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Gender & Political Sexual Anxiety

October 29, 2016

On the day Hillary announced, I was thinking about why things would get ugly: “Nothing can strike more fear into the hearts of reactionary men than the prospect of a woman with more power than they have—and this woman will be in a position to profoundly affect their lives.” I should have realized that their fear is of sexual potency.

Thinking of the “psychopathologies of American democracy” (the subject of this novel), I can’t help noticing, as we come near election day, how the election has become a wonderful example of our confusion of gender with sexuality. Or rather our male identification of gender with sexuality. That’s especially the case regarding women (in recent history, at least in England and the US, a colloquial term that men used when referring to women, as a category, was “the sex”—often in a tone of bemusedly affectionate and belittling tolerance, expressing the insider understanding of the defining characteristic of womanhood that made women privately useful and publically unqualified).

So now that we are about to take the shockingly bewildering step of electing our first woman president, it shouldn’t be surprising that The Issue is which side is the more immorally sexual, Trump (himself and his apologists and e.g. Clarence Thomas) or Hillary (Bill Clinton, and Anthony Wiener).

I was afraid that if the candidates were Trump and Hillary all objective issues would be displaced by a personality contest. I grant that the temperament required for presidential leadership is important, and I certainly agree that T’s misogyny and pattern of sexual assaults utterly disqualify him. Still, it would be good if we could reach a point where issues such as global warming were not displaced by our psychopathologies (for instance).

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