Krystal Ball, a 28-year-old democratic congressional candidate in Virginia, has made headlines this past week because photos of her at age 22 were released on a blog (a completely unbiased and respectable one I’m sure). In these photos she is dressed as a kinky, pirate, Santa Claus leading around her then-husband on a leash with a dildo strapped to his nose. In some pictures she mimes rubbing the dildo-nose, and in others she pretends to fellate the dildo-nose. Even one of her girlfriends got some dildo-nose action in another photo (this last point is not as relevant I guess but I’m having too much fun with the phrase “dildo-nose”).
Her opponents had a field day, claiming the photos showed Ball was a whore. What I find pleasantly different about this story, however, is Ball’s attitude toward it all. Other than take the usual politician approach – something along the lines of deny until you realize you’re screwed then go on Larry King to apologize – Ball immediately accepted that these photos are of her. Even better, she doesn’t regret having posed for them in the first place.
“Society has to accept that women of my generation have sexual lives that are going to leak into the public sphere,” Ball wrote in an Oct. 11 article for The Huffington Post. “Sooner or later, this is a reality that has to be faced, or many young women in my generation will not be able to run for office.”
She explains that women throughout the years have been forced to hide any trace of sexuality they might have “if they wanted to be taken as seriously as men.” In politics especially, women have to contain their sexuality in order to prove they’re just as competent as the men – mainly because there are so few female politicians compared to men. The fight for votes, and more importantly respect in the community, requires the submission of femininity.
Now, if having an overbearing Jewish mother taught me anything, it’s that no matter how great I’m feeling about my life at any point in time, there’s always going to have to be something that I should feel guilty about. From obvious things like blaming a friend for something they didn’t do, to more obscure things like always pronouncing the country of Uruguay in my head as “you’re a gay.”
All this nonstop guilt, and yet I feel that if a picture of me surfaces wherein I’m sucking on a dildo-nose, I won’t feel much guilt. In my mind I can still run for president regardless of such trivial things. Am I wrong? Will I automatically be dismissed by the American public and be deemed a whore, unfit to run a country because I’m admitting I know what a dildo is?
This incident also made me think of this issue on a larger scale. More than just female sexuality in politics, I thought about politicians in general. Now trust me, I hate to say this, but it has to be said: Politicians are people too. That one picture you have of some random guy at a party holding a bottle of vodka in one hand and a blunt in the other could very well be our future Secretary of State. Just keep that in mind – our society is going to need to loosen the fuck up fast thanks to our obsession with photographically documenting everything we do. Showing the progression of our lives through social networking sites like Facebook is opening us up to a lot more than we might realize.
More pictures like Ball’s are bound to surface in the future and frankly, I want them to. Sex, sexuality, dildo-noses – they’re all a part of life. We say we want our politicians to be real people, yet the second a sex-related detail of their personal lives comes up, insanity ensues.
I wish we lived in a world in which it were OK to ask Michelle Obama whether she spits or swallows; a world where Hillary Clinton can admit to always being on top; a world where Rahm Emanuel can tell us nothing gets him harder than some good old old-fashioned dirty talk. Unfortunately we’re not there yet, but maybe a few more Facebook albums dedicated to 21st birthdays, and some more women like Krystal Ball who prove to be serious, goal-oriented community leaders regardless of what pictures of them surface on the internet, will help us get there.
ALISON STEVENSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.