Posted on | September 19, 2011 | 72 Comments
One of the unfortunate consequences of living in a sex-obsessed culture is that sex pervades and dominates everything, so that no subject can be discussed outside a sexual context. And this explains why I’m writing about Ellen Page, a 24-year-old actress whose name I’d never heard before I received an e-mail this morning.
Miss Page starred as a pregnant teenager in the acclaimed 2008 film Juno, which provoked much cultural commentary because of its pro-life theme. Yet the actress disavowed any pro-life motive of her own:
“I call myself a feminist when people ask me if I am, and of course I am ’cause it’s about equality, so I hope everyone is. You know you’re working in a patriarchal society when the word feminist has a weird connotation. . . . I very much am pro-choice.”
You see embedded in her comments a sort of sexual politics that didn’t exist 50 years ago, before “pro-choice” was a political category, before women had been taught to speak of themselves as feminists opposed to “a patriarchal society.” Many young people take this kind of rhetoric for granted, since it’s all they’ve ever known, but it reflects two trends of the recent past: The expansion of the cultural space involving sex, and the expansion of politics to include sexual matters previously regarded as private.
If an individual’s sex life has political meaning, the consequence is that no one’s sexual activity is truly private, as Miss Page discovered last month when a blogger named Christoph Topitschnig “outed” her as a lesbian — or at least, bisexual. Celebrity blogger Deana Barnert quoted Topitschnig’s argument:
“I gave Ellen Page a decent chance to come out with the truth,” Topitschnig posted on V-Generations. “Two months ago, I mentioned her in my LGBT article and made it pretty clear what she had to do. . . .
“I wrote: ‘In times like these when young gay people commit suicide out of fear of rejection, role models are needed. The gravity of the situation doesn’t ask for passive hiding but active fighting. What will Ellen Page’s choice be?’”
Consider the logic of Topitschnig’s argument: Miss Page has an obligation to disclose her (alleged) lesbian romances, in order to prevent “young gay people [from] commit[ing] suicide out of fear of rejection.” This seems rather a heavy burden for a blogger to impose on a young actress who, evidently, is still sorting through her own romantic/erotic interests: Confess your lesbianism, or gay kids will kill themselves!
And notice how Topitschnig portrayed himself as some sort of humanitarian for having given Miss Page “a decent chance” by waiting two months after his ultimatum before “outing” her. He ”made it pretty clear what she had to do,” he says — just as Hitler once made it clear what Poland “had to do” about the Danzig Corridor.
That last analogy is no accidental violation of Godwin’s Law, for it is my argument that the politicization of sex necessarily entails a destruction of private life that is totalitarian in its implications. Miss Page was willing to accept a political dimension to sex insofar as it regarded being “pro-choice” and fighting the “patriarchy,” but I am unaware if she has commented on Topitchsnig’s “outing” blackmail.
Now, I said in the first paragraph that I had never heard of Miss Page until I got an e-mail this morning. That e-mail included a link to a new blog post by Toptischnig, this one quoting notorious left-wing blogger Mike Stark’s 2010 allegation that Rick Perry had a sexual affair with former Texas Secretary of State Geoffrey S. Connor.
Confess, Governor Perry, or gay kids will kill themselves!
And if you disagree with such tactics, they’ll smear you as a homophobe.
UPDATE: A commenter points out that Ellen Page makes it difficult to feel sorry for her. If her ambition is to become the next Janeane Garofalo, Whoopi Goldberg or Rosie O’Donnell, she’s gotten a good head start.