Karine Jean-Pierre
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I’d Fire the Sex-Positive Weatherman: Is that Wrong and Outdated?

Erick Adame

Back in the day, if you were gay, there was basically no way to meet or dialogue with other gay men unless you went to a gay bar. There was a time in the beginning when I was petrified to walk into a gay bar. I was sure that someone was outside ready to take a picture of me and send it to the congressman I worked for. I was sure to be fired for being gay.

Fast-forward 30 years, and worrying about having your picture taken walking into a gay bar seems so odd. First, do gay bars exist anymore? I say that half-jokingly, but digital transformation, a field I worked in for years, has changed the way gay men meet and dialogue in profound, provocative, and pervasive ways. It has also changed, in innumerable ways, the how, what, where, and why of sexual behavior. Technology that peers into an ass crack and spreads it far and wide.

I recently spoke to a Silicon Valley reporter for a column I wrote about Grindr going public. An app that is synonymous with gay sex is hitting Wall Street. Think about that for a minute. Perhaps the last bastion of straight white macho men buying and selling gay sex. And you know what’s most shocking about that scenario? While dealing a gay sex app, most of the younger traders won’t even stop and think derogatorily, That’s so gay.

That’s what a white straight macho guy my age would say and snark about Grindr. A generation that wouldn’t be seen within 100 yards of a gay bar back in the day when technology was a beeper and who routinely used the word “gay” as a cruel joke. As ridicule. And don’t kid yourself, that mentality still exists, and that word is still used by some in the presence of beer-drinking buds or as boardroom banter. LGBTQ+ people occupy just 24 out of an estimated 5,500 board seats in Fortune 500 companies, or 0.38 percent, according to a report by Out Leadership.

Yet when that piercing word is infused into technology, and captured in a screenshot, and spread far and wide, those who #gaybash are trolled, ostracized, and penalized. Maybe they are fired. Maybe they are suspended. Maybe they undergo sensitivity training. Maybe they’re told, “Don’t do it again.”

Which brings us to the sensationalized story of a young gay New York City television meteorologist who was fired for … well, see that’s the problem. It’s hard to put this in a nutshell. I’m not going to replay the whole story, because if you’re reading this now, you probably know all about it and have formed your own opinion. And chances are, if you are older, you’re appalled at his behavior, and if you’re younger, you don’t see what the big deal is.

That’s because online sex, naked pictures, naked texts, naked videos, sexual fluidity, throuples are all 21st-century ways for gay men to meet and dialogue. Digitized performance art, whose end goal is what? To entice onlookers. To show off your goods. To release your voyeuristic kinky side. Or to fill the screen with faces to ease the pain of loneliness. Or, even worse, fill the gaps while taking hits on a pipe.

You could say that NY1 weatherman Erick Adame was checking all the boxes above when he clicked enter on the webcam site — reportedly Chaturbate, a site that bills itself as offering free adult webcams, live sex, and free chats. Once on the site, Adame entered a world of debauchery, decadence, and dalliance that only those in the know know about. I’ve never heard of it until this week. It’s a digital world where camera angles, sexually charged language, and pornographic poses and performances are key to luring viewers to watch you. If there are drugs involved, then the inhibitions are released, live and in front of anyone watching. That’s a formula for trouble.

Adame was in his home, and he brazenly posted his address and phone number. According to some media outlets, he admitted to working at NY1, wanting his boss to f**k him, and pleading for someone to fill his need — I’m being less loutish. It got worse from there — if that’s possible. His finale was a confluence of activity not fit for prime time. Then that digitally and sexually charged behavior, as it often is, proliferated.

Adame’s rush of sexual adrenaline eventually morphed into behavior that the broadcaster deemed “inconsistent with company standards.” What Adame did occurred a few days after Christmas last year. While technology allows for information to travel at the speed of sound, his hedonistic show only came to light recently, and he was fired by Charter Communications, NY1’s parent company.

Suddenly, Adame’s stormy night in front of his cam created a firestorm of reaction and debate. His epic and dark eroticism brought to light the world of virtual vagrancy where broadband tethered him in cyberspace. A place where rules of decorum have been decimated. Was he in the privacy of his own home acting out? Or was he in the public square calling out his employer and his boss? Was his exhibitionism up for grabs? Were his fellow Chaturbaters free to share his fornicating forecast?

