I have been trying my darndest to ignore Judith Warner’s sleazy New York Times piece detailing the sexual fantasies liberal women are having about Obama. On the list of things I really don’t want to know, this ranks right up there with the nature of Bill Clinton’s underwear. These are presidents, for goodness sakes — statesmen! world leaders! Not Chippendale dancers. Ick.
But aside from the ick factor, there’s something profoundly wrong about the whole article, and that is the way in which Warner and her cronies sexualize Obama and Michelle. This goes beyond the ick-factor I mentioned in the previous paragraph, and moves into the very sick sexual ideas Americans traditionally had about blacks.
Anyone familiar with Southern history knows that black men were viewed as ravenously uncontrolled sexual beings who posed a threat to the purity of all white women with whom they came into contact. Black men were attacked and even killed for the sin of looking at a white woman, as if their powerful black sexuality could float through the air and cause harm without even the necessity of contact.
Black women, too, were perceived in sexual terms. The fact that all American blacks who trace their roots to the slave ships also have white forebears is itself a testament to the fact that white men saw black women as freely available to serve their needs. And to get past the fact that they were raping these women, the white men came up with a story line of the lusty “negress,” hungering for sex at all times. “I didn’t force her. The mere fact that she is black meant that she was (and always is) asking for it.”
With those horrible images in mind, let’s revisit one of the nastier passages in Warner’s little opus:
There was some daydreaming too, much of it a collective fantasy about the still-hot Obama marriage. “Barack and Michelle Obama look like they have sex. They look like they like having sex,” a Los Angeles woman wrote to me, summing up the comments of many. “Often. With each other. These days when the sexless marriage is such a big celebrity in America (and when first couples are icons of rigid propriety), that’s one interesting mental drama.”
It may be rarified and envious, but the above passage is nothing more than a reprise of the old American theme about the sexual ravenous black “stud” and his lusty “negress” partner. That this is true is evidenced by the fact that no other presidential couple — heck, no other political couple or even Hollywood couple — has ever been described in the same way.
In other words, I find this whole article offensive not just because I don’t like Obama, which renders him unattractive to me; and not just because I think it’s inappropriate to the self-proclaimed “paper of record” to chip away at the dignity of the presidency, but also because, no matter how one dresses it up, this whole line of thinking reverts to ugly stereotypical racial ideas about black people’s sexuality.