Slay It With a Smile
Paul Cameron was about four years old, he recalls, when a young man accosted him in an apple orchard and ordered him to perform oral sex.
The memory makes him chuckle.
"I must have been a beautiful and charming little boy," says Cameron. "But I didn't like it much. He just told me, 'Hi, kid, I want you to do this.' I remember that he was kind of dirty, and that bothered me." He didn't tell his parents about the incident. "Kids want to live their own lives," he explains. "They don't want to tell everybody everything." Nor did he tell his folks about another molestation a year later, after his family had moved from Pittsburgh to Florida, when a female stranger lured him into her apartment, gave him a bath and "fiddled" with his genitals.
"I remember that one more fondly," Cameron says with a laugh. "I went out and looked for her apartment afterwards--never did find it, though. I had a much more positive experience with the woman. I thought it was a rather pleasant experience."
And it's a good thing for the anti-gay movement: If he had preferred being molested by the young man, Cameron might not have grown up to be the country's foremost propagandist against homosexuals.
Certainly he's the most jovial. He speaks of homosexuals as if they were subhuman and insists that AIDS is a disease they "deserve," but his lip isn't curled into a sneer. And there's no apparent end to his service with a smile. A veteran of the Amendment 2 campaign, Cameron now is focusing on stopping gays from becoming parents and teachers. He has several articles for scientific journals brewing, he says. And recent history has shown that whenever this self-described member of the religious right puts his passion about sex to work, gays can expect another highly publicized attack.
Now in his late fifties, Cameron founded his Institute for the Scientific Investigation of Sexuality in Lincoln, Nebraska, in the early Eighties, renamed his small operation the Family Research Institute and moved it to Washington, D.C., shortly afterward, then moved again last year to Colorado, setting up shop in Larkspur. All the while, he's pursued his goal of extinguishing homosexuality. A psychologist by training and a specialist in providing details for squirming church audiences of such sexual practices as fellatio, anal intercourse, anilingus and golden showers, he makes his money by researching and writing papers, testifying as an expert witness in court cases against gay parents and furnishing ammunition for use by groups like Colorado for Family Values and Focus on the Family.
Most of his work is behind the scenes. His extremely raw data and sweeping conclusions about the malevolence of gays served as much of the rationale behind CFV's Amendment 2. Backers of the measure, which was designed to ban gay-rights ordinances in Colorado, used Cameron's material liberally in their "position statement" when they launched their campaign in 1991. But Cameron also took a more direct role in the campaign. The weekend before the November 1992 vote, Cameron and the Reverend David Noebel (the top aide to Seventies evangelist Billy James Hargis, whose empire was wrecked by a homosexual scandal that Noebel hid from public view ("Original Sin," September 8 and 15, 1993) arranged to blanket Denver with nearly 100,000 copies of a modified version of Cameron's Medical Consequences of What Homosexuals Do. The gory pamphlet, full of descriptions of sexual practices and diseases, warned, in essence, that Colorado was about to be overrun by an army of anus-lickers and child molesters, ignoring the fact that many heterosexuals also do such things. The scare tactics may have helped: Amendment 2, much to the surprise of pundits, passed, though it later was overturned by the courts.
Working with his son, Kirk, who is a statistician in Colorado Springs, and a few others, Cameron continues to collect pay from CFV, and that's one reason he says he moved to a home just south of Denver and does a lot of his work out of Colorado Springs. He also has other benefactors in the Springs, but he won't say who they are, although his opponents speculate that Focus on the Family, the broadcasting giant that calls itself the "800-pound gorilla" of the anti-gay movement, is one of his employers.
Public dollars also have kept Cameron going. Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton paid him more than $15,000 to serve as an expert witness in the futile legal battle to defend Amendment 2, though neither he nor his inflammatory material made it into the public record.
