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Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

Why the O’Donnell story on Gawker is worth talking about.

In Politics on 2010/10/30 at 01:30

I was just having a conversation with someone about a state-level politician I’ve met. I was expressing annoyance at the way that American politicians, especially those on the right, often prominently feature pictures of their children in their campaign materials. The politician in question (who self-identifies with the Tea Party movement) always has photos of his kids all over his stuff and I take this as a sort of conservative code meaning that he has “family values.” I’m sure lots of politicians on both sides of the aisle do this but I don’t think I’m alone in noticing that it happens more often with conservatives. The conversation moved on from there to the broader topic of right-wing politicians inserting their opinions on what I think are entirely private values into their campaign rhetoric. I ended up quipping that I thought it was entirely appropriate when  sexual scandals, or any private information at all having to do with their supposed values, became public.

I do not hold all politicians to the same standard on this. If you never mention family values, if you never pass any judgment on the private lives of others, if you never bring up questions of sexual morality in your political career, then I don’t care what you do in your private life. Have as many orgies as you want, sleep with whomever you want, heck you could even engage in bestiality for all I care, if you didn’t make your sexual morality an issue on the campaign trail then it’s none of my business. If however, you subtly (or not so subtly) make sexual morality at all a part of your campaign platform, then I believe I have the right to hear about any intimate details of your sex life that become public for whatever reason. Anything at all. I figure it’s not that bad for me to be interested in it since as far as I’m concerned you brought it up first.

This all took place before I heard anything about the “I had a one night stand with Christine O’Donnell” story on gawker.com. If you haven’t read it, the story is basically that some guy claims he had a drunken night out with O’Donnell a few years ago on Halloween. They’d basically just met, but that didn’t stop her from coming on to him, going back to his apartment with him, getting naked, and spending the night. He even has drunk looking pictures of her in a Halloween costume to prove it. The first hand account includes what I think are some unnecessary comments about her body hair, but overall I found the piece interesting and significant.

The story has gotten almost unanimous condemnation from various prominent sources, including the National Organization for Women. I think this is undeserved. The piece was rude, and the guy comes off sounding like a jerk, but he doesn’t say anything overly misogynistic as far as I’m concerned. I probably wouldn’t hang out with him if he talked like that around me, but it’s the way I’d expect someone, who brought home a drunk older woman he barely knew and got naked with her on Halloween, to talk. There wasn’t anything in it that I thought was too offensive to publish on gawker.com. Everybody condemning this story seems to have completely missed the point, that being that Christine O’Donnell is the one who brought it up in the first place. She has crafted her public image to include a very specific sort of sexual morality. Conservative politicians in general in the US are in the habit of making a huge issue out of people’s sex lives, they get elected partially based on the idea that they are out there protecting “values” including sexual values. They work to curtail certain rights based on sexual orientation, they fight for abstinence-only education, they rail against pornography, prostitution, masturbation, and then act surprised when people decide to hold them to their own standards.

Three years ago Christine O’Donnell had a harmless night out with a younger man. She had a little fun, got naked, and made personal decisions about where to draw the line sexually (if you haven’t read the piece, she apparently didn’t end up having intercourse that night), and that’s fine. In fact I think it’s better than fine. Good for her. It wasn’t anybody’s business, and it would have been pretty sleazy for anyone to publish the story (and I’m not saying the way it was written wasn’t sleazy anyway) had Christine O’Donnell not brought it up first. As soon as the American right-wing stops talking so much about how deplorable other peoples’ sex lives are, I’ll quit being interested in theirs.

 

I recommend reading the follow-up on Gawker: Why We Published the Christine O’Donnell Story which explains in more detail why they published it. I have to say I agree with most everything they had to say about it.

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