So it turns out that (assuming allegations are true) Republican Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House and champion of “family values” has been paying large sums of blackmail in order to keep a former male student from revealing that Hastert had a “sexual relationship” with they young man. By now, it’s not even surprising when one or another Republican who got votes and/or prominence by championing “family values” and/or by hating on women, QLTBG people, etc. turns out to have been engaged in the very behavior they declaimed. Josh Duggar. Catholic priests. Larry Craig. Mark Sanford. David Vitter. The list goes on and on.
And one wonders how conservative xian voters can continue to support these people. How can they not realize that they’re being taken as rubes, fed a line of bullshit by people who mouth platitudes but don’t for a moment intend to live by that code? Why do they continue to vote — against their own economic interests — for people who clearly won’t adhere to the sexual code that they claim is so important?
I think that Amanda Marcotte put her finger on the answer (or at least a large part of it) this week. Reacting to the Duggar scandal, Ms. Marcotte wrote:
[W]hat we’re seeing here is an attitude is that makes the religious right functionally a sex cult, especially when it comes to the far-right enclaves such as the Duggar’s. Sex is a demon that haunts their world, and everything in their lives is structured around trying to hold the evil at bay. Sex isn’t treated like a normal part of life that people just do, but [as] this force that controls us and which traps people into a lifelong struggle of self-hatred and fear. Even when they’re trying to put a positive spin on it and talking up the sex they are allowed to like —between married couples— this fear-laced obsessiveness leaks out.
Take, for instance, this interview Cosmo had with the Duggar girls:
Jessa: My parents are pretty good kissers! They very much like to show their kiss in public places, so they kiss in front of us all the time.
Talking about “their kiss” as if it’s an object and not an action? Treating it as an object of display instead of a way to show affection? There’s no authentic pleasure or joy here. It’s just the neurotic behavior of people desperately trying to show their mastery over a force that haunts them day and night, and failing.
The weird part is that this is all a self-created problem. For healthy people, even if sex is a big part of their lives, it doesn’t rule them in this way. Most of us think of it as a fun way to spend time, a good way to share affection, and a physical desire, but it’s not some kind of overpowering force that we can barely get a handle on. Even if you’re really horny! It’s like food[,] or your hobbies[,] or even your job: An important part of your life that you want to give a lot of attention to, but it’s not all-defining in this way.
Seewald mocked the idea that this is “a result of sheltering and repressing human desires”. Well, yes. This obsession with “modesty” and “purity” is a sex obsession. All this forbidding this and that drives up curiosity and creates obsession. Sex becomes the ring from Lord of the Rings and fundies are all a bunch of Gollums. Sex is an important part of life, but it’s not some kind of all-encompassing force that will ruin you if you let it. And I think this whole debacle really drives home which “side” has the healthier understanding of sex.
And I think that explains the willingness to keep on supporting people (and by “people, I mean “men”) who talk the talk about “family values,” but don’t walk the walk. If you see sex as this “force that controls us and which traps people into a lifelong struggle of self-hatred and fear,” then it’s understandable that even leaders such as Mr. Hastert or Mr. Duggar “fall.” Who can blame them? If sex is not just something people do, like eat, and sleep, and hug their friends, and go over spelling words with their children, but is, instead, this huge and almost irresistible temptation, then, of course, “even” members of C Street, and priests, and Speakers of the House “fall.” And Jesus forgives them as soon as they ask, so, whee, they get out of moral jail for free and you can keep voting for them.
I’m not sure what the answer is. Sometimes, I’m tempted to think the shortage of lions in ancient Rome has doomed us all.