. That’s ain’t right, and it ain’t American.
Cultural references from this episode:

Band names from this episode:

  • Sodomy Racism
  • Tunnel Cock
  • Collecting Evidence (mostly Duran Duran covers)
  • His Instrument
  • Arnold’s Dick
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