Look, dudes are for looking, dammit

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, January 21, 2010 15:02 EDT
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Sorry to torture you with this video—the sound of Glenn Beck’s smug, hateful voice makes me a little ill, too—-but I found it a fascinating example of how all the focus on this new Senator is creating some misery on the right. It’s a good thing, since this will help usher Scott Brown out in 6 years, but it’s also fascinating to me how much so many of the people celebrating this election have come to really dislike Scott Brown now that they’re paying attention. He’s all over the map on reproductive rights, for instance, which sets off alarm bells with right wingers who prefer politicians who are never hijacked by sympathy for non-virginal women. He’s smarmy like a right winger should be, but not in precisely the way they prefer, with a solid dose of disingenuous piety to work as a shield. He makes dirty jokes about his daughters, for instance, when the proper target for that kind of thing is your wife—unmarried daughters are virgins, right? And smarmy disrespect is meant for obvious non-virgins.

But let’s face it, the thing that drives guys like Glenn Beck over the falls the most is the 1982 Cosmo centerfold. In the above clip, Beck’s comments about that are edited out, but rest assured, it pisses him off and really feeds his belief that Brown is a murderous (!) pervert. Since Sarah Palin marched around in a bathing suit in front of a live audience and that doesn’t cause Beck to argue that she’s got a bunch of dead interns stashed somewhere, you’re right to believe that there’s a double standard in play. (She’s far from the only one—Republicans tend to favor former pageant contestants, including Michele Bachmann.) Figleaf has described what he calls the Two Rules Of Desire in the more conservative view of proper gender roles:

1. It is simultaneously inconceivable and intolerable for a woman to have sexual desire.
2. It is simultaneously inconceivable and intolerable for a man to be sexually desired.

This initially seems like a stretch, but the more you think about it, the more it’s obvious how these beliefs are wound throughout our social narratives about sex, from arguing that teen girls have sex for attention (not desire) to the way that homophobes obsess over gay men having anal sex, which puts a man in the inconceivable/intolerable position (in their view) of being penetrated, which is what women are for.

Scott Brown violated the rules in this case, and demonstrated that a man can both be an object of sexual desire and that a woman can look with lust. To Beck’s mind, this is an unspeakable perversion of nature, and apparently that once you commit the unspeakable perversion of assuming women want and men can be wanted, then the doors of society are blown off and everyone’s murdering interns. I guess I don’t have much to add to this at this point, except to point out that this was a disturbing glimpse into how much rigid gender roles define conservatism’s worldview—and how rigid they really are.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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