In the years since the original Amendment 2 campaign, Cameron's propaganda has popped up in the same-sex marriage debate in Hawaii and in anti-gay movements from Idaho to Florida. He's the statistical sexologist of the religious right, gathering data to argue that gays are many more times apt to be poor drivers, molesters and simply bad citizens. His research formed the core of arguments against gays in Focus on the Family's publication The Homosexual Agenda, which was used extensively in Focus's anti-gay-rights seminars throughout the country.
But as Cameron has become more controversial, Focus, in an attempt to reach a broader audience, has relied less on Cameron and his flashy stats. For Cameron, that has meant less visibility, except for his forays into court cases and as an expert witness. Earlier this year he filed a brief with a Florida court in support of a convicted wife murderer who successfully won custody of a child from his lesbian second wife. The brief claimed that homosexuals are emotionally disturbed and that they molest children, abuse drugs and alcohol and cause their kids severe emotional and moral harm. Kate Kendell of the National Lesbian Rights Center, representing the lesbian mother, was quoted in the gay press as saying it was the first time the radical right had submitted a brief in an NLRC case. Most recently, Cameron, Focus's Larry Burtoft and CFV's Will Perkins testified against municipal-employee benefits for same-sex couples in Denver--a fight they lost.
But Cameron often has been on the winning side--and sometimes in the glare of publicity.
In 1982, Lincoln, Nebraska, was considering a gay-rights ordinance that would have barred discrimination based on sexual orientation. Cameron, then a psychologist in Lincoln, publicly led the opposition. And he went full-bore, accusing homosexuals of, among other things, disproportionately committing "sexual mass murders."
In a pamphlet put out by his side, Cameron said: "Homosexuality is an infectious appetite with personal and social consequences. It is like the dog that gets a taste for blood after killing its first victim and desires to get more victims thereafter with a ravenous hunger."
It was on May 3, 1982, that he really hit stride, telling an audience at the University of Nebraska Lutheran Chapel: "Right now, here in Lincoln, there is a four-year-old boy who has had his genitals almost severed from his body at Gateway [mall] in a restroom with a homosexual act."
Cameron's statement prompted an uproar in the city; police, however, had no record of such an incident. Cameron finally acknowledged that it was only a rumor, but he argued it "could have happened." The Lincoln Star blasted Cameron as irresponsible but noted that the damage to the gay-rights movement was done, saying, "The seed is planted, recantation to the contrary."
Years later, Cameron insists the grisly story "may or may not have been true." A friend of his named Sandy, he recalls, "said this boy had his penis severed. Her friends at church claimed they'd seen him. I had every reason to believe she was an honorable person. But that was a mistake on my part, because I had not eyeballed the records myself."
Cameron rarely backs down from any of his outrageous statements. In fact, he still argues that the Lincoln mutilation "could have" happened. "This happens once or twice a year in this country," he says. "Some little boy somewhere has his genitals severed--apparently by a homosexual. I know for sure that kids are molested."
That kind of fast and loose handling of "facts" by a trained social scientist enrages Cameron's opponents. He starts from a premise, marshals his data and spews out an enormous stream of heavily footnoted material. The result looks like science; he insists that it is. But it's the kind of science that inspires gay activists to call him the "Nebraska Mengele" and the "Joseph Goebbels of the anti-gay movement."
They point to such screeds as this, from Cameron's pamphlet What Homosexuals Do (It's More Than Merely Disgusting): "Gays are an octopus of infection stretching across the world. Fresh, undiluted pathogens are its daily food and excrement. Most gays are veritable Typhoid Marys, pursuing and being pursued by others as biologically lethal as themselves and having sex in settings unrivaled for stupidity and squalor."
He has advocated quarantining gays and literally branding AIDS victims with the letter "A" on their faces. He makes a point of noting that other societies have called for the extermination of homosexuals. Accused of advocating the killing of homosexuals, however, Cameron replies, "That's not true. All I said was a plausible idea would be extermination. Other cultures have done it. That's hardly an endorsement, per se."
His detailed descriptions of diseased sex organs have been repeated from the pulpits of the religious right. Thanks to Cameron, church audiences across the country have blanched at the thought of gerbils crawling up rectums, which he describes as a gay sex practice.
