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Sex, Status and President Clinton


Timothy Mason

There is, perhaps, a sad lesson to be drawn concerning male fantasies of sex/power and the often surprising lives lead by the meek and voiceless; the Alpha male, however he comes by such a status - ascription or achievement - will bugger, bestialise or otherwise debase and demean any lower being who strays into his ambit. The rule holds whatever the institution we care to examine - zoos, prisons, schools, scout troops (this is not purely gratuitous - a recently revealed case chez moi titillated the newspaper reader for the space of 24 hours quite as much as the deboires of your President) or White Houses. Fox & Tiger's Imperial Animal, hunched in the back of his limousine, or mucking out the hippo enclosure - a mildly mind-boggling thought - has but one Thing on his mind, and little but the jealousies of his rivals to check and balance him. Mr. Starr's bone-rattlings and pan-clashings are nobbut the sound and fury of the eternal challenger for silver-back status, while Clinton's ineptitude reveals that he is but a stripling who snuck in and took advantage of a momentary absence of real muscle at the centre. His true failing is not his philandering as such, but his crass demonstation that he has no idea of how to use the position which he has gained. The message in the Starr Report is not that the President takes advantage of the young women by whom he is surrounded - what would our politicos care about that? - but that he has revealed himself to be - in sexual matters at least - an incompetent juvenile. Appointed Head Keeper of the Human Zoo, he is incapable of ramming home his advantage to the hilt.

Nothing surprising here; the hyper-individualism of our post-modernist world has left the cultural superstructure which offers an albeit fragile defence against those Darwinian rules which govern the social life of our cousins so weakened as to offer no barrier at all to the grunts and snarls of the ape.

Under conditions of hyper-individualism, the numbers of recognizable individuals is drastically reduced. As Dunbar argues ('Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language', Faber & Faber, 1996), we are designed to work in groups of around 150 individuals. Now, under present conditions, a large number of these individuals may be virtual rather than real - significant others with whom we have no direct contact whatsoever. For more and more of us, these virtual acquaintances are overlapping : John McCreery in Japan, Marsha Chuk in Canada or Julian O'Dea, the Australian Americanophile - perhaps Australia already is an unacknowledged appendage to the Evil Empire, perhaps it just wishes it could be - can all make the same references to meedga figures with little fear of being misunderstood.

Now, increasingly, it is among these virtual personalities that we find our silverbacks. The sexual incapacities of which Robert Snower speaks are probably real enough - Sennett reports that there has been a decline in the ability to fantasize about sex in concrete ways over the last several decades - but are not evenly distributed. Why is this?

Among the social animals, where there is competition for access to females those males who find themselves at the bottom end of the hierarchy often repress their sexuality : this dampens the levels of conflict within the group, allowing the subdominant male to survive in hope. As our groups become more and more alike, and as the number of silverbacks necessarily declines - until there may only be four or five of them in the global community - so the overwhelming majority of human males find they need Viagra to help them crawl up from the floor.

On the other hand, at the centre of the group, the silverbacks find concentrated upon themselves the sexual expectations of millions. For a silverback's status is not simply posited upon his ability to defeat his male rivals : he must also demonstrate that he is fully able to take advantage of his dominance. To do this,he must, amongst other things, cover the most desirable and dominant females.

Clinton's enemies have understood this from the outset : what they have set out to prove is not that the President spreads his seed wherever he may, but that, by his choice of mate, and his mode of mating, he clearly shows that he is but a Beta in a borrowed cloak. When first he came to power, the fire was concentrated upon Hillary Clinton : the goal was to demonstrate that she was not a real woman at all, but an ersatz male, to whom Clinton himself was subordinate. Thus the sapping commenced. And now we are to picture a Chief who, instead of using his power to corral one of our collective virtual women - as Kennedy did when he slipped Marilyn Monroe into the White House - plays furtive games with a rank outsider. Monica Lewinsky, however personable, charming and even attractive she may be in the flesh, fails her screen test most miserably, and comes across as shoddy grade B material ; the latest internet rumour - for all you fans of conspiracy - has it that she was planted by the Starr team - one may imagine that she fulfilled their hopes quite admirably.

Hyperindividuality and hypo-individuality, hypersexuality and hyposexuality - flip the coin. Most of us live in shadow, lightened by our impotent imaginings and the shiny pictures upon our screens. Others - a shrinking handful - gesticulate and boom at the centre of the troop. Our flattened culture - nothing but surface claimed the prophet and early victim of our post-modern ills - has made it time to class homo sapiens right firmly alongside his hairier brothers.

Timothy Mason

Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

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