Bootygate and Reality

Two things I should make clear at the outset. First, in my book, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez earns a daily Maxine Waters award for unmitigated dimwittery in the execution of her congressional duties. Her Green New Deal would consign most of the world to abject poverty, and she appears to have no idea how shallow and dangerous her Marxist wish list really is. When I think of someone like her getting elected to Congress, it’s something like pondering a teenager in charge of a nuclear reactor. Second, if my wife or daughters effectively were made the subject of a sexual autopsy by someone inviting the public to ponder, and covet, their parts, I wouldn’t be happy.

Of course, the women in my life aren’t unvarnished hypocrites who advocate domestic terrorism at the homes of Supreme Court justices—even as they pine for Capitol Police willing to arrest any citizen with unapproved commentary. That may be one reason why comedian Alex Stein’s takedown of Ocasio-Cortez was so hilarious. That might be why I chuckle whenever I think about it.

But I think my reaction is more primal, and male. It speaks to a mystery I’m quite sure God built into the boy-girl sexual dynamic. It’s part of a sexual economy that turns grown men into fidgeting, 8th grade buffoons. We can either laugh at the impossibility of it all, or pretend, tight-jawed, we are holy enough to think it beneath us. I’m going to tell you what real men think on occasions like this. Honest men.

The Impossibility of It All

I chose my words carefully, because here is the truth: Normal men, from boyhood on, are built in the “on” position. Alex Stein, with great boyish glee, merely registered a kind of Edenic delight—a delight that can’t really be fully realized this side of Solomon’s harem.

Normal men are something like diabetics in a candy store. We understand the propriety, and the emotional safety, of rationing desire, but that desire is more or less there all the time. It can be weirdly hilarious, especially when an unfiltered fellow like Stein kicks open the toy chest, to reveal a chattering tin monkey stuck in the on position. Our 8th grade selves squeal with delight, or we run to the other extreme and pretend Stein wasn’t telling the truth, and we do our best to muster up a holy indignation we don’t really feel.

I grew up in a neo-pietist tradition that valued large families without pondering overmuch what makes them possible. This is the thing of which we do not speak, but silence about desire itself is not mirrored in scripture. Our first parents were “naked and unashamed.” Rachel was “fair of face and form.” Tamar was so frustrated at being childless she put a bag over her head, dressed like a harlot, and had sex with her father-in-law. Clearly, Old Testament dudes enjoyed watching women dance. Jacob’s four wives more or less ordered him into the tent. The children of Israel weren’t above being assisted by the harlot, Rahab, and Solomon—well, you know what Solomon was up to. In the New Testament, although Paul speaks clearly of a holiness associated with celibacy (a gift as rare as prophecy by my estimation), he clearly commands married couples not to deprive each other.

The Bible, of course, also praises female modesty, and, in this, it strikes a kind of balancing act. Scripture clearly praises beauty, and desire, but it also teaches a restraint that we ignore at our peril. We are left, properly, to both celebrate desire and contain it, and, oddly enough, I think this is where the comedy begins. It’s not easy. We need to laugh at the struggle a little bit, or we condemn ourselves to feel perpetually unworthy. My Aunt Claudine, happily married to her husband for 60 years, once observed, “I would worry about Lloyd if he weren’t tempted to whistle at a pretty girl.”

Whenever I see a beautiful woman leaving the burden of burqas and veils—someone, say, like Brigitte Gabriel—I get the sense she feels a kind of liberation in the glory (God be praised) of showing a little cleavage. This is a kind of celebration that transcends politics.

Who could doubt, for one instant, that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez enjoys showing off what God gave her? She simply wouldn’t wear that tight a dress unless she were pleased by the figure she cuts—unless on some level, she wanted to be appreciated for it. No, of course, she is not asking for harassment, or abuse, but she should probably understand that, to whatever extreme she displays her sexual magnetism, she endures the risk of appreciation she doesn’t seek.

Oddly enough, AOC appears to have followed, on this occasion, the Fox News female style guide: a super-tight monochrome dress, heels, and plenty of curvy, hourglass dimensions. Who are we fooling, here? For most men, in the presence of such allure, the tin monkey is chattering away and crashing his cymbals. It’s a standard of apparel only one or two degrees down from actual swimwear, which—though it is not now to be seen on the floor of Congress—should that ever happen, AOC would be among the first to insist there would be nothing provocative about it all. As she is on most other fronts, AOC is completely separated from reality—and self righteous about it, to boot[y].

I think men are naturally drawn to women who know they are beautiful, who enjoy being thankful both for the beauty they were given and the appreciation that such beauty inspires. Men adore women, in other words, who don’t want to turn men into women. There’s a certain kind of sweetheart who can look a man in the eye, smile, wink, and say, without words, “it’s not happening, but I love you for it anyway.”

Clearly, AOC isn’t one of those sweethearts.

About James Patrick Riley

James Riley is the owner and operator of Riley's Farm in Oak Glen, California and the creator of "Courage, New Hampshire," a television drama seen on PBS stations across the country. The father of six children, Riley performs "Patrick Henry" and supervises a living history program visited by hundreds of thousands of school children. He holds a degree in history from Stanford University.

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

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