- Christine O'Donnell (Photo: Associated Press)
Yesterday, Gawker published an anonymous first-person account of a 2007 "one-night stand" with Christine O'Donnell—or the one-night stand that would have been, had O'Donnell's vagina not been so repulsive to him.
O'Donnell's camp, along with many other outlets, has already denounced the piece as misogynist. Gawker's defense of that misogyny: It is aired in the service of revealing O'Donnell's political hypocrisy. In a conversation with The Upshot, Gawker editor Remy Stern argued that “the alleged incident was worth noting because O'Donnell's private actions, according to the anonymous writer, run counter to her public persona as an advocate of Christian conservative values.” Said Stern: "If it was any politician whose private life diverged from his public life in such an interesting way, we'd be interested in that."
Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that the evening, as presented by ‘Anonymous,’ is actually the picture of Catholic repression: They got too drunk, O'Donnell reiterated her commitment to chastity, and the night ended short of penis in vagina. If Gawker were truly interested in refuting O’Donnell’s bizarre style of sexual politics, the outlet might have instead published a story like this:
“Christine O’Donnell and I made out once, and neither of us turned into a pillar of salt and dropped expressly into the flames of Hell. Christine was wearing this sexy ladybug costume. She looked pretty cute in it, actually. We kissed. She was good at that. At the end of the night, she didn’t want to go all the way, and I respected that. I wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship with her, but our night together was nothing to be ashamed of, either. That’s why I’ve attached my full name, several high-definition photographs of myself, and a detailed description of the style of my pubic hair circa 2007.”
Instead, Gawker chose to reaffirm the sexual values of the religious right by publishing a story that says, essentially:
“Sex is icky! It is a mutually degrading enterprise, but it is especially degrading to women. Particularly older women. Particularly aggressive women. Particularly women who grow pubic hair. So when Christine O’Donnell decided not to have sex with me that night, I agreed not to put my penis in her vagina anyway. That's how disgusting sex is! So confident am I in the depravity of what transpired that evening, I’m going to require that my personalized adult Boy Scouts uniform be censored out of the attached photographs before sharing this information with the entire world.”
A story that says, "Christine O'Donnell thinks sex is bad. Guess what: It is!" doesn't exactly succeed on the old hypocrisy front. I'm guessing that the choice to run (and pay for) this piece followed more along the lines of the “Christine O’Donnell's vagina = pageviews" theory of journalism.
It's true that the vagina in question belongs to a woman who has voiced some pretty messed-up ideas about sex in the public sphere, and who could potentially win a national political platform for those ideas in a couple of days. But as an already-developing “I don’t wax my vagina. I’m you” meme demonstrates, misogynistic commentary about female candidates doesn't just degrade women we've decided to be hypocrites. It degrades all of us.