Our Pornographic President and His Porn-Loving Defenders

Hi Joel,

Since my scholarly interests are in religion, conservative politics, sex, gender, and hate, I kinda feel like I have to follow the Stormy Daniels case,* for professional reasons. Plus, I’m just really rooting for her. You can see, I think, that she’s hurting. But she’s also strong and in charge, and I want to see her win because I want women everywhere to win when they’ve been told to shut up about their sexual experiences because speaking might threaten male power.

So, here are the parts of the story that I don’t care about: that she’s a porn actress, that her relationship with Trump was extra-marital, or that it occurred shortly after the birth of his youngest son. All of this makes Trump a giant jerk, but we knew that. No one, least of all his third wife, expected him to be faithful to a vow of monogamy. As the current Mrs. Trump said, she knows the man she married. And I don’t think that Trump’s infidelity is more or less immoral because it happened with a porn star. (I mean, in this case. And also in other cases. But other cases didn’t involve a porn star (though he pressured second wife Marla Maples to appear in the magazine), and they are no less immoral.)

stormy

Blowhard New York billionaire tries to shut up Louisiana enchantress. My money is on Daniels, above. 

The part I care about is that he is being defended by people who say “That was TEN YEARS ago.” As if, like, ten years was a really long time ago. My student loans won’t be forgiven for, like, TWENTY YEARS after I graduate. I’m not sure why we should forgive Trump any faster than Sallie Mae will forgive me.

I’m also not sure if the folks making this argument–which includes the usual brood of Christian Right vipers–have a date that would be too recent for a presidential affair. Dallas megapastor Robert Jeffress has said that if “he were found to be in an adulterous relationship now, that would cause many people a problem,” though it’s not clear if one of Jeffress himself is one of those “many people.”  Would, like, an affair that ended yesterday be too close in time? I’m not sure it would.

The other part of the dismissal that the Daniels affair was so long ago as to be irrelevant is that, ten years ago, Trump was already old. He was in his 60s–so, like, grandparent old. This isn’t a teenage boy making poor decisions due to a lack of experience or a not-quite-developed frontal lobe. At 60, he was old enough to know better. A lifetime of power, though, makes you stupid. Or, rather, it gives you the confidence that you can get away with risky choices because you so often have.  How old should a president be before we expect him to make decisions that don’t expose him to the risk of blackmail?

Even worse–and this is just a hunch–I suspect that Trump’s rising poll numbers are linked to accusations about the Daniels’ affair.  On the one hand, evangelicals feel under attack (something they are always imagining but this time is real–they ARE under attack, because they are acting like fools), and rather than doing the hard work of self-reflection to help them understand what harm they are doing to their witness, they’re going to circle the wagons and insist that those who call them hypocrites are, themselves, really the hypocrites.  On the other hand, I suspect that the white men who have always supported Trump would mostly like give him a high five: he nailed a porn star and thought ahead to make her shut up about it. That he then threatened her with violence just makes him more of a man in their eyes. It’s their own violent, pornographic dream.

Our acceptance of this is a million times worse than his infidelity.

Rebecca

*I use the word affair here, though I in no way believe that this was a fair relationship. Daniels was paid $130,000 to shut up, yet Trump’s lawyer claims she owes him $20 million for speaking out. That’s not a contract because there is not a “fairness of exchange” since her silence is so much cheaper than her words. We are left asking, then, why she signed it. Daniels is a savvy business woman, and she knew that her story was more valuable than $130,000. We have to ask, I think, what other factors–including threats of violence–played into her willingness to sign it away.

 

 

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