Cameron's personal animosity toward gay people is evident. Professor Gregory Herek of the University of California-Davis mails out anti-Cameron packets that try to refute his research; Cameron dismisses him as a "flaming gay." He admits he's biased against homosexuals. Cameron says all scientists bring their biases to work. Many other sex researchers, he says, are "liars." He knows he's right. "Like everybody else," he says, "I would prefer to be liked. But I'd rather be correct and on the right side than be loved."
Luckily, hatred pays. In his fundraising appeals to the religious right, Cameron proudly proclaims that he's been called "the most dangerous man in America" and "the ultimate enemy of the gay-rights movement."
Gay activists play into that martyrdom by becoming apoplectic when they hear his name. Other critics simply shake their heads.
"He's a bright person, but to me he has no credibility or integrity," says psychology professor James K. Cole of the University of Nebraska, who squared off against Cameron during the Lincoln gay-rights ordinance campaign. "It's fascinating that someone with his capacity, a trained scientist, would do these things. He was willing to take any outlandish statement and use it to his purpose."
Cole recalls Cameron as "effective, charming, polite and reserved." At the same time, he derides Cameron's "so-called research." One study, Cole points out, produced broad inferences about gay behavior from a comparison of the sexual activity of delinquents with that of college students. Cameron insists that his results "are in line" with those of other researchers of sexual behavior.
His principles aren't, says Cole. "The guy has no moral inhibitions," he says. "I find it surprising that the Christian right would follow someone who has no moral inhibitions."
Complaints from other scientists about Cameron's ethics prompted his ouster from the American Psychological Association. (Cameron insists he left under his own power.)
But what's most striking to Cole is not Cameron's scientific practices; it's his dogged pursuit of other people's sex activity.
"The intriguing thing about Paul Cameron is his obsession and extreme preoccupation with homosexuality," says Cole. "He's certainly obsessed and fascinated with homosexuality, in a persistent way."
Cameron has an answer for that: "All scientists become obsessed with whatever their topic is."
Paul Cameron says he was a "late bloomer" sexually. But that didn't prevent him from being aware of sex. He recalls being sympathetic, at one time, to gays before he knew "what homosexuals do." As a student at the University of Louisville, he says, he would have ranked a "seven" on a scale of support for gay rights.
After receiving his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 1966, Cameron went to work on what kills people. He claims he was one of the first researchers to explore the effects of secondhand smoke. He studied gerontology. In 1972 he published a study in Psychological Reports about the relationship between pet ownership and happiness. Pet owners, he concluded, were more apt to like pets than were non-owners, but pet owners in general were less happy than non-owners.
Petting was more his cup of tea, however. While teaching at a seminary, he authored a small book called Sexual Gradualism, a Christian sex guide for teens. The 1978 book, available locally only at the Denver Seminary library, is remarkable compared with other Christian sex guides. While practically all such books are vague about sexual practices and full of warnings about any such activity outside of marriage, Cameron's advocates instruction and responsible practice in "levels" of sexual intimacy, urging youths to experiment but cautioning them to avoid intercourse, which he describes as "Level 8," the ultimate level of intimacy.
While open-minded in many ways, with its emphasis on pursuing sexual pleasure right along with other intimacies, the book also reveals a preoccupation with cleanliness. Kissing, for example, was "Level 3" in Cameron's list of sexual intimacies, below mutual masturbation ("Level 5") and oral sex ("Level 7"). But he also noted that kissing "is probably among the most harmful practices in which our culture indulges. I know of no absolute way to compare the amount of disease attributable to sexual intercourse as compared to mouth to mouth exchange. But I would suspect there are far more dangerous diseases communicated by way of the mouth than the genital track."
