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The Sexy Puritan


Photo from Maxim's Hottest Politicians List (she's #2)

Author Tom Perrotta (most recently of "The Abstinence Teacher") has an interesting take on what to make of the VPILF phenomenon surrounding Sarah Palin. He sees her as the perfect example of the all-to-common 'be sexy but don't have sex' message given to young women: The Sexy Puritan.

Sexy Puritans engage in the culture war on two levels—not simply by advocating conservative positions on hot-button social issues but by embodying nonthreatening mainstream standards of female beauty and behavior at the same time. The net result is a paradox, a bit of cognitive dissonance very useful to the cultural right: You get a little thrill along with your traditional values, a wink along with the wagging finger. Somehow, you don't feel quite as much like a prig as you expected to...

...There's a sophisticated strategy of co-optation at work here—not so different from the one employed by Christian rock bands that look and sound almost exactly like their secular counterparts—an attempt to separate "sexiness," which is both cool and permissible, from actual sex, which is not. This is a challenging line to walk in practice, as Britney can attest...Apparently nobody likes the Church Lady anymore, not even the churchgoers. If you don't believe me, you should take a look at the Web site Christian Nymphos [Note: The site doesn't seem to be functioning right now], whose authors cheerfully proclaim, "We are women with excessive sexual desire for our husbands!" and offer candid how-to advice on anal sex, fisting, and "masturbating for your husband..."

...In the weeks remaining before Nov. 4, the Obama campaign faces the challenging job of restoring clarity to the election, making people look at Palin and see not just a plucky, surprisingly hot, pro-life mom who made her way from the PTA to the governor's office, but a "Young Earth" creationist who opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest and thinks a natural-gas pipeline is an expression of God's will. In the meantime, though, she remains a perfect emblem for a stealth culture war: a sexy librarian who would be more than happy to ban a few books.