The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Sad Lesson of a Former ‘Fame Whore’ (Or, Why Slut-Shaming Is a Good Thing)

Posted on | September 8, 2018 | 3 Comments

“I’m beginning to feel like it’s entirely possible I’m ruining my life, and I’ll have absolutely no one to blame but myself and my naiveté.”
Julia Baugher, 2008

She grew up in the affluent northern suburbs of Chicago. Her father was a Princeton-educated lawyer. Her mother once worked for President Nixon. Julia Baugher had so many advantages — did I mention her parents sent her to Georgetown University? — and she was also beautiful.

With so much going for her, it’s hard to imagine how she could fail, but it was her misfortune to come of age in the late 1990s, when a toxic brand of liberal “pro-sex” feminism was all the rage. Monica Lewinsky was the most famous woman in the world during Julia Baugher’s senior year of high school, and a new TV show debuted on HBO.

I was a rising high school senior when “Sex and the City” debuted in 1998, and I was instantly enthralled. I wanted to be like Carrie and her friends: I wanted to be glamorous and beautiful and dress well and have lots of dates.

She rubbed the lamp. The genie emerged, and granted her wish.

Oops. Be careful what you wish for.

At Georgetown, Miss Baugher became locally famous. Not in a good way.

When she was a junior at Georgetown University in the fall of 2002, Allison decided she had a thing for medical students. They were smart and driven and a little older than she was, all big turn-ons. So she got a job at the medical school library, where she had the opportunity to meet the entire class — and date several of its members. Before long, she was getting invited to med student parties. She was given a nickname — the Medstitute — which she chose to interpret as affectionate.

She also wrote a sex column for the student newspaper, dated a congressman, and somehow got caught in a plagiarism scandal.

After graduating Georgetown in 2004, she moved to New York City, talked her way into writing a sex column ($50 a week) for a giveaway newspaper and, apparently trying to get some distance from her collegiate plagiarism scandal, began using “Julia Allison” as her byline.

A diligent self-promoter, Miss Baugher managed to wangle TV appearances and, as the PUAs say, rode the carousel. Relentlessly, notoriously, infamously. Did I mention she dated a congressman in college? Because in 2006, that congressman ran for Senate, which helped her get noticed (not in a good way) by Gawker. This led to a sort of long-term relationship between Gawker and Miss Baugher, much like the relationship between a boxer and a punching bag.

“Julia was paid by Sea World to somehow convince people to go to Sea World. A short time later, a killer whale ate someone there.”

What had happened, you see, was that the Internet enabled Miss Baugher’s pursuit of fame (not in a good way). She created her own “brand” with a blog, posting photos of herself at Manhattan parties and events with whatever celebrities might be in attendance, and parlayed that into a six-figure gig with the Star supermarket tabloid at age 26.

Julia Baugher featured on the cover of Time Out New York, 2008.

“Easy come, easy go,” as they say, and Julia Baugher was notoriously easy. The young carousel riders never seem to figure out why promiscuity is a bad bet until it’s too late to retrieve their lost fortunes. Youth is a valuable commodity, and racking up a long list of ex-boyfriends (e.g., Men’s Health editor Dave Zinczenko, tech entrepreneur Jakob Lodwick) is not the smart way to invest such an asset. Feminists who rant against “slut-shaming” are like carnival barkers for sexual dysfunction. There is a reason why sluts are shamed, after all, because promiscuous young women are the supply of “free milk” that makes men reluctant to buy cows, as the old adage goes. Why should a tech entrepreneur or a magazine editor in New York City find a nice girl and get married, when every spring brings a new crop of 23-year-old hotties to town, eager to make the same kind of foolish mistakes young Julia Baugher made?

