When I worked at LA Weekly in the early '80s, our demographic research showed that not only did most of our readers not have kids, they didn't even like kids. Ten years later, when we started OC Weekly, we were advised by "community leaders" that it would never fly because Orange County was much too suburban, conservative and "family values"-oriented.
But we didn't need a demographic survey to know that the suburban naysayers had their heads up their crabgrass. The massive responses to LA Weekly's phone sex advertisers from Orange County residents confirmed that Newton's law -- to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction -- applies not just to stuff like space travel, but also to human sexuality. Where there's repression, there will be an equal measure of licentiousness.
Turned out that both LA and OC Weekly did okay by endeavoring to stand for things -- like social justice and looking out for the less fortunate -- that applied whether you had 12 kids in a Costa Mesa tract home or lived like a hermit in Echo Park. (Okay, okay; we also, not necessarily proudly, made a lot of money from those phone sex ads.)
I haven't worked for either paper in years but it came as no surprise last week that OC Weekly helped break the story that led to the resignation of Orange County Republican Assemblyman Mike Duvall just hours after a videotape surfaced of him bragging in graphic detail -- during a legislative hearing! -- of his sexual encounters with female lobbyists.
Duvall is a married man with two adult children and a 100 percent voting rating from the Capitol Resource Institute, a conservative organization that calls itself a "pro-family" -- read "pro Christian" -- organization.
His innovative defense set him apart from such admitted adulterers as South Carolina Governor/space cadet Mark Sanford and Nevada Senator John Ensign (who'd earlier called for the resignations of both Bill "I did not have sex with that woman" Clinton and Larry "wide stance" Craig). Duvall claimed he never did any of the things he was boasting about -- his only mistake "was engaging in inappropriate story-telling." So he's not just a sexist pig, he's a lying sexist pig.
And so the parade continues of self-righteous conservatives telling us "inappropriate stories" about their picture-perfect wives, kids and golden retrievers while sleeping around and voting for war, school prayer and censorship and against gay rights, sex education and humanity towards undocumented workers, who, the last time I checked, have families too.
Republican politicians are often caught between unbridled lust and marketing campaigns that pitch the GOP as the party of God and family. So they've had practice in developing a rationalization: Democrats -- like Clinton and John Edwards -- have illicit sex, too! In a discussion of l'affair Duvall on KOCE TV's Inside OC last week, U.S. Senate candidate Chuck DeVore, a "pro-family" Republican from Orange County, tried to make that case. Republicans only seem to get caught more frequently because they have higher standards, he said; Democrats have no standards where sex and family loyalty are concerned, so they can't appear hypocritical. http://www.cbjonline.com/shows/InsideOC_607_ConsiderThis.wmv
When a family-values politician has sex with someone other than his presumably family-values wife, he usually starts with the notion that the world revolves around him. Thus, Mark Sanford -- who lied repeatedly about his extra-marital affair before getting caught -- thought it necessary for the public to know about his efforts to "fall back in love" with his wife even though his Argentinean mistress was his "true love."
But the pathology at work here goes beyond garden-variety narcissism. "The effect of excessive public virtue (italics mine) is an obvious psychological cover for discomfort with aspects of one's own behavior and character," George Mason University assistant professor Solon Simmons told the Christian Science Monitor. "By controlling others, the true believer attempts to heal himself and often does terrible violence along the way."
Instead of going out to have sex with women not their wives and half their ages, these guys -- and they are always guys -- might consider visiting a shrink, or at least spending some time at grandiosity.org, which bills itself as "Your Complete Narcissistic Personality Disorder Resource" and offers information and advice for ego-trippers.
There's a long tradition of skepticism where suburban morality is concerned. One of the best critiques may be David Lynch's 1986 film, Blue Velvet. It opens with an aerial view of a perfect Norman Rockwell-esque small town, and zeroes in on a homeowner watering his garden. The man collapses, and as the camera closes in, his immaculate front lawn is revealed to be a mini-jungle teeming with revolting, cannibalistic insects.
The closer we look at the self-righteous leaders of the Right, the more we see the ugliness of -- well, let's use Mike Duvall's euphemism -- inappropriate story telling.