His book even sang the praises of anal sex, noting that "the anus is potentially 'sexy'" and describing for his conservative Christian audience the technique of "pressing on and around" the anus to evoke sexual pleasure. In fact, he wrote, one could consider anal sex an even deeper sexual intimacy, although he couldn't quite decide where to rank it. "Personally," he wrote, "I believe anal intercourse is too close to the 'real thing' and is to be left as 'Level 9.' I could see making a case for it, however, but only after Level 7...Perhaps I am being too 'square.' Anal intercourse is employed in many cultures as a substitute for Level 8." He noted that "some regard the anus as 'dirty' or 'smelly' and therefore not sexy. Others, sometimes for the same reasons, see it as sensual."
Which led right back to his favorite subtext of cleanliness. Elsewhere in this groundbreaking Christian guide to sex, he advised: "A person who presents himself to you 'in the raw,' smelling like a human, and looking a bit gruky, is providing a gift. But how much better if the present has been wrapped? When wrapped you know some care has gone into the gift. So with cleanliness. The only thing that all humans have equally is time. A clean person has spent some of this valuable and irreplaceable commodity to you. Appreciate and enjoy."
The book was aimed at sparking a movement toward a "middle ground" of sexuality between liberal and conservative approaches. The teaching of gradualism, he pronounced, was suitable for children as young as eight; by the age of thirteen, such advice would be too late. Though no diatribe against homosexuality, the guide encouraged heterosexual behavior as a way of ensuring that children wouldn't find homosexual activity appealing. "One's sexual tastes are one's own business," he wrote. That was before Cameron made everyone else's sexual tastes his business.
Now Cameron sees his book in a slightly different light. "I was more ignorant then than today," he says of anal sex. "It's true, people practice it. But I didn't realize at the time how readily the anus is injured and allows the absorption of various germs. Now that we know more about the anus, it's simply a practice I wouldn't recommend now."
As a whole, he says, the book "went too far" for conservatives and not far enough for liberals, so it wasn't well-received.
"Sexual gradualism" clearly wasn't going to become a movement, so Cameron searched elsewhere for a cause.
"I looked at the panoply of things happening to our society--abortion, homosexuality, suicide, euthanasia," he says. "I had dabbled in each of these areas." He decided to focus on homosexuality. Cameron describes his choice as a "back-door sort of thing," evolving out of a 1974 study he had done on smokers that convinced him that they become more "lethal" in their behavior. As an afterthought, he says, he had included a question about homosexuals and theorized that they, too, were more "lethal." He noticed that while organizations of psychologists and psychiatrists were destigmatizing homosexuality by no longer considering it an "illness," conservatives were doing little on the subject.
"Just about everybody from the conservative point of view had absented themselves," he says, "and the Kinsey people were winning with lousy data."
Then he plunged into the Lincoln gay-rights controversy. "Appalled" at people's ignorance of homosexuality, he founded his institute on sexuality in 1982. It was a tough go. "People are very interested in sex when it comes to opening a magazine," he says, "but it's difficult to get funding for reasonable research."
Nevertheless, he became immersed in the subject. And he insists his fascination had nothing to do with his own sexual experiences, even the molestations. "That was not a motivation," he says. "Neither event influenced any of my research interests." In fact, says Cameron, he doesn't think he was particularly traumatized by either molestation. "I can't remember that they had any long-term effect."
He was influenced, however, by his religious beliefs: He acknowledges that it is fair to consider him part of the religious right. And fundamentalist Christians are trained to believe that homosexuality is an abomination.
All researchers bring preconceptions and values to their work, he says. His own notions, he adds, were strengthened by his research. Much of that wound up in Psychological Reports, a journal that includes a pastiche of studies--some valuable, some not--that are not subjected to so-called peer review. At the time Cameron first started paying for the right to have his studies published in the journal, they appeared alongside other social scientists' research on such subjects as the effects of electric shocks on goldfish (they didn't appear to like it) and the correlation between waterbed use and sexual satisfaction (some participants in that experiment got seasick).
A citation is a citation, however, and Cameron began to build a long list of published studies in that and other journals. His research was confirming what he says he already had a "hunch" about.
