By now, the 45th president of the United States has taken office. The disappointment on the losing side about the missed, previously believed as certain, victory still looms large. Though what appears to many as a betrayal of Hillary Clinton as a symbolic figure of the women’s cause requires a more thorough contemplation.
Donald Trump’s comments about the availability of women in the run-up to the election (“Grab them by the pussy!”) triggered a ritual storm of indignation from the Democratic camp. Furthermore, this revelation made certain in the eyes of Democrats that Trump had so fallen from grace as to make Clinton’s victory unstoppable. Yet, events turned out other than expected.
The women’s question did not play an insignificant role in the American election campaign. However, it was discussed in a superficial manner whereby the Democratic candidate was assigned a progressive and the Republican a conservative image of women. What is overlooked is that both candidates disseminate images of women with an unmistakable conservative hue. Hillary Clinton’s election campaign was in the tradition of an increasingly vague and confused feminism. What’s left in essence is a position that defines all women as members of a collective of victims. According to which their lives are that of victims of hostile powers, of the patriarchy. Individual differences, or those of social strata, do not exist. During the campaign Democrats believed that all women viewed it this way and felt as victims also. If Clinton broke the glass ceiling, then all women would celebrate that as a personal victory, as they all were surrounded by the glass ceiling. The Democratic Party reinterpreted daily challenges at the workplace and in society as a problem of glass ceilings. Clinton did not intend to change the essentials in women’s lives. Poverty and disadvantaging was of as little interest to her as they were to her competitor. Admittedly, her victory would have broken the glass ceiling but it would have achieved little for the dubious women’s collective. Female voters of the Democrats have particularly recognised this and latterly the Democratic Party’s strategists, too. And for this reason the fixation on the subcultural interests of minorities will not continue. Material interests will play a significant role again, as they already did in the campaigns of Sanders and Trump. Neglecting these concerns led to the loss of the Democrats’ traditional industrial workers and parts of the middle class. This is why the Democratic Party has begun to distance itself from sexually connoted identity politics.
Donald Trump on the other hand has been caught up by the women’s question despite not having any contemporary dealings with the matter. He mentioned years ago that women softened when faced with powerful men and even “fell over”. To grab them by their genitals, which is normally inacceptable, would be without consequence. Trump alleged that only men from politics, business, show business and the pop scene could demonstrate their power confidently in this manner. Their access to women was facilitated. They didn’t have to seduce, as the women were automatically attracted to such men. Fictional examples of this dynamic can be found in the James Bond films and in TV series such as The Good Wife.
As election campaigns are not about the reality of gender specific demeanour and notions of attractiveness, this was used against Donald Trump by the Democratic camp. He was allegedly a misogynist, demeaning and disdainful of women and encouraging violence against them. Since Clinton’s election defeat people now ponder why this had not led directly to Trump’s election defeat.
What Trump said in 2005 is not repeated in left-liberal circles aloud, even though everyone is in the know. That’s because in these circles this turns a man into a “sexist” and a “violator”. In much of the media as well as in East coast universities, this is tantamount to a social death sentence, destroying prospects for the career and future. Even Nobel Prize winners are not immune to such an escalation. The reproach of sexism against Trump didn’t catch though due to entirely different reasons. The Democrats’ “subcultural bubble mentality” didn’t want to admit that many voters have completely different worries.
As a sideline, the hope for his failure showed how irrelevant the debate about gender, sexism and male violence has become for the majority of US citizens. It now offers them merely a sensationalist entertainment value. The debate is as exciting as pornography, just without the nakedness. For many, this was only another unpleasant comment by the candidate about women. Yet, indignation does neither bring back jobs nor social security. And not few will also have recognised with a shrug a grain of truth in his remarks.
But in circles with a liberal notion of sexuality this is evidently not allowed to be called out. Sexuality is all too often thought of as sterile, without surprises, hardly breath-taking and viewed in line with a fiction of an interplay between penis and vagina free of domination. Under the banner of freedom from domination, a barren sexuality is advocated in the image of protestant abstinence of the early settlers. What once was a protestant ethic is today fashioned as the female need for protection. Anyone deviating from this notion is suspected of having a readiness for violence towards women. The fact that love and desire for security mix and enter strange coalitions sometimes, scares most women as little as it does men. It is obvious, can be experienced in daily life at every step and does not remain external to the desire.
