A common theme of feminism since I was in college is that men are afraid of women’s sexuality. This is abundantly clear in more oppressive societies – what else could burqhas and female genital mutilation mean? But it is fair to level the accusation against the men of more egalitarian societies as well. That the depth and pervasiveness of this is often exaggerated doesn’t refute the central point that it is there. This is perhaps best observed by reading (or watching, if you must) the popular culture of a few decades ago. Sexist comments leap out that would not be accepted in polite company now – yet we denied then that sexism was all that big a problem. By extension, our denial now may be in error. We have already proven that we do not see ourselves as clearly as we think.
With that in mind, where do these frequent complaints by progressives about Sarah Palin’s sexuality originate? What drives that? Sarah Bernhart's gang-rape threat, HuffPo's Michael Seitzman’s bizarre fantasy of sex with Sarah Palin, Cintra Wilson's disturbing screed in Salon - and I thought I had weird fantasies...
I don’t write those off just because they are extreme. 1. They are in respectable venues – HuffPo, Salon. Bernhart's act gets reviewed in the NYTimes. If someone said similar things about Pelosi, Hillary – would they get reviewed as edgy or outrageous in the newspapers? 2. They are humor, often a rich source of uncovering a culture's darker side. 3. Milder versions of exactly the same thing are common.
I imagine you can find things equally vile about prominent progressive women in the comments sections of some right-wing blogs. I haven’t seen them myself, but it’s likely they’re there. But that’s just it – anonymous blog comments are the fringe of the right. You can’t know if the person means it or is assuming a persona. This horror-movie stuff is just part of the menu on the left, however.
These are pretty dark corners of the psyche that are getting uncovered. These aren’t just disagreeing with Palin’s positions. There’s some pretty sick stuff going on here.
Applying the standard of the first paragraph, what is it about her sexuality they are afraid of, that they would be prompted to violent thoughts? What is Virginia Woolf afraid of? Having given birth to five children seems an automatic nomination. Is it the reproductivity part of Sarah Palin’s sexuality that unhinges them? This is a group that has 0.3 children lifetime per woman, after all. I would nominate the huntress aspect of Palin, but the woman warrior has been a trope of lesbian and feminist art for at least two decades. And as for the sex itself being a problem, a quick google of "feminist sexuality" should dispel that. I won't link to half that stuff.
They don’t just disapprove of her sexuality or prefer to make other choices, there is a primitive fear emerging here. Those who doubt that should reread my first paragraph and ask themselves if they are quite sure of their own hearts in this.