For the last few months we have been amazingly free of high-level sex scandals. No new women have come forth to claim sex with Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy or any other now-dead or deeply discounted current or former Democratic leaders.
Sadly for the media, most Republicans are rightly believed to couple only for purposes of procreation. Which means that since January, the masses have been provided with little to obsess over, save Tim McVeigh’s soap-opera lust for state-assisted suicide and the apparently escalating alcohol problems of the ghastly Bush twins.
Well, the common man was told hard times were coming if the GOP took over the White House. But if the nightly news is giving the silent majority precious little soft porn these days, the literary and political elite are doing better. For the last few weeks, they’ve been happily sniggering coast-to-coast over the fine mess one Andrew Sullivan, former editor of the New Republic and frequent cable-TV talking head, had gotten himself into.
Sullivan is a moralizing, gay Roman Catholic who has made something of a career of preaching gay responsibility, advocating gay monogamy, and beating up on the universal punching bag, Bill Clinton, for “sexual recklessness.”
Sigh. You didn’t have to be Oliver Stone to see how this script was bound to play out, and sho nuff, ol’ Andrew got caught placing a personal ad on a Web site that advertised itself as the “one-stop source” for unprotected anal sex, in which he indicated an interest in “groups, parties, orgies and gang-bangs.”
You can visit the Internet version of the supposedly high-minded magazine The Nation (www.thenation.com) for the rest of the sordid details, including a long article that spends a lot of time bashing Sullivan’s hypocrisy and says what we shouldn’t do is bash his hypocrisy.
What I think we should do instead is examine his poop.
That’s right. We should get one of his bowel movements, or several, and put pictures of them on the Web, compare them to Bill Clinton’s, and write essays on that. I want to know what color they are, and their weight, and consistency, and how he wipes.
Sorry if you were gnawing your bagel as you read this, dear reader, but that’s what they used to do in many cultures when people started behaving oddly. King George III of England, for example. When the man whose bad behavior inspired the American Revolution started going mad, the doctors filed full reports on his poop.
Disgusting? Well, yes, to my sensibilities. But no more ridiculous than our insanely near-total focus on sex, which blots out everything else it comes into contact with.
Years ago, Gary Hart had intelligent arms-control and foreign-policy ideas, but was caught chasing women. This ended his presidential campaign.
Had he been strictly monogamous but had a few really stupid, even risky ideas about nuclear weapons, he more than likely would have been just fine.
Well, everybody needs a role model, and I am adopting a most unlikely one, J.P. Morgan, the 19th century financier, who supposedly once reprimanded a young partner in the firm for brazen carryings-on in public. The younger man argued that he didn’t want to be a hypocrite who led one life in public and a different one behind closed doors.
J.P. fixed him with a steely gaze and bellowed, “That’s what doors are for!” Damned right. Let’s hear it for the old reactionary. Bathroom doors and bedroom doors.
Last week was also the anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, and one day while driving I listened to a couple of his speeches, which still have an uncanny ability to inspire: Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Later that day I saw that America Online had set up a place for people to post messages about Bobby and what he meant. More than half of the ones I looked at were the smutty scrawls of morons, drivel about his supposed sex life or that of his family.
That’s what our wonderful openness on sex has come down to. Not that I am any better; if you stick a nugget of titillation in a complex story about interest rates, I’ll remember it better than the prime rate too. Sex is perhaps the most powerful animal urge, one of the few things I have in common with my guinea pig, Peanut.
And nobody is completely rational about sex, except for saints and those without any desire, and who would want to be ruled by them? We need to acknowledge that, stop wallowing in it, and move on, damn it, and try to create art and public policy again.
Here’s a simple proposal to get back to sanity: Dear reader, do whatever you want, but I do not want to know anything about your sex life. And I sure as hell won’t tell you anything about mine. Let’s agree the cops should take us away if either of us messes around with children, animals, or tries to force anyone into sex against their will.
That’s it. Now let’s all leave everybody else alone. That’s too simple, you say, and I know all the counterarguments, but too bad. Slick Willie had something there; don’t ask, don’t tell, and let’s rediscover the concept of subtle, and of sublimation. And maybe we’ll even remember that our wholes are more, after all, than our holes, and some of our parts.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for the Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org