There's a big, ugly problem with caring so much about politicians' sex lives
As a still unsubstantiated, 35-page report published by Buzzfeed on Tuesday claims, the President-elect has a bit of a piss fetish.
The document mostly explores unconfirmed allegations that Donald Trump has been in cahoots with the Russian government to fix his election win in November, but that's not what has people talking right now. Instead, it's a particularly colorful excerpt about his sex life that's captured the public's attention; one that accuses Big Daddy Orange of partaking in “golden showers” with Russian prostitutes.
Here’s the text in question:
However, there were other aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit TRUMP’s personal obsessions and sexual perversion in order to obtain suitable ‘kombromat’ (compromising material) on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP’s (perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and Mrs OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. The hotel was known to be under FSB control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.
According to Buzzfeed, the Russians are using this little anecdote about Trump's so-called "perversions" as blackmail. They're hoping that the disgust and discontent the release of this information fuels will derail something or other in our political system ... in other words, that his sex life can be used against him. It's not a bad move; after all, sexual scandal has obliterated the careers of many a politician in the past.
So far, because the claims haven't been confirmed, there's been no real effect other than ridicule and mockery as people take to social media to make piss-perfect puns about the situation. However, if the allegations turn out to be true, you can expect that there will be some political rhetoric and action to follow.
Okay, look. We're not exactly in the business of defending Trump on this site, but it's crucial to use this incident to call something out: that a person's private sex life has very little bearing on their capacity to be a responsible and effective leader. Unless what they're doing is illegal, nonconsensual or otherwise harmful to another person (like, say, his child rape case which mysteriously disappeared right before the election) ... who really cares?
Way too many people, apparently. We act like these things mean everything. Our culture is obsessed with the minutia of politician's sex lives because we expect them to be the most righteous, strong-moraled people in our society — the best examples of who we are and what we believe in. That's why we love it when they publicly succumb to the "weakness" of non-normative sex (in this case, extra-marital, non-vanilla, non-penetrative sex).
It puts them on our level. They become fallen stars. It makes us feel better about ourselves to see giants toppled by scandal.
This has happened to so many politicians. Bill Clinton almost got impeached for his affair, something we continue to discuss in both private and political discourse today. Larry Craig's entire political career was ruined after it came out that he (gasp!) had sex with a man. Gary Hart would probably have been president if he wasn't discovered having an extra-marital affair. And we all know what happened to Anthony Weiner.
We're not excusing these men's discretions per se, but we're also debating whether they really matter professionally. Sure, politicians are supposed to be the posterchildren of morality, but they're also human. And who's to say what type of sex is immoral when they don't know the full reality of someone's private life? Aren't we all doing the same things they are behind closed doors anyway? Last time we checked, it's not uncommon for the average American to cheat, experiment with the same sex, or, in Trump's case, play around with pee.
There's something very wrong with this belief that these sex acts do matter. Apart from it being massively hypocritical, it also paints sex and sexuality in a falsely poor light. It's saying that non-normative sex can alter the course of a country; that any arousal and desire that takes place outside a monogamous, vanilla marriage is morally wrong ... that it negates someone's qualifications and ability to do their job.
... Does it though? Does it really?
We say hell no. In fact, we think that society's tendency to scandalize politician's sex lives is an insult to sex and sexuality.
Why? Because the vast-majority of non-normative sex (meaning any sex that takes place outside a monogamous, vanilla marriage) is incredibly healthy. Being in touch with your sexuality and having the balls to have a sex life where your fantasies are addressed is a strong, amazingly adaptive thing that's been proven time and time again by academic studies to positively benefit people ... yet we spin that as negative and depraved whenever a public figure is discovered doing what pretty much all people do.
When we continue to deny our human need for nuanced sexuality in this way, it helps no one. It ensures the perpetuation of sexuality as shameful and taboo. It ignores the positive benefits of sex and doesn't allow people to access or acknowledge them. It aids the misguided efforts of those who weaponize sex as a means to guilt and shame people into pliable, easy-to-control lemurs.
In a perfect world, we'd look at those things with a "you-do-you" attitude and realize that a person's moral fiber and ability to do good is not related to their sexual interests in any way (unless those interests are rape or incest or something illegal, obviously).
Case in point: JFK was a massive slut. The guy cheated on Jackie all the time. Did anyone try to impeach him? Sure didn't. And 50+ years after his death, we still revere him so much that he's still making the covers of grocery store magazines and starring in TV specials. His well-documented fling with Marilyn Monroe didn't seem affect his ability to win America's hearts or govern the country in any way. What's different about Clinton's love of interns or Trump's interest in pee?
Just like JFK's thing for leggy blondes that weren't his wife, Trump's so-called sexual interest in piss doesn't really mean anything. Regardless if you love or hate him, it's a personal desire that doesn't really affect you. It's certainly the cherry on a massive ice cream sundae of curious personal behaviors, but until we know more about the situation, there's no real point in using it to judge his ability. Or to judge piss itself as something disgusting! Golden showers are actually one of the safest, easiest and most hygienic kinks and fetishes you could experiment with ... when, of course, it's consensual and no one has a urinary infection.
That being said, what he's actually accused of doing with piss — having prostitutes pee on a bed the Obamas slept in — is vindictive, malevolent and immature. To us, that speaks light years more about his diplomacy and ability to lead rationally than whether or not he likes getting peed on or watching people pee. In this case, it's the context of the sex act, not the sex act itself that matters.
No matter how you look at it, sex (especially of the non-normative flavor) is still taboo enough in our society today that we use it as a weapon to tear down those in power. Whether they deserve to be torn down for other reasons is an entirely different subject, but until we stop allowing people's sex lives to inform our opinions of them, sex will stay shrouded in shame. And that's not good for anyone, even a massive orange blob with a toupee.