Sexual politics, Obama style

by on July 19, 2008  •  In Culture

From a new blog, "Carnal Knowledge," by JoAnn Wypijewski, on The Nation website – a savvy take on what the media now routinely describe, inanely, as Obamamania -

Obama as Sex Symbol

… By ’07 even the boys were Obama Girls, and their parents were borne along on the energy, feeling young and hip and a little damp in the drawers themselves. "America is back!" Obama told crowds he would announce to the world if they elected him. Hillary and the others didn’t have a chance. They had welded themselves to prosaic needs and familiar lies. Obama recognized a different need, requiring a different lie, a pretty lie, not just "change" but "change you can believe in." Tell me again. Yes, darling, you really are beautiful… Like someone ground down by years in a bad relationship, America needed a seduction and, then, like the starlet on the crooner’s arm, the reflected shine.

[During the Vietnam war, American culture was nonetheless "swinging."] It isn’t swinging now. It’s desperate and needy, outwardly brash but inwardly a mess and not sexy at all, like Tila Tequila, self-styled bisexual maverick, rejected on her own reality TV show by the contestant she chose for "a shot at love." In that long, hot summer of 1967 no one confused the whole culture with the white, tight, flailing power structure around LBJ; but today, with no major pole of countercultural revolt, it feels as if America itself is in the Uncool column with the tawdry crimes and embarrassing flubs of President Bush–"Airball!"

Enter Barack Obama, loosening up on the basketball court between campaign stops–"Swish."

If politically he now appears to be not substantively different from any other neoliberal, as a sex symbol he is the new man. New, most plainly, because in his mingled blood those born since 1980 or so can see their future lovers and children, if they don’t already see themselves. For this generation, interracial sex is a normal experience, still complicated but nothing that 60 percent of them have not already entertained (polls use the word "dating"), nothing more risky than love. … Suddenly, casually, it is hard to think of desegregation within the narrow limits set out by the schoolbooks, as a simple fight for a seat on a bus or in a public toilet rather than as a radical claim to express one’s full humanity–through a kiss, a caress, a child, a life of one’s own making, an unbroken line of free choices linking all those who have ever struggled for equality and sexual liberation …


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