Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Another Cheap Shot Republican Sex "Scandal"

I don’t know much of anything about Neil Livingstone, and there are probably lots of perfectly good reasons the Republican counterterrorism expert and "international risk management" consultant shouldn’t become governor of Montana (Hell, according to me, there are plenty of good reasons most Republicans shouldn’t become governor of any state)… but the fact that an out-of-print book of his included safety tips for travelers who patronize prostitutes isn’t one of them.

Livingstone’s 1996 book Protect Yourself in an Uncertain World: A Comprehensive Handbook for Your Personal and Business Security reportedly includes a chapter on nightlife that deals with “adult entertainment districts.” The chapter begins with…
I do not recommend that you indulge in illicit pleasures such as gambling, drugs, or prostitution, but experience suggests that many people, despite the risks, do so. This chapter is designed to help you minimize the personal risks involved, especially when you are traveling in a foreign country.

…and there’s no reason not to take that preface at its face value: In the same way that many travel guides give cautionary advice about how to stay out of trouble over certain kinds of risky/illicit behavior (namely sex and drugs and, in some cases, even rock and roll) in foreign lands, it’s hardly surprising that a book like Livingstone’s would give advice on how to stay out of trouble while doing the kinds of things many travelers actually do, regardless of anyone’s moral attitudes about those activities. Especially considering that in many of the places Livingstone’s readers might find themselves, prostitution (along with other “adult nightlife” activities) is not actually illegal.

Because Republicans are generally sanctimonious and priggish about human sexuality, and have been increasingly intensely so recently, it’s tempting to leap on any whiff of a Republican sex scandal. Too tempting, I’m afraid: For us to indulge in kneejerk sexual shaming of Republicans actually reinforces the very sex-negative predisposition that’s at the heart of so much of what’s wrong with Republican ideology.

If there were evidence that Livingstone had promoted illegal prostitution, that would be a scandal; if there were evidence he’d merely patronized prostitutes himself, that might or might not be (I’d be inclined to say not, unless there’s a direct connection to his performance of a public trust); but on the “evidence” of a few excerpts from an old book, it’s not only not a scandal, I’m not sure why it’s even a story.

I've made a similar point previously in these pagespixels regarding attacks on Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. For all I know this Livingstone character is as nasty and dangerous a piece of work as those two, but the point remains: When we engage in this kind of sniggering and shaming, we're validating the puritanical frame that's so much of what's wrong with our Republican opponents.

Let's not, shall we?

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