Working in political journalism, you encounter a lot of this type of woman, and one thing you discover in talking to them is that their personal narrative is usually incongruent with their behavior. The 25-year-old party girl, who bounces from one short-term boyfriend to the next, doesn’t think of herself as promiscuous. She may have been with a dozen men in the two or three years since she graduated college, but that doesn’t mean she’s a slut. No, her tawdry six-week fling was a “relationship,” she’ll tell you. She’ll say things like, “We really cared about each other, it just didn’t work out.” And so she bounces along: Six weeks with this guy, three months with that guy, maybe a few one-night-stand hookups with cute strangers when she was between “relationships” (and drunk at a party), and she can’t bring herself to admit that perhaps there’s something wrong with her behavior. Her talk about “love” and “relationships” is a rationalization, as is feminist talk about promiscuity as sexual “empowerment.” She isn’t empowered at all; in fact, she’s negotiating from a position of weakness, wasting her youth and sustaining emotional damage, while telling herself that anyone who criticizes her irresponsible behavior is motivated by envy or misogyny. You’re a “hater” if you advise young women not to screw around haphazardly, or otherwise express disapproval of such behavior.

Their behavior is crazy and self-destructive, but in their minds, it’s all beyond reproach. In this context, dating someone for more than six months is described as a “long-term relationship,” which brings us back to Miss Baugher. In a 2012 column for Elle, she wrote:

A huge mistake, I’ve learned, has been conflating dating with relationships. I was 29 when I looked at my dating spreadsheet and discovered I hadn’t been in a single relationship for more than six months since 2007. That’s five years! Not a stellar track record for anyone, but an especially dismal run for a woman who owns more self-help books than most independent bookstores. . . .

(Hint: Most self-help books aren’t actually helpful.)

For years, I liked collecting new dating stories. I was proud of all the romantic journeys I’d been on — even the ones that ended with me crumpled on the floor sobbing.

(“Romantic journeys” = screwing around.)

But then I had a moment, a single instant when it hit me: I was done. One August day in L.A., halfway through my 28th year, I was in bed with my college boyfriend, reunited after six years, and I realized I had come full circle. I didn’t need to date anymore; I’d seen enough. I was starting to literally repeat myself.

(No regrets, until she’d already ridden the carousel too long — quite typical.)

I remember thinking, Okay, I’m ready for my life partner now. Let’s get this marriage party started! . . .

(Again, typical: This is a carousel rider’s realization, as she nears the big 3-0, that she’s approaching what PUA’s call “the Wall.” The hottie fresh out of college, the New Girl in Town, is often dazzled by her opportunities for “romantic journeys,” but after she passes 25 and approaches 30, she realizes that her market-value has started to decline. She’s ready to get off the carousel, at which point she begins to complain that men are “afraid of commitment,” but they’re not actually afraid of anything. They’re just happy to keep banging hotties fresh out of college. Now let’s return to Miss Baugher’s column.)

After my most recent breakup in May 2011, I started to wonder: maybe it wasn’t the guys who were the problem. After all, the common denominator in my love life is — well, it’s me.

You can read the rest of that. The reason I stopped excerpting with this paragraph is because Miss Baugher’s 2011 breakup was newsworthy.

 

Perhaps you don’t recognize that fellow on the right. His name is Jack. He’s a Navy officer. His father was also a Navy officer. Jack’s grandfather and his great-grandfather were also Navy officers. “Gosh, what could Jack’s last name be?” the eponymous blogger asked, rhetorically.

You see, in October 2010, when Julia Baugher was 29, and checking her “dating spreadsheet,” she was invited to her friend Meghan’s birthday party, which is where she met Meghan’s younger brother, Jack. That day, Miss Baugher gushed on Twitter: “Just when you think you’ve seen everything, you meet someone who blows you away. Wow.”

What followed has been called “stalking” by some of Miss Baugher’s critics, but it was a successful hunt and, within two months (apparently how long it took her to ditch her previous boyfriend) she was publicly recognized as the girlfriend of John Sidney “Jack,” McCain IV, then 25.