"The practice of having sex with one's own sex changes a person," he contends, although the mechanics of such a transformation still aren't completely clear to him. "It turns them into a less desirable, less productive, maybe even more malevolent person."
The emergence of AIDS in the Eighties brought fears of homosexuality to the fore, and Cameron gathered details on diseases and sexual practices such as fisting and rimming from such sources as studies of prisoners and people who frequented health clinics. When critics blast him for drawing conclusions about the sexual practices of all gay people from the populations he has studied, Cameron calmly defends his research as "falling within the parameters" of other scientists' work.
The general fear of AIDS helped propel Cameron's career. A version of the anti-gay-rights video The Gay Agenda featured his statistics as background to images of demented killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Some fundamentalist Christian activists at least express sympathy for those with AIDS by paying lip service to the concept of "hating the sin but loving the sinner." Cameron will have no truck with it.
"Demonize the virus and forget about the carrier? Can't do that," he says. "The real issue is not HIV, per se. It's homosexuality. If a person is a thief and spends time thieving, eventually he thinks of himself as a thief. A much larger proportion of women who are bisexual or lesbian admit to cheating on their income tax or thieving."
Homosexuality makes a person sleazy, according to Cameron. Asked whether it's possible that some people are sleazy before getting into homosexuality, he replies, "Could be. But what you do is what you become."
His explanation of this involves a detailed look at oral sex. Not surprisingly, he starts off with an aside on unsanitary behavior.
"Just imagine a girl, a beautiful girl, regurgitating, and then she wants to give you a blowjob," says Cameron. "Practically no man would be interested." It would be disgusting, he adds, but there's still a big difference between heterosexual blowjobs and homosexual blowjobs.
"There are groups of young men who get $50 for a blowjob, just being the passive partner," he says. "And a substantial proportion of kids eventually get converted." He pauses to note, "Of course, if they hadn't ever gotten into it, they'd be trying to plow girls, and they would be leaving a string of unwanted pregnancies."
But teen pregnancies don't pose the life-changing threat that homosexuality does, he says. "Most men would be unable to be stimulated by a man--their penises would shrink," he says. "I've talked to some of these boys. They pretend to be fellated by a woman. At some point, though, they stop thinking about Playboy and start thinking, 'This guy's got good technique,' and they become changed.
"It's just like eating habits. I don't think anyone is born loving to eat snails. But you eat enough of them, you begin to like it."
In Cameron's view, that's why monogamous homosexual relationships are even more harmful than homosexual promiscuity: A strong commitment to homosexuality leads people into deviant behavior and risk-taking in other parts of their lives. The closer a person's relationship with his homosexuality, Cameron believes, the worse off he or she is. And Cameron says he's determined to prove it.
He's already addressed the topic. In his pamphlet The Psychology of Homosexuality, Cameron argues that homosexuals are "about a third more apt to report a traffic ticket or traffic accidents." That prompted gay activist Al Kielwasser to note sarcastically on one of the hundreds of Internet postings about Cameron, "When lesbians and gays aren't busy fighting for special rights, it seems, we're running people down on America's highways."
Bad driving habits remind Cameron of one of his research projects whose outcome surprised him.
"I thought for sure that homosexuals use seatbelts less frequently," he says. "But apparently they don't. Just when you think you have it figured out, something comes along to bugger it up."
But Cameron hasn't always bothered with statistical analyses. He knows they may not have the same impact as his initial, lurid thrusts.
