Hollywood, Florida is an oceanside city that sits between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. And for some reason, its police decided to raid an adult sex shop called Pleasure Emporium, and arrest 13 men. In the Hollywood sex sting, police arrested 11 men for masturbating in the back of the shop (or “public exposure of consensual organs” as police call it) and two were arrested for having oral sex (“unnatural and lascivious acts”).
Furthermore, a handful of local newspapers published the men’s names and mugshots even though both crimes are misdemeanors that occurred consensually and in private. The men involved hadn’t had their guilt proven in court, but now their names and images have been published online to publicly shame them.
It’s an absurd and needlessly cruel form of public shaming that serves no public interest whatsoever.
There are lots of reasons that men have sex with men in public: for pleasure’s sake, because they like cruising, because they’re closeted or because they can’t find any other place to do it. (Not everyone can afford a hotel room or the privacy of their own place.)
But no matter how you feel about public sex, even experts agree, “public sex doesn’t represent a public safety issue and communities overreact to its presence.” These men were having consensual relations in a sex shop.
Anyone who thinks that police were justified because these men were committing a crime should ask themselves how they would feel if police parked outside of their favorite bar with breathalyzers and made instant arrests for public intoxication and drunk driving. It wouldn’t be considered “police work,” it’d be considered harassment.
Of the Hollywood sex sting at the Pleasure Emporium, Miami journalist Jerry Iannelli wrote, “Virtually every major news organization in South Florida — including WPLG, WFOR, and the Miami Herald” chose to publish these men’s names, subjecting them to “unnecessary shame[, possible outing … and] leaving them vulnerable to abuse, harassment, or retaliation.”
There’s no need for the public to have this information, especially since newspapers rarely do it for other same-degree misdemeanors. Some men publicly exposed for similar charges in the past have subsequently committed suicide.
Iannelli adds that the Hollywood police have a backlog of unprocessed rape kits, but that they and local news outlets invested community resources towards these arrests shows that its priorities lie in sex-shaming and ruining people’s lives for a victimless crime.
Hollywood police claimed that people had complained about public sex in the shop. We’re scratching our heads on who’d actually complain about consensual sex happening in the backroom of a sex shop.