Monday, October 27, 2008

The Top 10 Political Sex Scandals of the Bush Era - Part 1

One week to Election Day! An era is coming to an end. Whether John McCain or (as appears more and more likely) Barack Obama wins this year's presidential election, the Bush years will finally be over. I feel like celebrating this political landmark, but my blog is about sex. Fortunately those subjects sometimes overlap and whenever they do the results are messy, surreal and hilarious.

Therefore I'm proud to bring you THE TOP 10 POLITICAL SEX SCANDALS OF THE BUSH ERA. I offer this retrospective not to hypocritically point fingers, but to point out how a healthy, open, positive attitude about sex could have saved ten people enormous pain and humiliation.

10. Jack Ryan (R-Illinois) -- Candidate for the US Senate

Which of us, if married to television bombshell Jeri Ryan, wouldn't take her to a sex club with the intention of having sex in public? Unfortunately, Jeri (Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager, for my fellow geeks) wasn't feeling as adventurous as her husband Jack Ryan and used the incident in a custody battle when the couple divorced. Both Jack and Jeri fought to keep these records private when Jack ran for the US Senate in 2004, but all for naught -- and Illinois voters proved unsympathetic to Jack's quest for a little sexual adventure. Jack's Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, went on to win the open Senate seat, and has been doing pretty well for himself ever since.

Jack Ryan is just like any red blooded American man of the moderately kinky variety. We might delight in the fall of a would-be Republican politician but Jack Ryan's fate shows everything that's wrong with American politics. The sobering truth is that we live in a country where wanting to spice up your sex life with your own wife disqualifies you from political office.

9. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) -- US Senator, 1998-present

Being caught in an extra-marital affair is never easy, but knowing that you were caught by The National Enquirer adds insult to injury. That's what happened to Senator Edwards. Edwards admitted to having an affair with Rielle Hunter, a campaign worker, in 2006. Whether he's also the father of her child is the matter of some speculation. In the wake of some other high profile affairs, Edwards has gotten off pretty easily, with the toughest criticism coming from Democrats who say he courted disaster by running for President in the 2008 primary.

Elizabeth Edwards, Senator Edwards's wife, has been suffering from breast cancer for four years. While no one would call cheating on your sick wife honorable, I think most people can understand why a man or woman who's partner is unable to have sex for the foreseeable future might choose to have an affair. Some sick spouses give their blessing, under the circumstances. But I don't mean to excuse Edwards's behavior. Even if seeking sex outside his primary relationship was his only choice (The Guide to Getting It On, by Paul Joannides, has a few tips for adapting your sex life to breast cancer), he should have sought his partner's permission. Though I suppose we don't know that for a fact that he didn't... Either way, knocking up your fling is definitely a no-no.

8. Eliot Spitzer (D-New York) -- Governor of New York, 2007-2008

This Democratic governor of New York, made his name as a state prosecutor who was particularly hard on prostitution. In March 2008, his chickens came home to roost when the New York Times revealed he had paid more than $15,000 for sex through Emperors Club VIP, a call girl agency -- and as much as $80,000 total on prostitution! Spitzer resigned in disgrace, and call girl Ashley Alexandra Dupré (not her real name, shockingly) became an unwilling celebrity.

While it was sex that kept Spitzer's face on the cover of the New York Daily News day after day after day, Spitzer's major crime was hypocrisy, not sex. That, and paying way too much money for some play. As for his moral transgressions (adultery with prostitutes is pretty serious), maybe Spitzer should have thought about marrying a partner willing to indulge him in all the kinky shit he liked -- or, more likely, should have grown a pair and asked his wife if she'd help him explore his kinks before seeking professional help from Ms. Dupré. But it could have been worse: at least Spitzer wasn't gay...

7. Jim McGreevey (D-New Jersey) -- Governor of New Jersey, 2002-2004

Spitzer's neighbor in New Jersey, Governor Jim McGreevey, didn't pay for sex. He broke no laws yet his scandal was far more salacious because this married man also happened to be gay and in the closet. In the end, he was forced to resign for that reason. Being gay and cheating on your wife equals being straight and cheating on your wife with high priced call girls. Got it? (It probably didn't help that McGreevey appointed his lover, Golan Cipel, as homeland security advisor. Cipel, an Israeli citizen, couldn't even be granted the security clearance he needed to do that job. But whatever.)

The gay community didn't exactly rush to McGreevey's cause, and there was a good reason for that: he was a cowardly closet case. McGreevey denied the truth about his sexuality. He brought misery to himself and those around him. New Jersey is a blue state. Would an out gay man have had a chance of being elected governor there? I don't know, and neither will anyone else until a qualified gay candidate with the courage to be forthright about who he is runs for that office. Jim McGreevey wasn't that man.

6. Glenn Murphy, Jr. (R-Indiana) -- President of the Young Republicans

When you're a naïve, Republican college boy in the full flower of youth and you sleep over at your sister's house with the newly elected president of the Young Republicans, you don't normally expect to wake up to find your cock in his mouth. In the case of Glenn Murphy, Jr., that 2007 incident was only the beginning of the scandal. It turns out another instance of Murphy sexually assaulting a man in 1998 had gone unreported until his second transgression came to light.

Being in the closet, like Jim McGreevey, is bad enough. Some people take it a little further. They are so consumed by guilt and shame over their homosexuality that they repress and deny it. But sex is quite literally a force of nature. It can't be contained for long and in these poor dumb fucks it comes to the surface in the most self-destructive ways possible. Douchebags like Glenn Murphy, Jr., create themselves in the image of all the terrible things they believe about gay people. The irony would be funny, if it weren't for the victims -- such as a 22-year-old boy who found himself on the receiving end of a non-consensual blowjob.

