And she knows where your other hand is, of course.
I’m a little late to the snarkfest. I’ve been toying with – oh, playing with! – a post on how hard it must be for a politician like O’Donnell to glad-hand a crowd, knowing where their hands have been. I’ve been flashing back to the precious scene in The Education of Shelby Knox where the youth pastor earnestly tells the very young Shelby that you can catch HPV from just a handshake. But I just can’t find the right way to approach that post without sounding like, well, a wanker.
Worse yet, I nowthink the snark might be a bit premature. Andrew Sullivan explains how O’Donnell’s anti-masturbation campaign isn’t an outlier, but integral to a much larger theoconservative project.
O’Donnell’s stance against masturbation is related to the new natural law that is central to the theoconservative project that Douthat endorses and believes in (and that is at the core of the Republican party base). It is rooted in the notion that any sex that is not self-giving in a lifelong marital bond between a man and a woman is destructive of the human soul and also of the community at large. (See “The Theoconservative Project” chapter in The Conservative Soul for a longer treatment of this.) And theocons are not classical liberals – they see all this as interwoven with society at large and central to what the Pope sees as modernity’s core sexual and spiritual problems.
They do not believe that masturbation can be a truly private act, no more than gay sex or homosexual relationships can be. The way in which jerking off divorces sex from procreation and marriage is as repugnant to them as is same-sex marriage and for the same reasons. O’Donnell, in other words, believes that masturbating has social ramifications, because it reduces sexuality to what used to be called self-abuse, and this itself corrupts society as a whole and weakens the family. This is exactly and explicitly the same rationale for the thoecon refusal to acknowledge gay relationships, their opposition to contraception and pornography, and, in part, to abortion.
Now the good side of this is that when the theocon agenda is exposed, most Americans recoil from it. My mom (who’s a sort of mushy liberal and a devout Presbyterian) says that O’Donnell is a nut and she’s doomed to fail. Mom hangs out with a lot of nice older ladies who are probably a pretty accurate political barometer. If she’s right, then the Dems get to keep Joe Biden’s seat. Sure, Mom’s just one data point, but Nate Silver agrees.
So let’s say O’Donnell goes down in flames. The theocon agenda won’t spontaneously combust along with her. It has leaders who are less obvious than O’Donnell or Sharon Angle. They may not be what I’d call nuanced, but at least they haven’t been blathering out loud about the evils of self-abuse. Some of them will win. Gradually, they’re becoming part of the “normal” U.S. political scene. Every theocon who wins a primary emboldens the Tea Party and lends new legitimacy to the fundamentalist oppression of women and LGBT people. (Yes, I realize that not every Tea Partier is a theocon, but there’s a substantial electoral overlap.)
I’m afraid that after November 2, we won’t be clapping at all. Okay, that frees up our hands for other things. Cold comfort, indeed.