His "educational pamphlet" Child Molestation and Homosexuality features a cover photograph of a young boy being pulled into a men's bathroom; his Murder, Violence and Homosexuality shows a photo of a little girl cowering beneath an arm wielding an ax. And in his Medical Consequences pamphlet, which was credited by several people in the anti-gay movement as a key factor in scaring many people into supporting Amendment 2, Cameron used obituaries from gay newspapers to paint a grim picture: Gays were 116 times more apt to be murdered. The number of murdered lesbians was 512 times higher than that of the general population of white females aged 25-44. (No matter that his critics later pointed out that obituaries from gay newspapers don't necessarily speak for the lives and deaths of gay people in general.) The pamphlet also was rife with references to "unsanitary behavior" and ingesting "fecal material" and referred to kissing as the ominous-sounding "salivary exchange." Ignoring the fact that oral sex is commonly practiced by millions of heterosexuals, including those who presumably took his advice in his book Sexual Gradualism, Cameron notes in Medical Consequences that "semen contains many of the germs carried in the blood. Because of this, gays who practice oral sex verge on consuming raw human blood, with all its medical risks."
In Medical Consequences, Cameron found it an easy leap to go from talk of "urine sex" to a flurry of stats about child molestation, which he listed under "other gay sex practices." Focus on the Family and Colorado for Family Values, which leaned heavily on Cameron's research to try to score points in the Amendment 2 debate, had no problem with that.
But there may be signs that part of the anti-gay movement is starting to pass Cameron by. Focus's heavily retooled version of The Homosexual Agenda, now called The Social Significance of Homosexuality: Questions and Answers, acknowledges the humanity of homosexuals and even says that while "behavior is chosen, sexual attraction is not." The new book, which is part of the liturgy of Focus's nationwide "community impact seminars" and other workshops, still condemns the idea of homosexual marriages and letting homosexuals become teachers or parents. But it also allows that people who practice homosexual behavior still are people--and that some of them are quite talented and worth appreciating. Missing in the retooled version are Cameron's statistics--and even his name.
Focus officials won't be interviewed on the subject, but tapes from a 1994 conference infiltrated by their opponents reveal this tactical shift. The conference, at the Glen Eyrie resort in Colorado Springs, brought together anti-gay activists from around the country, including Paul Cameron. The purpose was clear, according to top Focus official John Eldredge in his address: "Obviously, over the short term, we are trying to roll back the militant gay agenda, wherever and however it manifests itself, whether that be in domestic partnership ordinances or that be in school curriculum issues." But Eldredge then appealed to the group to avoid "the appearance of bigotry, arguing on the grounds of fairness, as opposed to overt appeals to biblical morality in the square...To the extent we can control our public image, we must never appear to be bigoted or mean-spirited." Eldredge argued that the attack must not be made in the name of Christianity but through "empirical science," which is what he said "Americans consider to be the gospel truth."
Cameron, in his address to the group, seemed to be drifting away from this approach, despite the fact that his was the "empirical science" undergirding Focus's anti-gay attack during the early Nineties. He drew the battle lines as "good versus evil" and warned that "we are in deep doo-doo." He classified homosexuals as non-productive members of society and added that "most people who engage in homosexuality are of the lower strata. These are people who are waiters and busboys and bums and hobos and jailbirds and so forth."
Even if Focus on the Family's tactical approach is diverging from Cameron's, they still work together on such issues as domestic-partner benefits for Denver municipal employees. And they agree that homosexuality continues to pose a threat to Western civilization. "There's a massive cultural shift under way," Cameron says. "And some of that shift has to do with homosexuality. The U.S. and Western civilization may have passed the point of no return. Hope not."
To try to prevent that disaster, Cameron says, he is focusing on homosexuals as teachers. One of his new studies will target whether homosexuals "pose a threat" to students. He already knows the answer: "They are eight to fifteen times more apt to molest their charges. And once this appears in print, every district that deliberately hires homosexual teachers will be exposed to [lawsuits]. This is the correct approach to fight homosexuality."
Another project nearing completion, says Cameron, focuses on gay parenting. His flashy stat: Those with homosexual parents are fifty times more likely to be molested by a parent or parent's associate. But even Cameron admits that he may be overstating this one, because that study's raw numbers aren't very large. "I wouldn't put my flag down on 'fifty times,'" he adds, "but it is disproportionate."
There's little doubt that Cameron's upcoming flurry of activity--he says he has five new articles nearing publication--will spur opponents to rush into print themselves. It's happened many times before.