Stop by the blog this weekend for the continuation: the top five sex scandals of the Bush Years!


  1. But sex is quite literally a force of nature. It can't be contained for long and in these poor dumb fucks it comes to the surface in the most self-destructive ways possible.

    While I agree with this statement, and don't believe that sex is something that should be stifled to an excessive degree, I do believe that the big difference between people and other animals is not needing to consistently give in to our baser instincts. Where would you draw the line?

    For example, in the case of Edwards. His wife is sick, and not able to have sex. Certainly, it would be great if she gave permission for him to seek sex elsewhere. But if she didn't? If she was hoping to get well enough to be able to continue a sexual relationship with him and expected him to not sleep with someone else in the meantime, would you consider that unreasonable?

    When does sex become the thing you give up? Or do you think people should always give into their sexual impulses at all times? I think there's a difference between sex positivity and selfishness, but I'm curious as to what you think about that, and when one could and should be expected to say no to sex in favor of something else (if ever)?

  2. I ask once again: Just how many of these examples will it take to make "normal" Americans realize the high correlation between people who actively campaign against sexual freedom and people who keep sordid secrets about their own sexuality?

  3. Teresa, you twice refer to sexual desire as something people “give in” to (or not, as the case may be), suggesting the correct and normal state of people vis-à-vis desire is resistance. The difference between humans and animals, you say, is that humans don’t have to “give in” to sexual desire. You also refer to sexual desire as “our baser instincts.” I looked up the adjective base in a computer thesaurus and here’s what I saw—dishonorable, improper, ignoble, sordid, corrupt, vile, immoral. You seem to be saying, at least unconsciously, that sexual desire is anti-intellectual (judging by your human/animal comment and your selection of the words “instinct” and “impulse”), and that since a human being should be an intellectual creature sex is beneath us (base denotes a lower position), and somewhat contemptible at that.

    Of course, you didn’t mean any such thing. But I believe a person’s unconscious choice of words reveals something about their thinking, sometimes things they aren't aware of. Most of these expressions are common clichés, which shows how a neat little turn of phrase that has gone mainstream has the ability to infect a person’s thinking with mainstream attitudes without them even knowing it. Attitudes which aren’t always the healthiest and can lead people into trouble.

    On to your question…

    I don’t think sex should be our number one priority at all times. Because sex is the number one priority of this blog at all times, that point can be lost, so I want to state it clearly. That said, I do believe that sex is a force of nature and I do believe people who try to stifle it completely do so at the risk of grave psychological and pathological consequences. I don’t believe Elizabeth Edwards should have given her blessing to an extra-marital relationship if she wasn’t comfortable with it. But cancer patients get horny too. They might not be up to full-on intercourse but serious illness often causes sexual desire. And there are kinds of sex that don’t involve intercourse, like masturbating together. This is an option John Edwards probably failed to explore before he cheated. Far from being a burden on the sick member of a couple, sex can build a lot of connection at a very difficult time.

    I don’t believe sex is something to be overcome in favor of other priorities. I think it’s something that can compliment whatever priority one has and make one's life better if one has a healthy, positive attitude about it, plus the imagination to see all the possibilities in its variety. Sexual intimacy isn’t a base emotion. It isn’t something to hold out against in the face of more important concerns. It’s something we need to find a way to express, and the more open to it we are the more likely it is we’ll express it without hurting ourselves or anyone else.

  4. Teresa replied:

    Thank you for attempting to answer the question - once you actually started answering it, your response was very thoughtful. :)

    But I will take issue with your opening paragraph about the language I used, only because you seem really quick to pigeonhole based on semantics. Look, any impulse can be "given into." Not just bad ones. I can give into my impulse to give a homeless person money on the street. Or not. Giving in vs. resistance doesn't mean bad vs. good. You're the one who's assuming that resisting is on the "good" side of things, and it bothers me that you're using that to insinuate something about my attitudes about sex.

    Example - I love food. Not only because I need it to survive, but because I love the taste of food, and its many varieties. Yet, I'd like to think that, no matter how hungry I was, I wouldn't kill someone for a pork chop. Then again, maybe I would. I've never been that hungry.

    My question to you was about where you, personally, would draw the line with regard to sex? How hungry would you have to be before you'd end a relationship? Is there ever a time where you'd think it understandable to endure a certain level of chastity for a certain length of time? I notice that you never really got around to answering that question, but found ways in which that wouldn't even need to be an issue - which is very telling in and of itself. So, I guess your answer is that you would just find a way for there to be some kind of sexual activity no matter what? Which is fine, if that's your answer, but that's what I wanted to know.

    Lastly, I'm not ashamed of my use of the word "baser." Base, in addition to meaning "immoral" or "ignoble" also means "of lesser value", which is the way I was thinking of it. Less important. And perhaps you and I disagree in terms of sex's place in the scheme of things that make us human. Also fine. But being human is about more than just satiating hunger.

    Besides - and this is something I've mentioned to you before - even sex positive people use terms like "dirty" and "slutty" and "bad" when it comes to sex. They say those things to make sex hot. Which I don't entirely understand. Why would people who are sex positive perpetuate the notion that the only hot, good sex is "dirty?" Perhaps you'll write another post on that?

    I replied:

    You use a vocabulary reinforces your assumptions. You're setting up a false choice between sex and things "of higher value." You're asking me a question in terms I reject, think are totally false and think perpetuate dangerous attitudes about sexuality. So I guess I don't have an answer for the question.