Mitt Romney, Sex Symbol?Posted: August 23, 2012
I was going to include this in my morning post, but I forgot. The National Review’s latest cover story is a bizarre homoerotic tribute to Mitt Romney’s sexual prowess in which Kevin Williamson makes a simple-minded evolutionary argument that women should adore the Republican candidate for president.
What do women want? The conventional biological wisdom is that men select mates for fertility, while women select for status — thus the commonness of younger women’s pairing with well-established older men but the rarity of the converse. The Demi Moore–Ashton Kutcher model is an exception — the only 40-year-old woman Jack Nicholson has ever seen naked is Kathy Bates in that horrific hot-tub scene. Age is cruel to women, and subordination is cruel to men. Ellen Kullman is a very pretty woman, but at 56 years of age she probably would not turn a lot of heads in a college bar, and the fact that she is the chairman and CEO of Dupont isn’t going to change that.
It’s a good thing Mitt Romney doesn’t hang out in college bars.
I happen to have actually studied some evolutionary psychology, and it’s true there is some evidence that males and females select mates based on different reproductive goals. Females are more likely than males to choose good providers–men with college degrees, and good future prospects. Males are more likely than females to choose females who are young, healthy, and physically attractive and thus more likely to be fertile. However research on college students also shows that, for both males and females, the most valued characteristics in mate selection are attributes like kindness, good personality, and sense of humor. The sex-differentiated characteristics are less important–at least for college kids.
But Williamson is just using something he heard about evolutionary theories on mate selection to excuse his masturbatory fantasies about a man he clearly finds extremely attractive. And since Williamson has a huge man crush on Mitt, we women should feel the same way.
From an evolutionary point of view, Mitt Romney should get 100 percent of the female vote. All of it. He should get Michelle Obama’s vote. You can insert your own Mormon polygamy joke here, but the ladies do tend to flock to successful executives and entrepreneurs. Saleh al-Rajhi, billionaire banker, left behind 61 children when he cashed out last year. We don’t do harems here, of course, but Romney is exactly the kind of guy who in another time and place would have the option of maintaining one. He’s a boss. Given that we are no longer roaming the veldt for the most part, money is a reasonable stand-in for social status. Romney’s net worth is more than that of the last eight U.S. presidents combined. He set up a trust for his grandkids and kicked in about seven times Barack Obama’s net worth, which at $11.8 million is not inconsiderable but probably less than Romney’s tax bill in a good year.
Williamson latched onto a biological mating theory also, the Trivers-Willard hypothesis, to claim that Romney’s reproductive history–he’s the father of five sons–proves he’s a much more manly man than wimpy Barack Obama, who just has two measly daughters.
It is a curious scientific fact (explained in evolutionary biology by the Trivers-Willard hypothesis — Willard, notice) that high-status animals tend to have more male offspring than female offspring, which holds true across many species, from red deer to mink to Homo sap. The offspring of rich families are statistically biased in favor of sons — the children of the general population are 51 percent male and 49 percent female, but the children of the Forbes billionaire list are 60 percent male. Have a gander at that Romney family picture: five sons, zero daughters. Romney has 18 grandchildren, and they exceed a 2:1 ratio of grandsons to granddaughters (13:5). When they go to church at their summer-vacation home, the Romney clan makes up a third of the congregation. He is basically a tribal chieftain.
Professor Obama? Two daughters. May as well give the guy a cardigan. And fallopian tubes.
I guess Williamson has forgotten that George W. Bush also had two daughters and no sons. How does that fit into his evolutionary argument?
Anyway, if Williamson is right, women should be falling all over themselves to vote for Romney, right? So why aren’t they? Williamson thinks that Mitt just needs to stop worrying about being ostentatious and embrace his inner rich guy. He should take lessons from another former Massachusetts Governor, William Weld, who flaunted his old money with “panache.” The problem with that is that Romney isn’t old money and he’s been disgustingly ostentatious about his wealth (which Romney equates with “success”) throughout the 2012 campaign. And quite a few voters are pretty repulsed by that.
But really, Williamson is just working his way up to his own climax:
Reassuring arch-patriarch — maybe one with enough sons and grandsons to form a pillaging band of marauders? Hillary Rodham Clinton told us that it takes a village, and Mitt Romney showed us how to populate a village with thriving offspring. Newsweek, which as of this writing is still in business, recently ran a cover photo of Romney with the headline: “The Wimp Factor: Is He Just Too Insecure to Be President?” Look at his fat stacks. Look at that mess of sons and grandchildren. Look at a picture of Ann Romney on her wedding day and that cocky smirk on his face. What exactly has Mitt Romney got to be insecure about? That he’s not as prodigious a patriarch as Ramses II or as rich as >Lakshmi Mittal? I bet he sleeps at night and never worries about that. He has done everything right in life, and he should own it.
Stomach-churning, isn’t it? Is this how most conservative men think? And I’ve just given you the gist of the piece. There are three pages of this nauseating verbiage.
Look, I don’t think most voters–at least women voters–don’t look to their presidential candidates to fulfill their sexual fantasies. Maybe women are actually smart enough to vote based on issues that are important to them. Mitt Romney is not going to turn on the average college woman. He’s a dork, and so is Barack Obama for that matter. He looks like what he is–an arrogant, shallow, emptyheaded former CEO with an exaggerated estimation of his own importance. He’s also a liar and a bully. What’s attractive about that? Amanda Marcotte has some good points about all this about this in a post at The American Prospect:
The delusion that regular Americans look to politicians and see Sexy persists in East Coast media circles, despite its evident ludicrousness and a number of debunkings. It leads me to believe that the problem stems from the bubble mentality that prevents pundits from remembering the world outside theirs, if only for the sake of comparison. In the media circle around D.C. (one that sadly extends to New York), President Obama is “cool,” Paul Ryan is “hip,” and Sarah Palin is scorchingly hot. These myths persist, even though the flag-waving, apple-pie-eating persona that politicians must adopt to survive precludes any realistic hope of being an actual sex symbol like George Clooney and Angelina Jolie.
Recently, in an otherwise excellent piece in The New York Times, Maureen Dowd demonstrating exactly this sort of bizarro-world thinking, described Paul Ryan as looking “young and hip and new generation, with his iPod full of heavy metal jams and his cute kids.” By “heavy metal jams,” Dowd presumably meant Ryan’s beloved Rage Against the Machine, a band that was relevant two decades ago and only sounds “heavy metal” to people who think all rock music released after 1967 is a wall of undistinguished noise. Ryan wears khaki pants with checkered shirts! He sounds like a 16-year-old virgin imagining what sex must be like when he talks about reproductive rights! You can only consider him hip and sexy if your only point of comparison are the residents of a nursing home. And yet Dowd didn’t come up with this assessment all on her own; she got the strange notion that Ryan is hip from the Beltway discourse, where it’s assumed he’s dreamy because he has blue eyes and works out.
I don’t read the right wing media much, and after reading Williamson’s embarrassing ode to Willard and realizing that the National Review thinks it’s worthy of a cover story, I don’t think I’ll be going back for more very soon.