Stop Dr. Dildo

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Editorial from The Guide Editorials Archive

May 2002

Students of history are sometimes left wondering why victims of horrific pogroms and persecutions did not “see it coming.” Of course, hindsight is famed for its clarity, but often oppressive measures seem so clear, so calculated, that it is hard to imagine how victims ever tolerated the build-up to more final solutions.

Folklore tells us that if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, he’ll hop out­ but that if you place him in cold water and only slowly turn up the heat, he’ll stay complacently in the pot, oblivious to his ultimate fate. And so it frequently is with political oppression: gradual erosion of civil liberties over time can lead to initially unimaginable horrors. By not alarming too many too fast, tyrants can avoid chasing runaway frogs­ all the while bringing the pot to a deadly boil.

The Middlesex County (Massachusetts) District Attorney’s persecution of Al Baker must alert any member of a sexual minority that the heat is on.

Baker was convicted in 1991 of raping a 29-year-old man and later of allowing nude pictures of teenagers to be posted to a bulletin board he ran. Baker claimed the oral sex he had with the “victim” was fully consensual, an assertion confirmed by the fact that the “victim” returned repeatedly for more such sex, even after secretly alleging his “rape” to a grand jury! Baker also noted that the illegal pictures were but a tiny part of his gay bulletin board and portrayed sexually mature teens, not children. Nonetheless, Baker was convicted and served ten years in prison, always a model prisoner­ hard to do as a queer sex offender. (For more on the travesty of Al Baker’s trial, see “Free Al Baker,” August 2001, on-line at

Now, almost a year past his scheduled release date, Baker is still incarcerated as Middlesex County tries to have him branded a “sexually dangerous person.” If they succeed, Baker, 52, will likely die in a prison euphemistically called a “treatment center.”

During court proceedings, prosecutors could not fault Baker’s comportment while in prison. Nor could they allege that he exhibited any compulsion towards violence. So what reason did they offer for condemning Baker to a psychiatric hospital for life?

Prosecutors relied on the testimony of Dr. Ira Silverman, a psychologist who has never examined Mr. Baker. Based on paperwork (supplied by the prosecution), Silverman (paid by the state) labeled Baker a “sexual sadist” suffering from “anti-social personality disorder.” And what evidence did Silverman, also known as “Dr. Dildo,” offer for his damning opinion?

Silverman alleged that Baker’s ownership of “twenty or so” sex toys, such as dildos and buttplugs, demonstrated that he was sufficiently sexually “deviant” as to be labeled dangerous.

Silverman asserted that gay men who “cruised” for other like-minded, of-age men were exhibiting punishable behavior.

And the prosecution elicited from Silverman testimony that S&M sex play between mutually consenting adults was pathological and in need of forced “treatment.”

Many in the gay community have, like docile frogs, deluded themselves into thinking that the new Draconian pornography and sex laws passed in the last two decades have been aimed at those the state labels “pedophiles.” But Baker’s persecution makes clear that the state has bigger plans for filling their sex gulags. If you own sex toys, if you like to cruise for sex, if you enjoy S&M play with like-minded partners, you are already in hot water.

We must demand that the state stop overheated anti-sex crusades. Contact Middlesex County District Attorney Martha Coakley (617/679-6500; martha.coakley@state. and insist she cease persecuting Al Baker for legal, constitutionally protected sexual expression. And in your own community, demand cooler, rational discourse as an antidote to the fevered hysteria that seems to inevitable attach itself to sex cases.


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