The Sexual Contradictions of Capitalism

December 22, 2006
Posted by Jay Livingston
Why is it news when sex objects behave sexually? And why do people feign shock and horror?

I have not been following the Miss USA flap closely. It hardly seems important enough, though anything that makes Donald Trump a matter of mockery can’t be all bad even if it does serve his never-ending quest for publicity.

Trump owns the Miss USA beauty contest and a couple of others. Recently, the alert media reported that this year’s winner, Miss Kentucky, having won her title in the usual way — i.e., parading around skimpily clad in front of a lot of people—had behaved immorally. She had been drinking to bars, testing positive for cocaine, and even kissing Miss Teen USA, who presumably won her title in a similar way. What else could Trump do but threaten to take the title away? He could let the story play out for a couple of days, that’s what, and then continue to keep the story in the news by then saying that she could keep her title. The stock plotline Trump selected was that Miss KY was a basically good small-town girl corrupted by the wicked ways of New York and that she deserves a second chance.

Today, the news is that Miss Nevada is being cashiered for, of all things, being sexual. (Nevada, if I remember correctly, is the only state in the country that has legalized brothels.) Some photos of her kissing and flashing at some party have surfaced (you can find the uncensored version on the Internet, but far be it from a wholesome blog like this one to provide you the URL).

Is all this peculiarly American? I suspect that the beauty pageant is an American invention, and there may be something especially American about it — the display of sexuality amid the continual declaration of high-mindedness, the denial of both the obvious lechery and the only slightly less obvious profit motive.

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