Spoiler alert: It ended about six months later — and ended badly, according to a 2012 post by one of her most persistent critics:

Then one day, Julia Allison decided that she was going to move in with Jack. But instead of having a discussion with Jack about co-habitating, she kind of just went over for a visit and never left. Jack thought she was harmless enough and let her loaf about. . . . Long story short, Julia would ply Jack with alcohol to get him to pass out so she could go through his text and email to monitor his communications with other women with whom he had platonic relationships. She would even text or email these women to ward them off, pretending that she was Jack. When Jack discovered that his unemployed roommate was bat shit insane, he broke things off and asked Julia to leave. And she did. . . eventually, a week later under the supervision of Jack’s ice-queen mother Cindy McCain.
Since then, Julia has taken every opportunity to misrepresent her relationship with Jack McCain. She sent out a press release announcing their break-up and her vacancy of the “home they shared in Coronado,” saying that she sacrificed her one opportunity for true love to pursue her career as a person who uses Twitter. And recently on, Bravo’s Miss Advised [her one-season reality TV show], Julia claimed that her relationship with Jack was a storied love affair. She shamelessly lied that they discussed the possibility of marriage and goes on to say that she had to break off the relationship and sacrifice her one opportunity to find a husband to go on a reality show where she endlessly whines about not having a husband. No mention about being escorted to the airport because she refused to vacate his home, mind you. She also claims that she respects the McCain family’s privacy, so much so that she brings up the fact that she dated Jack McCain on national television at every opportunity.

Let me hasten to say I cannot vouch for the accuracy of that account, and Miss Baugher’s lawyer father has been known to threaten legal action against his daughter’s critics, but so far as I know, neither Jack McCain nor Meghan McCain has ever denied that version of events.

If you were writing a novel about a female psychopath, you could scarcely do better than the scene of her getting her boyfriend drunk so she could check his phone and send messages to his other (potential) girlfriends in an effort to sabotage any chance he had of finding someone else.

Jack McCain probably deserves a medal for escaping the psycho’s trap. He subsequently married a fellow Navy officer and they had their first child a couple of years ago, but that’s irrelevant to the point, i.e., how badly Miss Baugher’s plan to “get this marriage party started” failed.

Her disastrous attempt to dismount the carousel was typical of a pattern: The hottie who dated high-status men in her youth assumes she can just as easily marry a high-status man. This is a dangerous delusion. A top-shelf young bachelor — be he a medical student, a congressman or a Navy officer — isn’t necessarily scrupulous in evaluating the character of his female companions. If you’re Harold Ford Jr., 31 years old and in your third term in Congress, and a nice-looking 21-year-old college girl more or less throws herself at you, are you going to turn her down because she seems kind of flaky? No, she’s looking to ride, and you’re happy to be the carousel horse, without any thought of whether she’s “wife material.”

No matter how crazy she may be, a good-looking girl can get plenty of carousel rides, and enjoy a lot of “romantic journeys” that never last more than a few months. By the time she grows tired of riding, however, she’s become accustomed to dating only high-status men, and guys like that are seldom eager to make a flaky bimbo their “life partner.”

And in the case of Julia Baugher, it certainly did not help that she went out of her way to publicize herself as a flaky bimbo. When she said, in that 2008 interiew, that she felt it was “entirely possible I’m ruining my life,” she should have trusted that feeling. It may have already been too late, by then, for her to undo the damage she’d done to her own reputation, or to reform the bad habits she’d developed.

Miss Baugher had a toxic reputation by the time she “lured Jack McCain into her web,” to quote the Gawker headline from December 2010. Anyone who cared for Jack’s future happiness would have warned him to keep her at arm’s length, and no doubt all his friends were happy when Jack’s mother (allegedly) kicked Miss Baugher to the curb.

After getting unceremoniously dumped, Julia Baugher tried to salvage her career by moving to the San Francisco Bay Area and writing about Silicon Valley, then she moved to L.A. for her reality-TV gig on Bravo, which did the Hindenburg-at-Lakehurst after one season. She became increasingly desperate, she confessed in 2013:

I wanted a partner, a teammate. I wanted a last call of the day. I wanted someone to hold me at night, to hug me and kiss me. I wanted someone — besides my mother — to worry about me. I wanted someone to wonder where I was, and if I didn’t come home, I wanted someone to notice. I wanted someone to want my love.
But after 15 years of repeatedly falling in love, only to watch it fall apart, my heart slowly rendered numb by the scar tissue, I had become a cynic.

