Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sex in Politics

I'm not sure where to start with this article from Vanity Fair. It's basically a man arguing for greater understanding for men who cheat on their wives - or, sorry, politicians who cheat on their wives. 

His argument is that it is simply a matter of male desire (though he does offer a brief and garbled look at Hillary Clinton) and that, since sex matters anyway in our voting, we should let it out in the open.

This article is like fingernails on a chalkboard. Michael Wolff would have us believe two things to support his argument:
1) "The middle-aged man's middle-aged experience, lacking sympathetic and firsthand interpretation, has become mere reality TV - just about humiliations and buffoonery." That is, since men (according to Wolff) no longer write as many novels detailing their illustrious careers as conquering heroes, or tomes about their miserable and oppressed middle-aged lives, they cannot rush "to defend and explain the exigencies and nuances of the actions and desires of middle-aged politicians."
That is, they can no longer defend themselves against...
2) the "consensus on sexual politics that is driven by women, striking in its asperity and lack of generosity." 

If this is true, it certainly smacks of hypocrisy - after years of sexual oppression women should now be fighting for sexual liberation for everyone (especially if it's like the sexual liberation involved in, say, the Open Source Boob Project). But Wolff's only evidence that there is such an active, puritanical female consensus is that men now feel oppressed and unable to properly justify their dalliances - only women would do this to men, of course. Because of these damn women it's no longer just a quirk of a man's personality that he is unable to sexually commit (and let's not forget all the men that manage to achieve this remarkable feat of fidelity), it's an actual fault.

But let's think about who runs the most newspapers? Who has most of the talking-head shows on TV? Who draws most of the political cartoons? Wolff cites one paper, reputed to be aimed at women, which had a (rather unoriginal) cartoon on the front regarding the Elliot Spitzer affair (except it wasn't just an affair, it was consistent use of prostitutes, but I digress). So does Wolff simply think that men are so berated by their wives/partners/mothers/daughters that they adopt this puritanical attitude towards sexual freedom? 

Wolff also seems confused. On the one hand he bemoans the current lack of texts and movies that can assuage the guilt of the lecherous middle-aged man - on the other hand he seems disappointed that men can no longer hide their affairs because of too much media scrutiny.
I agree that America needs to learn how to let go of some of its hang-ups about sex, certainly when it comes to politicians, but also with women, homosexuals, transsexuals, etc. Wolff's approach, however, involves shrugging our shoulders at behaviour that is illegal (in the case of prostitution) and incredibly selfish (in the case of banging the secretary). 

And lets not even get started on the question of prostitution and the objectification of women (Wolff certainly doesn't).