Kate has captured nicely a kind of sexual nihilism regnant in contemporary feminism. It has now become campaign fodder:

Obama Ad

Were this my daughter I would be mortified. This is bad at so many levels, but one of them surely is how it posits the relationship between voters and the President. More and more we see ads and articles depicting the President as a parent, as a lover, as a friend, but seldom as a President with limited Constitutional powers. The lonelier and more narcissistic we become, the more we project onto these offices psychological demands they are not designed to handle. It’s all so addled. I’d call it unPresidential, but I have no expectations any longer, particularly from a man who has claimed that the highest good he can provide his daughters is the unrestricted ability to kill off his grandchildren.

The mark of a truly desperate situation is that the people in it don’t realize how desperate it is, which is surely part of Kate’s point. For women emancipation has led to disconnection. They’ve become “loose individuals” in the truest sense. Apropos of that, read this article from the NYTimes:


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Jeffrey Polet
Jeffrey Polet grew up in an immigrant household in the immigrant town of Holland MI. After twenty years of academic wandering he returned to Holland and now teaches political science at Hope College, where he also grudgingly serves as chair of the department, having unsuccessfully evaded all requests. In the interim, he continues to nurture quirky beliefs: Division III basketball is both athletically and morally superior to Division I; the Hope/Calvin rivalry is the greatest in sports; the lecture is still the best form of classroom instruction; never buy a car with less than 100,000 miles on it; putts will still lip out in heaven; bears are the incarnation of evil; Athens actually has something to do with Jerusalem; and Tombstone is a cinematic classic. His academic work has mirrored his peripatetic career. Originally trained at the Catholic University of America in German philosophy and hermeneutical theory, he has since gravitated to American Political Thought. He still occasionally writes about European thinkers such as Michel Foucault or the great Max Weber, but mostly is interested in the relationship between theological reflection and political formation in the American context. In the process of working on a book on John Marshall for The Johns Hopkins University Press, he became more sensitive to the ways in which centralized decision-making undid local communities and autonomy. He has also written on figures such as William James and the unjustly neglected Swedish novelist Paer Lagerkvist. A knee injury and arthritis eliminated daily basketball playing, and he now spends his excess energy annoying his saintly wife and their three children, two of whom are off to college. Expressions of sympathy for the one who remains can be posted in the comments section. He doesn’t care too much for movies, but thinks opera is indeed the Gesamtkuntswerk, that the music of Gustav Mahler is as close as human beings get to expressing the ineffable, that God listens to Mozart in his spare time, and that Bach is history’s greatest genius.


  1. Man, if I were a “player” I’d love this. Women think they’ve been great beneficiaries of the sexual revolution when in fact, the greatest beneficiaries by far have been predatory males. And the poor girls don’t even realize it.

  2. Oh cripes can we dispense with the “poor lil ole wimmen ” trope. It falls into the trap of woman as victims mosh pit. Both woman and men are predatory. We simply have different arsenals and the idea that the “weak woman” require the “protection” of the male is one of the more durable shibboleths of modern human dysfunction. It seems to be one of the monuments of Modernism that we must feel woman weak but equal nonetheless. I aint never met a weak female myself.

    On a rock ledge in a retreat, most woman I know would be more serviceable than most modern, distracted, idiotic, grasping, helpless men.

  3. One thing I have generally noted is that there is a tendency to want the government to be a parent. The Left wants a Holy (and Single?) Mother State, to provide for us and nurture and sustain us. The Right wants a Moral Father State wed to Holy Mother, Inc, to make statements regarding morality while big business provides us all the trash and trinkets we can afford. But morality, and in particular sexual morality, has always been a deep cultural thing with tension between social expectations, religious and non-religious cultural aspects, parental denial, and more. It is at the grass roots that the interesting action happens here.

    I would however be careful about tarring all of feminism with the same brush. In particular, I think most readers here would find “Birth as an American Rite of Passage” by Robbie Davis-Floyd entertaining, through-provoking, enlightening, and challenging primarily because she writes from a feminist perspective that has a great deal in common with the perspectives here. The book is in fact an argument against enlightenment-era treatment of the human body, institutionalization in childbirth, and so forth, and a call for a more natural, human approach to women’s heath and childbirth support generally.

  4. I don’t see why this ad is so mortifying. The tropes used are the ones of deliberating about one’s first sexual experience, not the hookup culture, and the argument is even put in terms of thinking about the consequences and commitments of entering into this relationship. That’s not nihilism, sexual or otherwise.

    The ad mentions four specific issues: health insurance, including access to birth control; ending the war in Iraq; the Lily Ledbetter Act; and gay marriage. Maybe you think the point about birth control is buying into the hookup culture. On the other hand, its presence here is nothing more than the phrase “access to birth control.” Furthermore, the Lily Ledbetter Act is the kind of feminist project (equal pay for equal work) that Dalton seems to support.

    All together, I see basically nothing from Dalton’s criticism in this ad. I’m therefore tempted by the conclusion that the ad is mortifying only because of something in the combination of a young women making a case for re-electing a President whom you do not support.

  5. Mr. Hicks,

    Not to even apprehend, much less comprehend, that the ad is mortifying is precisely why the ad is so mortifying to those of us graced with a modicum of apprehension.

  6. Mr. Peters,

    First, that doesn’t help me understand what it is that you find mortifying. Second, that only gives me a reason to be mortified if I can recognize your authority on which things are properly mortifying — and since you’re a stranger on the internet, I can’t recognize that you have this authority, even assuming that you do indeed have it. Even if your goal is simply to properly tutor my responses to properly mortifying things, you have to do more (and other) than simply assert that I should be mortified by it.