Only those who have no day-to-day worries or are already in safeguarding relationships can be shaken by the fact that many women are more interested in establishing a relationship with a “strong” man than a less strong one. It happens intuitively and is embedded into erotic and cultural norms, because the superiority of the man, however small it may be, increases his attractiveness.
You can also view this behaviour in the framework of evolutionary biology. Women have always been dependent on male strength as this alone allowed them to live in security and to raise children. Until today, this has – despite Pampers, washing machines, welfare state, women’s employment or general modernisation of home work – changed in nuances only. This is why most women still prefer a man capable of providing over the regulating Uncle Sam. And they do so without competing with men as to who has the final responsibility for the welfare of the family.
Fellatio as a reward for devoted men
In the meantime, the liberal cocoon’s remoteness from every day life comes back to bite Trump’s critics, and feminist setting the tone are trapped in contradictions in their critique of Trump. Among them is the journalist and author Nina Burleigh, who in 1998, when President Bill Clinton was involved in the sex affair with the intern Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office, led the feminist outrage in a different direction than that of 2016. At the time, she defended Bill Clinton and mocked Monica Lewinsky: “I would be happy to give him a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up (…) to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.” Grateful women then should act similarly to the intern. Burleigh’s ethics: Men, who do good by women, deserve sexual rewards and these should be given to them without being asked. How could Burleigh then criticise Trump, if she herself acted exactly the way that Trump has described? And the feminist icon Gloria Steinem has defended Bill Clinton with the argument that Lewinsky had complete free will and shouldn’t therefore act as a victim or even as an accuser. Yet for adherents of the feminist rhetoric of victimhood, this kind of complaints are usually a matter of course, which substantiate claims for compensation.
Nevertheless, feminists differentiate between Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. They like one of them, not the other. From the one they don’t like, they do not even tolerate some complacent bearing. Towards the one they do like, they are ethically and sexually accommodating, despite the fact that he does not correspond to their expectations of compliant virility. Therefore, it is not significant what men do, but rather what feminists think of it. Hence, the feminist ethics of male efficiency would be quite simple: Be strong in our eyes and you get sex! If you aren’t then stay away from us! Bad luck for men who overestimate their power or who underestimate women’s expectations. Otherwise the common wisdom persists: “Power renders people desirable!”
Voting with the head and not with the vagina
Women were meant to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 because she was a woman. As Democrats had forgotten that material interests dominate election choices and not the anatomical sex, the actress Susan Sarandon shouted angrily at Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright: “I go by issues: I don’t vote with my vagina.”
This criticism taken aside, Trump had contravened against customs, according to which “a gentleman enjoys and never tells”. He furthermore damaged the feminist ideology of pure, selfless women as victims by insinuating they were guided by material considerations in their choice of partner. To get worked up about it requires feminist remoteness and an enthusiasm for gender political discourse of outrage.
To speak the truth can be as risky in times of political correctness as it was during McCarthyism in the 1950s. While women, if they want, can now push forward to all areas of society as much as their social background allows, nothing much changed their expectation that men “to fall in love with” ought to be their superior. That’s why most women, as research shows, still marry upwards and men, consequently, downwards.
Very little has changed in this regard over the last 50 years. As beauty for women and money for men play a special role, both can more easily leave the class of their origin behind. It’s valid for men that they want to fulfil women’s desire for security and support. It’s lucky that men want what women expect of them. This has barely changed either. That’s because it mirrors their power. It bestows them with valuable recognition, which employment does not entail. This is similar to diamonds, which men want to offer their women. They recognise themselves in the diamond on a woman’s finger. Though through brash grabbing “strong” men enter, as Trump’s remarks suggest, the risky terrain of transgression. After all, not all women agree.
