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Salvo 12.19.2022 5 minutes

Deviancy and its Discontents

Evening Tea at Playboy Playhouse

The case of Sam Brinton demonstrates why standards aren’t always a bad thing.

By contemporary standards, not many things make me feel unsafe as a woman, but Sam Brinton does.

The disgraced (now former) deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition at the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy—that’s one job title designed to project bureaucratic fiat with a creepy twist—has been caught at multiple airports stealing women’s luggage. The value of the stolen goods is large enough for the charge of grand larceny, but it’s not the dollar amount itself—or the perjury he likely committed when talking to investigators—that’s most unnerving.

Brinton apparently posed in strange women’s garments for pictures taken at top-level government functions. Although the outfits in question were meticulously matched, no sense of personal style could be detected. Now we know why: the clothes were likely snatched from multiple women. Had the spent fuel and waste minion actually shown a semblance of aesthetic coherence, he’d be on the cover of Vogue.

Brinton never became a real fashion plate—though he did flounce down the red carpet at the Oscars— but what he did was plenty disturbing. Amidst the lingering post 9/11 safety theater, there is a man with security clearance lurking in American airports, ogling women, perhaps scanning for the ones his size. Was he trailing them and then snatching their luggage from the carousels and wearing their clothes to high-profile events, or did he chose suitcases at random? The man must hate women, or have no respect for our privacy and sense of well-being—but between those two choices, is there really any meaningful difference?

Brinton was very upfront with his many other fetishes, including bondage and pup play. He taught workshops on both, posting lewd pictures on the Instagram account that he, a federal government official, runs under his real name. He’s been doing it since college, which in retrospect looks like a shrewd way to build up his c.v. He also dabbles in drag queening—how quaint, kiddy stuff, basically. Brinton’s drag queen name is Sister Ray Dee O’Active (get it?), so in effect, he turned his status as a senior executive service federal bureaucrat into a sexual prop.

His crossdressing earned Brinton the politically expedient first openly genderfluid federal official title. Or is it the first non-binary, I forgot.Turns out, it also left him open to blackmail. And who knows what else he is into that our society still, somehow, finds objectionable.

Notoriously, J. Edgar Hoover was rumored to be a transvestite and possible homosexual whom the mob blackmailed with photographic evidence of his sexual deviancy. But, whatever his personal misdeeds might have been, Hoover at least intended to kept them private. I’m not privy to how FBI makes its security clearance decisions these days. But it seems weird that a man who makes a virtue of exhibiting his bizarre lifestyle and sexual practices—stuff that most people consider private business—would be given access to secret and sensitive material.

So my biggest problem with Briton is not his BDSM or pup play activities, or even his predatory behavior towards women in the airports. It’s that the federal kink pride pioneer was given security clearance despite a long history of erratic behavior. That makes me feel, as a woman, far more threatened than attacks on property.

American women are being told to take offense at college classmates making a pass—something that in recent memory was considered routine social interaction. Yet when we demand or subways, we are accused of asserting white privilege. National security is more important still. In no nation can normal life go on without shielding the civilian population from threat. Young men give their lives so that their women can raise children in peace. That requires a sense of duty and self-restraint not just from men but from the entire society.

Sam Brinton is one among many high-placed queers charged with national security provocatively peacocking their kinks in the media. As the saga of the stolen suitcases was unfolding, some other armed forces officers posted their pup play pictures. Powerful men, with the connivance of their superiors, appear to be more interested in the pursuit of immediate and increasingly perverse gratification than in securing orderly life. Without demanding a return to the sexual standards of the fifties, our country still deserves to be guarded by men whose desire for exposure of their own kinks is subordinate to their sense of duty.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

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