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Barack Obama’s “dwindling sex appeal”: the penis and the POTUS

Posted on Saturday, October 9th, 2010 at 3:55 am

Author: Feature Writer

Gc contributor: Shafiqah Hudson

Two years and some change (or, depending on who you ask, nearly three years and NO change) into his presidency, Barack Obama’s policies have upset and disappointed me.

I had high hopes for a President who had spent so much of his youth abroad, who was brilliant and refined, an elegant and unapologetic intellectual. In spite of Obama’s initially robust and repeated promises, my government is still heavily embroiled in simultaneous wars for profit in the Middle East and only recently began military pull-out in Iraq. Military drone strikes – part of the increasingly nebulous Bush Administration legacy dubbed the”War on Terror” – continue in Pakistan, killing civilians and allies. Guantanamo Bay is still open, and doesn’t appear to show any serious signs of closing, either.

I have watched the president I helped vote into office soft-pedal domestic issues like increased border security, tighter immigration restraints, and basic social services for undocumented immigrants, all in the name of reaching out to an ever-obstinant group of conservatives. A group who had decided in November 2008 that he could do no right, and stood aside as their supporters proclaimed Obama a chimera of a bogeyman: closet socialist, fascist, and a Nazi.

I have watched blatant and arguably racist acts of disrespect aimed at Obama take place on the Congressional floor. I have watched as Sarah Palin stepped down early from her governance post in the midst of a national economic crisis, and trotted around the country with the Tea Partiers, openly admonishing the President to “do your job.” I have watched with frustration and growing anger as Obama, seemingly in the name of diplomacy and “getting along”, pandered to folks who didn’t vote for him the first time around, and absolutely will not be doing so in 2012. I know what it is to feel at least a little let down by the President, a man whose mind I so admire. Simply put, I voted for his brain.

So imagine my shock and chagrin when I stumbled upon this piece in the Daily Beast, in which author Tunku Varadarajan outlines what he feels is Obama’s biggest loss: his dwindling sex appeal:

Not so long ago, Obama’s sex appeal lay at, or near, the top of a list of his attributes that turned America on. In some quarters, his effect was almost orgasmic, as seen in this mash-note in The Nation from August 2008, which describes a man “so cool he’s hot, a centrifugal force commanding attention so ruthlessly that it appeared effortless, reducing everyone around him to a sidekick, and the girls in the front rows to jelly.”

It’s no secret that in just about every society on the planet being perceived as attractive and/or sexually desirable is somewhat advantageous. And Barack Obama is, to a great many, an attractive man. Speaking for myself, I’ve never found him, er, “hot,” but sexual attractiveness is notoriously subjective, and at the end of the day rating “hotness” just is not my job, and it certainly didn’t influence my choice of candidate in the race. (I was really pushing for Dennis Kucinich. I am a dreamer.) Welp, amongst heterosexual women who voted for Obama, apparently I’m in the minority. Virility, according to Varadarajan, has long been a prerequisite for American presidents:

Ford, Nixon, LBJ, Ike, Truman—even the two Bushes—to name other postwar presidents, all count as Real Men in one way or another. Clinton and John F. Kennedy, however, have been the only two postwar presidents apart from Obama whose persona has had an indisputably sexual component—Kennedy’s sleekly glamorous, Clinton’s cheerily priapic. Obama’s sex appeal, while it lasted, was more cerebral, languid, unconventional—and complex, too, in that it was hard to demarcate his sex appeal from his political aura. In other words, he was erotic, not merely sexy. There was something about him that was both clean-cut and revolutionary; and it was no doubt electrifying that many millions of American women were so openly adoring of a black man. [emphasis mine]

Ah. And here’s where the hogwash begins. No longer content to merely continue to dance around what this piece has been leading to since the opening paragraph, the author now basically states that part of Obama’s appeal to White, presumably heterosexual (and his presumptions, not mine) women voters was the unspoken fascination with his race. More specifically, with his Blackness, his masculinity, his sexual nature, and all of the historical tension that accompany those notions:

The promise of “otherness” and change that had made Obama so sexy to so many stands shorn of its magic. He has tried to do too much, and as a result has done too little well: And failure is not sexy.

As a Black woman, perhaps this aspect of Obama’s appeal, so thoroughly conflated with the idea of him as the exoticized cultural Other, largely went over my head. Or maybe Varadarajan is full of crap.

Rather, perhaps what he suggests is Obama’s incredible shrinking sex appeal is actually a natural consequence of familiarity. What recent president has managed to hold the same strong approval ratings that they did when they took office, little more than halfway through their very first term? I remember the constant grumbling around the Clinton Administration in 1994, when this country was also facing a recession.

Why not just state – eloquently, incisesively, and CORRECTLY – that the honeymoon phase – that initial high expectation period that settles into a more realistic set of expectations with time – is over? Invoking the explicitly sexual, with nonsense about “political Viagra” and sophomoric quipping about flacidity, sexual dissatisfaction and the like is just silly. And that unnecessary swipe at the First Lady with the suggestion that the Obamas’s projected marital bliss may damage his re-electability? Just nasty.

The President has made a lot of mistakes, in my opinion. He hasn’t been progressive enough for my taste, and he isn’t using that noodle I love so much to its greatest capacity. But the idea that I won’t vote for him again because he hasn’t “ravaged” (once again, the author says this) me politically is erroneous at best and sexist, insulting and telling at worst. I don’t need find him fuckable. I just need him to run my fucking country.

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