Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign stop, Friday, Feb. 17, 2012, in Mason, Ohio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
If you have been surprised to see an uptight prig such as Rick Santorum leading the Republican primary field in national polls, you shouldn’t be. Recent events have demonstrated that conservative positions on social issues are as much about repressing women and reversing the gains of the women’s movement as they are about saving the lives of the unborn.
The young people I saw at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington the week before last looked to me exactly like what you would expect from a bunch of college Republicans. They were dorks. They wore suits. Maybe some of the women’s suit skirts were short, but I was hardly scandalized.
But we learned last week that much of the conservative movement is still living in a different century—and I don’t mean the twentieth—with regard to women’s sexuality. Conservative bloggers were horrified that some young women at CPAC were dressed provocatively and engaged in loose sexual behavior with the young men in attendance.
CPAC has a well deserved reputation for being the time of year when earnest young conservatives unbutton their Oxford shirts, crack open a few Busch Lights and let loose. I see nothing wrong with that. But Erick Erickson, who runs the popular blog Red State, does. He wrote a lament that CPAC has gotten too debauched: “Young men, regardless of political persuasion or ideology, are intent on having sex, being boys, getting drunk—doing what young men in college often do. All to [sic] often there are also a few young ladies willing to shame their parents if their parents only knew.”
Erickson’s commentary is such a caricature of an avuncular misogynist that it’s amazing his post isn’t actually a parody. He almost literally says, “Boys will be boys.” But girls, on the other hand, are responsible for warding off boys’ advances. They, and they alone, are charged with protecting the conservative movement’s morality. If they don’t, they are “shaming their parents.” The notion that there is nothing immoral with enjoying oneself, as long as you aren’t spreading disease, doesn’t even cross Erickson’s mind. Nor does he consider the possibility that women and men are equally responsible for restraining their sexual urges.
Erickson also linked approvingly to Melissa Clouthier, a conservative blogger who plaintively demanded, “Have women so internalized feminist dogma that they see themselves in only two ways? Butch, men-lite wannabes or 3rd wave sluts who empower themselves by screwing every available horndog man?”
These posts, and criticisms of them, inspired James Poulos of the Daily Caller to write a meditation on Thursday about “What are women for?” He fails to answer his own question. Here’s the closest he comes: “Much good would come from a broader recognition that women have a privileged relationship with the natural world. That’s a relationship which must receive its social due—if masculinity in its inherent and imitative varieties (including imitation by quasi-feminized males of quasi-masculinized females!) is not to conquer the world.”