Betting firms causing outrage by offering bets on outrageous things has become a standard way of getting the media to do their PR for them. The press will write acres of condemnation that would have taken a million barrels of ink to publish before the internet. Until now, none of these has made me angry.
Today, I received a press release from a PR agency on behalf of one firm, announcing it was taking bets on the identity of two England football players who are rumoured to be about to come out as gay. I thought it was a hoax. Then I remembered that, in this post-modern, social media, how-many-hot-takes-can-you-write-on-one-issue world, the difference between a Hoax and A Publicity Stunt is whether anyone pays it any attention. So far, no media have reported on it.
The firm, which I'd rather not name, said in its press release that no one else was offering odds on this. "We know that there is a lot of speculation and the public will want to see if they can guess correctly, so we're offering them the chance to get a return on their inklings," they offered in a predictable defence. We're all thinking it, so why not win money from it?
But suggesting that you can guess a person's sexuality from other behaviour is poisonous, particularly for men, who seem far less inclined to discuss their sexuality publicly. People are often keen to claim they "know" when someone is not straight. It's as if the best way to demonstrate their comfort with people being gay - another trope of the times we live in - is to boast about how well they can suss it out before it is common knowledge. The fact that certain behaviour, which has nothing to do with sex, is associated who you like to go to bed with is profoundly sad.
Assuming someone is straight is no less presumptuous than presuming they are not. People should be able to do what they want without raising people's suspicions about who they really are. The only way to know a person's sexuality is to discuss it with them. This applies to your best friend as much as it does a group of the best-paid men in the country, whose personal lives are probably under much closer examination than your best friend's. One England footballer has already had to tweet that he's not about to come out.
I'm not going to say 'this has to stop'. I'm not going to start a Change.Org petition against it that, for every one person who signs it, drives 10 people to place a bet. Outrage is the most effective way to generate publicity and causing it is a full-time job for some. Companies will always seek free PR. Betting firms hardly have a good name to compromise while doing it.
My stomach turns at the thought of what knowledge people think they have when they place bets on which of a group of men is most likely to be gay. It's not outrageous. It's just sad.