Peddling Sexuality in the Presidential Race

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We remember when the Al-Tipper smooch took everyone by surprise in the 2000 presidential race.  

This season, Harper’s Bazaar  gives us a  photo spread that features a shot of Judith Nathan on Rudy Giuliani’s lap.    ”Aww, how sweet”  is the last thing we think of when we see that photo.   The milder words that come to mind are “cheater” and “louse.”   The photo just reminds us that Guiliani announced his separation from his wife, Donna Hanover, at a press conference, without telling her in advance.   No wonder his kids don’t want to talk to him, as reported in this New York Times article.

But does sexuality sell in the presidential race?   The LA Times asks that question here.  

MSNBC talk show host Joe Scarborough  emphasizes sexuality when he asks of  Jeri Kehn Thompson, Fred Thompson’s much younger wife, “Do you think she works the pole?”   Cindy McCain emphasizes it when she gives Fox News talk a tour of her home wearing  a low-cut blouse  and lots of make-up.

At least in Hillary’s case, we know that sexuality doesn’t sell.   Her cleavage (blogged here) got way too much attention and Bill’s sexual activites  are offered by adversaries as a reason not to vote for Hillary.  

A relevant question for feminist scholars is what function the emphasis on sexuality serves.   Why or how is sexuality relevant in a presidential race?   Do men and women react differently to the display of (mostly) candidates’ wives sexuality?  

The LA Times quotes Camille Paglia as saying, “[I]t’s a very ostentatious, egregious and rather offensive appeal to women voters, and I think it’s condescending and actually off the mark,” said Paglia,   “I feel the great majority of women voters don’t like to see a woman with her hands and lips all over her man.”   Even if Paglia is not our favorite theorist, her analysis here is spot-on.

-Amanda Kissel and Bridget Crawford

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