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Sexual Slander in American Politics


Sexual Slander in American Politics

Thomas Whitley

On the latest episode of Thinking Religion we discussed, among other things, how the same sort of sexual slander I study in early Christianity is alive and well in American politics. The examples just in the past week are too many to enumerate, so a few will suffice.

Earlier this week, Marco Rubio attacked Donald Trump for his small fingers (a particular area of sensitivity for The Donald, dating way back to 1988 when Spy Magazine began calling him a "short-fingered vulgarian").

You know they say about men with small hands . . . you can’t trust them.

It's obvious what Rubio was alluding to, even if the media chooses not to say it explicitly. The pregnant pause after the first half of his statement is designed to allow people to finish the phrase themselves: "they have small penises." 

Today, after Mitt Romney went after Donald Trump in a speech, Trump responded by saying that Romney begged him for his endorsement in 2012, but he didn't stop there.

I could have said, ‘Mitt, drop to your knees,’ and he would have dropped to his knees.

Yes, on the one hand, Trump's statement conjures up images of people on their knees begging, but it is also designed to conjure up the image of Mitt Romney dropping to his knees to perform fellatio. The clear insinuation being that Trump is the stronger man and Romney is the weak man who would have allowed himself to be orally penetrated by Trump.

But the sexual slander works the other way around too. Just think of how often you've heard a Republican say on the stump or on the debate stage that someone else (usually liberals) are going to "ram [something] down our throats." This is a particular favorite of Marco Rubio. Here, the tables have been turned such that Republicans can cast themselves as the victim of liberals, who are apparently raping Republicans with their Hollywood values.

Sexual slander is ubiquitous in American electoral politics. Start looking for it and you'll see it popping up everywhere.


Image via Michael Vadon