During the Amendment 2 campaign, Cameron and his cohorts at CFV trumpeted statistics attempting to prove that homosexuals, though a small percentage of the population, were responsible for 50 percent of all child molestation. Dr. Carole Jenny, then of the Kempe Children's Center, countered with an article in the journal Pediatrics purporting to show that people who identified themselves as gay or lesbian actually committed very few molestations. Jenny and her co-authors didn't automatically count incidents in which adults abused children of the same sex as homosexual assaults. Many experts have said that pedophiles are a different breed from either heterosexuals or homosexuals.
Dr. Richard Krugman, dean of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, puts a pox on both sides' houses for failing to look at the big picture.
"Are homosexual parents more likely to molest kids? I know of no such risk," says Krugman, who also is a professor of pediatrics and formerly ran the Kempe Center. But then he adds, "Who knows?" The fact is that major studies have not been undertaken to determine the answer. Krugman is more concerned that the larger issue of child abuse has been clouded by sexual politics. In a commentary in Pediatrics that followed Jenny's study, he complained that sexual politics were simply interfering with the protection of children. Jenny's study, he noted, was hardly definitive, as she herself had acknowledged. But Krugman also had no use for the anti-gay argument, which he said "preys on the fears of the general population."
God, there are so many lies," says gay activist Rick Cendo of Boulder. "How do we counter this?"
Cendo describes Cameron as an "incredibly effective propagandist" pushing the buttons of people who know little about homosexuals except what people like Cameron tell them, and taking advantage of people's suspicions about those who are different.
Many gay activists see Cameron's career as fueled by repressed homosexual desires or, at the very least, a confused sexual identity. There's no obvious reason to think that's the case: Married for decades, he has three children, one of whom works closely with him.
According to his own statistics, however, Cameron's heterosexual activity beats the odds. His institute's 1985 study indicates that only 4 percent of heterosexual men reported that their first sexual experience was homosexual.
Amateur shrinks could point out that Cameron's male molestation was accompanied by "dirtiness" and that his molestation by a female was accompanied by a bath, the ultimate in cleanliness. They might wonder why the memories of molestation make him laugh. They might say that he was driven by his own sexual experiences to focus his life on others' "dirty" sexual practices. Or maybe he does secretly desire gay sex. But Cameron easily and calmly dismisses speculation about his motives. He sees himself as a noble crusader who is guided by faith.
Psychologist James Cole, who jousted with Cameron back in Nebraska, calls such conjecture about Cameron's interior motives merely irresponsible "pop psychology" and "a cheap shot."
"It's too easy to talk about his being an unconscious homophile," says Cole. "It's too easy to label him that way." Cole acknowledges, though, that he has "no idea" what drives Cameron's obsession.
Maybe it's something as simple as a combination of sex and money. Cameron does admit to dreaming about the big score, and it has to do with the deaths of homosexuals.
His musings concern something called "viatical" transactions, a huge new industry that has sprung up since AIDS came on the scene. Terminally ill AIDS victims, many of them gay men, sell their insurance policies to investors, through middlemen, for a certain percentage. The victims get lump-sum payments to help with their expenses. The buyers of the policies cash in when the victim dies. The quicker the death, the higher the annualized rate of return of the investment. Essentially, the sooner a patient dies, the better off the investor is. The thriving market now generates hundreds of millions of dollars.
When asked whether he thinks it's insensitive for him to joke about AIDS victims' deaths, Cameron brings up viatical investments. "It's not a joke," he says. "If I'd known that there was a billion dollars to be made on viatical settlements, I would have done it."
The idea makes him laugh. Again. "Just think," he says. "If I'd bought a bunch of AIDS victims' policies ten years ago, I'd be a billionaire.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.
- Readers: Here's Why the NFL Won't Lift Its Marijuana Ban
- Celebrating the Ten Best Green Chile Places in Denver Right Now
- Denver Development: What Will Happen to Emily Griffth School on Prime City Block?