Compromising Positions: Sex Scandals, Politics, and American Christianity

ISBN : 9780190924072

Leslie Smith
304 ページ
156 x 156 mm

Americans have long believed that the private lives of their politicians are important indicators of their fitness to lead and of their ability to defend and uphold American values. For many, a sex scandal renders a person ineligible, or at the very least questionably qualified, for public service. In Compromising Positions, Leslie Dorrough Smith questions the assumption that sex scandals are really about sex- that is, that they are primarily concerned with the discovery of sexual misconduct. She argues that they are, instead, a form of cultural storytelling that uses racial and gendered symbols to create a collective sense of national worth and strength. Smith shows that sex scandals involve the use of four very powerful social tools-gender, race, politics, and religion- that together create a rhetoric about what America is, who is eligible to formally represent it, and what types of symbolic religiosity such leaders must display to legitimize their power. Americans tend to condemn or excuse the sexual misdeeds of their politicians depending on the degree to which the individual in question reinforces evangelical interpretations of "American values" and a "Christian nation." Such values include not just moral integrity, but strength, courage, and conquest. As a consequence, sex scandals are less likely to occur in cultural moments when the public is open to reading a politician's moral lapse as a symbolic form of national dominance. Put simply, when a leader is perceived as strong, domineering, and necessary for national health, many people will find ways either to overlook his illicit sexual behavior or somehow read it as an American act.


Introduction: Sex Scandals, National Fantasies, and the Stories We Tell
Chapter 1 - Scandal: The Story of Wayward Men
(featuring a full cast, with special guest star, Donald Trump)
Chapter 2 - Religion: The Story of Right and Wrong
(featuring Mark Foley and Roy Moore)
Chapter 3 - Sex: The Story of Feminists and Whores
(featuring Anita Hill and Paula Jones)
Chapter 4 - Nation: The Story of American Values
(featuring Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and John Edwards)
Chapter 5 - Media: The Story of Just Desserts
(featuring Anthony Weiner and Arnold Schwarzenegger)
Chapter 6 - Epilogue: Brett Kavanaugh and the Contradictions of American Masculinity
(featuring Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford, Anita Hill, and Clarence Thomas, with a role reprisal by Donald Trump)


Leslie Dorrough Smith is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program at Avila University. She is also the author of Righteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America (Oxford, 2014). Her areas of specialty include evangelicalism in America, its impact on sex, gender, and reproduction issues, and feminist theory, more broadly.