Additionally, was Adame acting out personal demons? Was his desperation an imploration for sex or a plea for companionship? Some say he was using drugs. Was that the reason for his unmooring? (His publicist denied the drug use.) Or, and this is a big one, was Adame’s infamy just a harbinger of what we will face in the future? Will sex on all things digital eventually become shrug-of-the-shoulder moments?

If you’re older, you would say the weatherman was metaphorically caught in a public restroom having sex with another man. And as was the norm in those dark days long ago, your arrest was made public, and you were sure to be fired by your employer for the bedraggled bathroom comportment. Standards of corporate decency back in the 1960s, for example, didn’t explicitly say you could be fired for public gay sex, but society fired you, so that meant your place of employment would too.

Most of us are probably unaware of Chaturbaters; however, we have read — and not seen — all the stories about what Adame purportedly had done. Most of us have some familiarity with something simpler, scanning gay sex sites to hook up. It used to be the restrooms, then phone lines, then websites, then apps and cams. There will be a next iteration, and that is the metaverse. The generation to follow is already headed there.

Some people have claimed that Adame’s firing and the reaction to his story, are generational. Meaning that those of us older don’t understand how the next generation is so blasé about such behavior. To be sure, DataLounge, a gay internet forum, was flooded with predominantly younger people posting pictures and videos of themselves in sex acts, in support of Adame. The site crashed as a result.

Younger people, who have also been untethered in cyberspace, feel Adame was wronged. Part of this is because Generation Z overwhelmingly does not trust big business. Even though Adame wrote NY1 with a marker on his torso, younger people, so accustomed to being tangential on digital, don’t see why that matters. This is a generation that doesn’t like to follow the rules of sex, as depicted in their coming-of-age shows like HBO’s Euphoria and Netflix’s Elite.

In the face of all this, businesses are getting tougher about acceptable standards for sex, so this is not a “gay” thing. The Boston Celtics suspended their highly successful coach for an entire year — unprecedented — because he had a consensual sexual relationship with a staffer. There was also the embarrassing moment when CNN legal analyst and New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin was caught masturbating on a Zoom call. He was fired by The New Yorker and suspended by CNN. Two antidotes here — suspended or fired — which one was the most appropriate punishment?

What happens when Gen Zers begin to take managerial responsibilities in corporations and begin to shape office policy and standards with their own antidotes? According to the World Economic Forum, by 2025, Gen Zers will make up 27 percent of the workforce in economically developed countries. This generation, raised mostly untethered in cyberspace, will be imprinting their own standards of conduct. Who knows how far they’ll go?

I would have fired Adame, probably because I’ve worked in corporate America for over three decades. He was a public figure — no fault of his own — and the minute he mentioned his place of employment while naked and masturbating he went too far. Was it illegal for his digital escapades to be shared? Would it be illegal of me to fire him because he wasn’t broadcasting his peep show from the office? And what constitutes an office these days when many work from home? Because he’s a public figure representing the station, is he always “on duty”? Should he have just been suspended? Should NY1 offer him counseling and treatment?

Where does this go from here? I don’t mean just Adame, but down the road, when a generation begins to take power that has taken pictures and videos of their most private moments? I talked with 31-year-old former U.S. Rep. Katie Hill after she resigned from Congress after it was revealed she was in a throuple relationship with campaign staffer and her ex-husband released naked pictures of her all over social media.

I asked her if she was ahead of her time, meaning, five or 10 years from now, will naked social media pics elicit shoulder shrugs rather than outrage, by today’s Gen Zers, who will be tomorrow’s voters? “Yes, I do agree with you. The fact is that those pictures were a big part of what happened to me, and they made so many people mad,” she said.

Adame’s story is about far more than naked pictures, but will his story, like Hill’s, one day be looked at more sympathetically by a generation that is so used to seeing other people’s sex lives shared, illegally or otherwise? And so frequently on social media? Where does the right to privacy begin and end for a generation that is used to prying eyes? Will stringent codes of ethics dealing with sexual matters go away for a generation where sex matters?

I would have fired Adame, but will my decision be looked at as antiquated a few years from now? When antiquated attitudes toward sexual expression and mores are blown up by a future generation? And a future generation flocking to the unbounded world of metaverse sex and expressive individualism? Will dick pics, X-rated videos, and live cam chat rooms seem routine? Will bulging sex-positive men become augmented sex-positive avatars? In the meantime, what will become of Erick Adame?

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, EqualPride.

John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.

Tags: Voices, gay sex

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