Wow. Isn’t it terribly sad to see her describe her habitual promiscuity as “repeatedly falling in love”? That’s the story she has been telling herself and others for so long that she may actually believe it by now. And why not? Hasn’t this become our cultural narrative of “love”? If gay dudes hooking up anonymously with any cute twink they meet on Grindr can tell themselves that this is “love,” why can’t Julia Baugher be allowed to describe her own series of haphazard hookups as “love”?

Call someone who’ll listen,
And might give a damn,
Maybe one of your sordid affairs.
But don’t you come ’round here
Handin’ me none of your lies.
Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.

There is more wisdom in that old honky-tonk song than in all of the self-help books Julia Baugher has read in her lifetime. It’s not like she never had any chances. When she was young, she could have found a good guy, if she’d played her cards right, instead of being a narcissistic sociopath.

We can’t undo the past or retrieve our misspent youth, however, so in her 30s, Miss Baugher found herself consulting “a love coach” and in 2013 claimed to have found “the love of my life”:

We’ve been together 9 months, and it feels completely different than any relationship I’ve ever had. He is the kindest, most honest, most humble and giving human being I’ve ever met. It’s like every movie cliche: He makes me want to be a better woman.

Wrong again, sweetheart. After getting dumped once more, she subsequently took up with a hippie weirdo known as “DJ Rain” or “Rain PhuturePrimitive” (a/k/a Chad McNally) who played at Burning Man and other gigs on the freak festival circuit. That seems to have ended last fall after Chad/“Rain” decided he was into polyamory.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Scarcely 15 years earlier, Miss Baugher had been dating Georgetown medical students and Democrat congressmen. She’d dated magazine editors and tech entrepreneurs and, in 2010, had been the live-in girlfriend of a famous senator’s handsome son. Now she couldn’t even keep a relationship with a hippie DJ!

Julia Baugher at the Burning Man festival.

Finally, this past June, Miss Baugher wrote a column for the New York Post, on the 20th anniversary of the debut of Sex and the City, blaming the show’s influence for her catastrophic career:

I was considered by many to be Carrie Bradshaw 2.0. And I was happy to be given that identity for a while, but it was all a lie. . . .
I also subscribed to Carrie’s ethos when it came to men. There was no such thing as a bad date — only a good date or a good brunch story. In my writing, I gave my boyfriends nicknames (one was “Prom King”) just like Carrie and her friends did. . . .
I cut my ties to New York and moved to San Francisco full-time in 2013. I tried being a tech columnist and writing a personal-growth book called “Experiments in Happiness.” Finally, I decided to go private for a while. I stopped blogging and writing. I rarely post on Instagram.
These days I work as a change activist, mounting summits for world leaders and serving as an adviser to startups and entrepreneurs looking to better the planet. . . .
I do wonder what my life would have looked like if “Sex and the City” had never come across my consciousness. Perhaps I’d be married with children now? . . .
Two months ago, I started seeing someone I never would have dated 10 years earlier. Back then, I wasn’t looking to get married or seek a lifelong partner, and that was a mistake. This man is a very reasonable choice, and I’m at a place in my life where reasonable is very sexy.

If you’re expecting me to unleash a torrent of sarcasm about this latest attempt by Miss Baugher to reinvent herself, you’re wrong. The PUA site Chateau Heartiste already ripped it into tatters with such misogynistic brutality that it would be cruel for me to add anything further.

There is a reason why slut-shaming exists. If sluts are not shamed — if promiscuity is celebrated and glamorized the way Sex and the City did — more young women will waste their youth the way Julia Baugher wasted hers. Who would want their daughter to end up that way, having ruined her reputation and squandered so many chances at happiness, desperately hoping at age 37 to settle for a “reasonable choice”?

Am I being too harsh? Too judgmental? No, I don’t think so. Our decadent culture is long overdue for some harsh judgment. We need more hellfire, damnation and “wrath of God” sermons, and if sinners won’t repent? Honey, here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.



 

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