Culture

The Reaction To Christopher Pyne’s Gay Porn Incident Says More About Us Than Him

Christopher Pyne's Twitter account liked some gay porn. So what?

At 1.23 on Thursday morning, as queer Australians were celebrating the emphatic Yes victory (or sleeping off those celebrations), the Twitter account belonging to Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne liked a tweet containing some pretty explicit gay porn.

A Twitter bot that keeps track of Australian politicians’ Twitter activity tweeted about the like, and British-based Australian journalist Mark Di Stefano picked it up.

By 6am, Pyne had woken up, unliked the tweet and claimed that his account had been hacked.

The “politician-accidentally-likes-porn-tweet” scandal is a pretty common affair these days, as is the “hacking” explanation that often follows. (If a politician can’t claim to be hacked, they may throw a staffer under the bus instead.)

Pyne’s claim to have been hacked may or may not be true. He claims someone tried to access his Facebook account this week as well. It doesn’t really matter. It’s a publicly available Twitter account. It doesn’t contain state secrets.

At Junkee, we chose not to cover the story yesterday. Other outlets did, and that’s ok too. There was genuine news value to the story, and most outlets stayed on the right side of the very fine line they were being asked to walk. It’s a line I’m trying to walk now as well, and I don’t know that I’ll entirely succeed.

But other elements of the response to the incident deserve their own examination. The real story here is in the ugly and vaguely homophobic reaction to the like, and the fact that it has come from both ends of the political spectrum.

It’s None Of Our Business

Look, we don’t know what Christopher Pyne is into, and it doesn’t really matter. Maybe someone with access to Pyne’s account decided to cause some mischief on the day LGBTIQ+ Australians were celebrating their greatest victory. Maybe it was an accident — it’s not that hard to inadvertently hit like on a tweet, especially at 1.30am. Maybe Pyne actually does enjoy watching some gay porn at the end of a long day. If so, good on him. It is none of our business.

Pyne is married to his wife, Carolyn, and has four children. We don’t know anything about their relationship, and we have no right to.

It is rarely ever acceptable to talk about a person’s sexuality against their will. One of the few exceptions is when an anti-gay politician is caught doing very gay things. In that case, the politician’s hypocrisy deserves to be exposed. If, for example, one of the leaders of the No campaign was caught watching gay porn, it might be ok to talk about that in public.

But Christopher Pyne is not that politician. He has been on the right side of the marriage equality issue for a long time now. Earlier this year, his enthusiastic support for marriage equality cost him dearly within his own party.

Pyne’s support for marriage equality and his sometimes effeminate mannerisms have made him a target of this kind of snide innuendo in the past — Julia Gillard once famously labelled him a mincing poodle in Parliament. You have to wonder if this incident would have received a similar reaction had it been another politician, or had it been straight porn that was liked by Pyne’s account.

Butt Sex Lol

Predictably, one of the first people to take advantage of the situation was Pyne’s bitter enemy, Liberal Party defector Cory Bernardi. The two have a long history in South Australian politics, where they represented the moderate and ultra-conservative wings of the party.

They do not like each other at all. Since leaving the Liberal Party, Bernardi has often targeted Pyne with personal attacks, questioning his integrity and suggesting he’s not a true Liberal. As soon as he could, Bernardi called for an investigation into the apparent “hacking” of Pyne’s account, saying it had grave national security implications.

Bernardi knew exactly what he was doing. Here was a chance to make a political enemy deeply uncomfortable on the national stage, to embarrass him personally, and to do it all under the guise of “national security”.

You may be thinking that Bernardi’s response is justified, given Pyne’s claim to have been hacked. If so, I urge to watch the video below, and take note of Bernardi’s grin at the end.

Get it? “Penetration”. Butt sex. Lol. Giggle. Bernardi’s views on queer rights are well known. In the past he’s linked marriage equality to bestiality. This is an issue tailor-made for him. He gets to make snide gay jokes and target a political enemy at the same time. With Bernardi’s track record, that’s not unexpected.

It Wasn’t Just Conservatives

What’s more disappointing is that Bill Shorten, on the same day he stood arm-in-arm with queer Australians, joined in on the fun, calling for an immediate investigation. Shorten would have known that an investigation was unnecessary, but here was a chance to embarrass one of the government’s biggest names and he wasn’t going to miss it.

The Opposition has now wisely backed away from the investigation, with Anthony Albanese saying the incident has no security implications at all.

Bernardi and Shorten weren’t alone. A scroll through Twitter yesterday revealed plenty of progressive Aussies, who this week would have also been celebrating the Yes victory, making vaguely homophobic jokes at Pyne’s expense.

At least one progressive media outlet also chose to engage in snark, innuendo and outright speculation on Pyne’s sexuality, complete with an image of Pyne’s face photoshopped over the top of a man’s crotch. I guess it’s ok to make homophobic jokes when it’s at the expense of a political enemy.

Casual Homophobia Doesn’t End After The Yes Vote

In some ways, the timing of the Twitter like is exquisite. On the same day that LGBTIQ+ Australians were given their greatest affirmation of equality, we also learned that we have a long way to go in erasing casual homophobia in Australia.

One of the standout elements of the postal survey was the undertone of disgust pushed by some elements of the No campaign, and now we know that casual homophobia isn’t exclusive to reactionary conservatives.

Whatever happened to Christopher Pyne’s Twitter account on Thursday morning, it has likely left him feeling deeply embarrassed and uncomfortable. That discomfort would only have been made worse by the reactions from people who should have known better.