Identity or interests
Even this remark, which had been categorised as an appeal to violence, didn’t cost him female voters. In contrast to the identity politics of minorities, which centre around sexuality and self-perception and which can be modelled as a handicraft according to the mood to any shape or form, they have no significant weight for the majority of people. That would be a narcissistic luxury for them, as is common in sexual subcultures but which they cannot afford themselves. Meanwhile, the majority of people are preoccupied with earning their daily bread, their children’s education and the meaning of life. That’s because, as Noam Chomsky stated, “apart from wages, benefits and security, there is a loss of dignity, of hope for the future, of a sense that this is a world in which I belong and play a worthwhile role.”(1) The fierce conflict between identity and interest (which also acquires steadily a larger significance over here) mirrors the increasing gap between the strata of society provided for and the majority that struggles to make ends meet – precisely the gap between the rich and the poor and without perspective.
The Democrats’ election campaign did not take any interest in this. No one wanted to say out loud that the economic downward trend among the voters would continue. Everyone was afraid of being called an anti-feminist or a misogynist if they questioned candidate Clinton’s politics. Therefore, the Clinton campaign froze to a “superficial progressivism packaged as real social justice”(2) and which she adorned through the media with Hollywood celebrities. Those who did not partake were disdainfully assigned to the “basket of deplorables” and labelled as “irredeemable”.
The market capitalisation of the vagina – erotic capital
Trump’s experiences of influential men being allowed a lot of leeway has been given a remarkable updating through the equality perspective by the sociologist Catherine Hakim (3) of the London School of Economics. From the viewpoint of women she declares as a liberating virtue exactly that behaviour, which is denounced in Trump’s case as violence against women. According to Hakim women, under autonomously controlled conditions, should be prepared to “be grabbed by the genital”.
For Hakim too, as a feminist, wants to improve women’s professional success and income. For this she searches for an ideal way that does not only guarantee success to well-qualified, but equally to little educated, women. She doesn’t want either that only good-looking women jump into bed with their bosses to be rewarded afterwards. She searches for a solution for all women, which is anchored in the different sexual habits of women and men and which should grant all women in every erotic relationship material advantages lifelong. She developed a model based on extensive international research. According to that view it is indisputably proven that, in most cultures, men desire sex more often than women. Man only want one thing. And women, consequently, desire something else or less of that one thing. Fundamental to Hakim’s model of equality is that women desire sex less than men. Therefore the demand for sex among men has to remain in parts unfulfilled. To raise women’s awareness of the rare and desirable good at their disposal, Hakim introduces the law of and demand. Women, as rational participants in the market, should push up the price for their erotic capital. This would be a promising basis for higher incomes and better social status. Women could dictate the price and wouldn’t be exposed to the risk of being reimbursed for sexual performances below the market price. Women of all classes should appoint this as their strategy “in the office and in the bed”. For that reason Catherine Hakim recommends the market capitalisation of the vagina. The discrimination of women could be terminated thus. The women’s movement’s concept of empowerment as self-empowerment gets a grotesque perverse meaning here. For this women have to alter their behaviour. Instead of carelessly surrendering to being in love, they should keep a cool head in order to secure material advantages before the sexual act. In contrast to the old model of virginity, which embodied the women’s value, the feminist model does have the advantage that it can be applied in every relationship anew. The exchange value stays intact well into old age.
Then only the question remains: How does Clinton’s feminist model differ from Trump’s maxims? Well, both resemble each other in their results. Only the routes differ. Trump hands over women to chance through their reliance on male courtesy, which is forcing them into infantile dependency. Clinton on the other hand exposes them to the paternalism of the welfare state. Women have to accept their status as victims. It infantilises women also. And Hakim’s feminist promise turns difficult relationships into a condition of prostitution.
All of this does not change the relationships between the sexes. Traditional conditions remain in place. The third path of mutual acknowledgement will first have to be treaded on.
Vienna (Austria), 8th March 2017
(1) Noam Chomsky (14th November 2016). “Trump in the White House: An interview with Noam Chomsky.” Truthout. Retrieved from http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/38360-trump-in-the-white-house-an-interview-with-noam-chomsky.
(2) Sarah Jones (10th November 2016). “Hillary Clinton’s Celebrity Feminism Was a Failure.” New Republic. Retrieved from https://newrepublic.com/article/138624/hillary-clintons-celebrity-feminism-failure.
(3) Catherine Hakim (2006). “Women, careers, and work-life Preferences.” British Journal of Guidance & Counseling 34(3); s. a. Hakim (2010). “Erotic Capital.” European Sociological Review 26(5), 499–518.