  7. Mr. Sabin, the “poor women” I refer to are poor because they do not realize they’ve been duped and manipulated. I know them — some are my friends and co-workers, and I’ve even dated a few. Many are intelligent and educated, yet when presented with the notion that perhaps feminism and the Sexual Revolution have sold them a bill of goods, they respond as if one is speaking Mandarin.

  8. Mr Travers,

    Just to address what you said about people wanting the government to be their parent:

    Perhaps this desire should be compared to a form of government where the head of state is seen as a parent: Monarchy. Americans have always been against a King, but it seems, if your observations are correct, that was modern Americans want is precisely a King. Now, if we did have such a King, he would be called our father. His role would be to teach us morality through law. Maybe the issues of morality you talk about are not solely derived from those aspects you list in a natural system. In an abnormal world where we have democracy (which is an unnatural artifice) we lose the strongest teacher of morality: law decreed by a Just King.

  9. Mr. Hicks,

    Of authority I have utterly none, nor do I claim that which cannot be claimed. I yield to the overwhelming authority of the classical Christian tradition, that of the Church and that of Holy Writ to speak against the mere opinion of one individual. It is against that authority which one must speak if one holds that one’s mere opinion is sufficient to refute it.

  10. Mr. Peters,

    You’re still assuming that I can recognize you as an authority — now on the content and implications of Christian doctrine. Even within, say, the Catholic Church, there’s controversy about what Catholic doctrine actually implies about sexuality, gender relations, birth control, etc.

    I suppose you might point to some theologians as the authorities we’re looking for. But then I could point to some other theologians who would challenge their authority. And so on.

    As it happens, I just (5 minutes ago) finished re-reading MacIntyre’s Whose Justice? Which Rationality?. MacIntyre argues in that book — among other works — both that the recognition of the authority of traditions is essential, but also that this authority must be justified by the ability to give rational arguments when challenged. So I suggest we pre-empt the interminable dueling appeals to authority, and you — or someone else — instead directly explain why this ad is mortifying.

  11. Mr Laeman:

    I wouldn’t really be opposed to a confederation of 50 kingdoms in place of our current republic provided that the people can easily change allegiance between these 50 kings. That would be a good mechanism to ensure justice on the part of the king, and would vaguely resemble the Godhi system of medieval Iceland although the Godhi was more of a priestly attorney (see Jesse Byock’s works on this period). I might prefer to live in one kingdom or another just because I prefer the King of Washington to the King of Alabama.

    Monarchies have typically worked both where there has been a strong ideal of a monarch which rises above politics for the good of the nation, but also a mechanism for enforcing this whether it is regicidal human sacrifice when the crops fail or easy change of allegiance. In ancient times constant petty warfare was another big one, because a king who had to devote troops to enforcing troop levies was at a significant disadvantage, and farmers who decided not to become foot soldiers could do quite a bit of damage.

    Without this feedback you get dictators who maintain power through mythos, might, and misdirection, which might be the direction the US is going if the course is not corrected.

  12. Mr Hicks:

    I didn’t find the add as mortifying. I was disturbed by it but only a little in the context of what passes for advertising these days. They say sex sells, and comparing voting to sex seems… I dunno… distasteful. I mean Obama’s old enough to be her father. What makes it that much different than “I’d rather be nailin’ Palin than ridin’ Biden?”

    But hey, if sex is used to sell catfood, why not candidates? Maybe this is more of a commenatary on modern advertising culture and the commoditization of sex than it is anything else. I agree it’s not really in the same league as the hookup culture, but maybe it is an invitation to see how sex is used in advertising generally? Not that this is new or anything.

  13. Mr. Travers,

    First, I assume you’re a “Mr.” and not a “Ms.” Apologies if I’ve assumed incorrectly.

    I basically agree with you — and I can imagine this ad could serve as the starting point for a very good discussion in Introduction to Gender Studies. But Mr. Polet and Mr. Peters seemed to have a stronger reaction.

  14. DW Sabin, actually in the past the notion of chivalry was much more prevalent than it is now. Also, while I would agree that both women and men can be predatory, men have always been much more inclined towards short term relationships than woman.

  15. Voting is not natural. It is merely a political convention. Losing one’s virginity is natural. A marriage cannot be consummated and the womb can bear no fruit if virginity is not lost. In that natural context, the loss is a great gain. When, however, the loss of virginity is mere convention, a right of passage to the next hookup or series of fornications, implicit in the use of “man” rather than “husband,” and when such a ploy is a strategy to garner votes, the the apprehending spirit is indeed mortified.

  16. My take on this ad is that the Republicans should be running it everywhere. It would remind voters of the exploitation of young women by politicians, most notably Democrats Bill Clinton and John and Ted Kennedy. That the Obama campaign thinks this is a good ad (and is supported by such publications as The Nation that described it as “hip”) says alot about what they really think of women.

  17. Who are the theologians advocating cheap teen sex?

    It is mortifying because it causes one to be ashamed of our culture. It is a shame because it presents a display of ignorance about the nature of sex and its purpose and attempts to use that ignorance positively to advocate support for something unrelated.

    If you seek authority, perhaps you could ask your family physician if it is a good idea for your teenage daughter to become sexually active.

  18. This ad is, of course, in poor taste, but the fact that Republicans have NOT been widely publicizing it suggests that among the audience it was intended for, it may indeed be considered “cool.” That’s in poor taste too, but so has a lot of the rest of American culture, back to the 1920s at least.

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