Thursday, October 13, 2005 vs PayPal

This evening I read an article about a lawsuit has filed against the internet money exchange PayPal. Apparently, PayPal has refused to allow the site to use it to collect money to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It's a more complicated issue than it may appear on the surface, and I have conflicting feelings about the whole debacle.

First of all, you have to understand that is about as adult and sexually-oriented a web site as you can imagine. One of the mainstays of the site is a global listing of locations where gay men can find and hook-up with other gay men for sex. Part of this listing, in addition to bath houses and sex clubs, are "cruisy" public spots, such as rest areas and bathrooms, that gay men frequent for the purposes of sex, often public sex right there. Even me, a rather open-minded gay man, can see the obvious moral pitfalls of such activity. Public sex has implications beyond the two (or more) consenting adults involved by the very nature of its being "public." If I were a parent, for example, I wouldn't want my child to be inadvertently exposed to sexual activity (gay or straight) by simply walking into a bathroom. Of course, I can also see the flip side. Entrapment by law enforcement agencies (such as what happened to George Michael) is a waste of police resources, particularly when there is always a different standard applied to homosexual activity then there is to heterosexual activity. (i.e. Sex by a gay couple engaged on a secluded beach would always be treated as a more serious infraction than that of a straight couple caught in the same act.) I certainly don't make any moral judgments against In fact, I have their web sites bookmarked on my browser, and I use them as the source of my internet porn (no safer sex than sex with yourself!) and have consulted their listings regarding bath houses and sex clubs. I also see nothing wrong with their hosting personal ads for men looking strictly for sexual encounters. Public sex, however, falls outside of the purview of what I see as a fundamental foundation for gay rights: What two (or, again, more) consenting adults do in private (whether their home or a private location for such activity) is no one's business except the people involved.

Secondly, I applaud's effort to raise money for those who lives were devastated one of the worst natural disasters in American history. The site is apparently based in New Orleans, and its owners and operators were personally affected by Hurricane Katrina. I truly feel that their only motivation was a sincere desire to help, and I have nothing but praise for their efforts.

Now comes PayPal's point of view. They apparently have a policy where they refuse to be involved in the "sale of adult, sexually oriented or obscene materials or services," and according to spokesperson, they do "not permit our services to be used on adult Web sites." These policies are what make me side on behalf of PayPal, at least as far as the lawsuit is concerned. If they apply their policy equally to all sexually-oriented web sites and if they don't pick and choose between adult sites they find acceptable and ones they find morally objectionable, then frankly I don't see's lawsuit as having much merit. I believe that a company has the right to establish their own business practices as long as they apply those practices fairly and without prejudice. I don't know if was attempting to play the "minority card" in their lawsuit. The article seemed to intimate this, but that could have easily been a case of irresponsible journalism.

That brings me to the take-home lesson in all of this, as far as I'm concerned. The struggle for equal rights among minorities is based on solid arguments that when you treat a group of people differently (and usually unfairly) on the basis of perceived differences rather than the integrity and actions of individuals, you commit a flagrant moral and ethical violation of the respect all people are entitled to under God. But this principle, as all principles, works both ways and must be applied equally. Racism, for example, is simply and unequivocally the unfair treatment of a person based upon his or her race. The convenient and politically-motivated definition that racism is the discrimination of the dominate race in a society against a minority race is just not valid. I remember watching a news magazine program in the wake of the Rodney King beating. A black "leader" was shown footage of the beating of the white truck driver Reginald Denny by a group of black men. While this man felt that Mr. King's beating was a racist atrocity, he saw Mr. Denny's beating only as an excusable lashing out against "white America." This opinion is nothing more than reprehensible self-interest, and it robs the pursuit of minority justice of legitimate basis, if effect cutting the legs off one's moral and ethical stance. Such a point of view embraces only "might makes right" or gain at any cost and abandons the legitimate arguments of fair treatment and humanity.
"What one Christian does, one Christian does. What one Jew does, all Jews do."
—Anna Frank
In my last word, I will say that I really fell that PayPal should have continued to allow to collect money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina using its service. I don't necessarily believe their refusal constitutes a cause of action, but since was collecting funds for a purely humanitarian aid and not "sexually oriented or obscene materials or services," I do believe their allowing a web site, even an adult web site, to use their services would be in the better interest of the common good.

Agreed. Firstly, people have sex. Obviously. So, there are going to be web-sites of a sexual nature just as, becuase everyone eats, there are going to be web-sites of a recipie nature. Do we really have the luxury of declining donations for disaster relief when so many people are in need. I'd like to know who declined the opportunity to receive more donations through the Cruising website-- was it a displaced, homeless family that was given the right to make the decision not to accept what might have meant money for shoes for their children? I doubt it.
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