The French, long practiced in such matters, can stay above fraying affairs of the heart, but politics in America is of a rougher sort. Sen. Rand Paul, weary of hearing Republicans accused of waging war on women, made an effective pre-emptive strike against candidate Hillary with a reminder that her "first man," if she returns to the White House as president, would have new opportunities as a "sexual predator." That's over the top, but no more than the accusation that Republicans are "anti-woman" because they think the Little Sisters of the Poor shouldn't be forced by Obamacare to pay for the lady's birth control devices.
Sen. Paul not only reminds voters that President Clinton was impeached for lying about Monica Lewinsky, but recalled that Bubba paid Paula Jones, an Arkansas state employee, $800,000 to avoid a date in court.
"If (Democrats) want to take a position on women's rights, by all means do," Sen. Paul told a C-SPAN interviewer. "But you can't do it and take it from a guy who was using his position of authority to take advantage of young women in the workplace." Feminists were once furious at Hillary for standing by her man, but she calculated that it was in her interest to do it. Politics makes estranged bedfellows.
Double standards abound in matters of sex and love. When the curtain was lifted on private behavior in the public culture, the "culture industry," whether reflecting life or fantasizing about it, recognized fewer taboos than when boomers first rocked 'n' rolled. Now there's a fuzzy line between prurience and pornography, self-love and loving another, between being edgy and falling off the edge.
We once laughed at the Hollywood movie code, which required one participant in a horizontal love scene to keep one foot firmly on the floor. Pretzel positions produced lots of slapstick humor. Today the movie "Her" reduces a "love affair" to a man and a sexy voice in his laptop. This is not such a far-fetched scenario. Some millenials crave the passion of an Internet commitment without sex. Technology redecorates the romantic landscape.
In rebellion against loveless "hook-ups," some cautious college students seek sexless "soul mate" commitments. But estrangement can happen online, too. When cyber intimacy bytes the dust, a lover's quest hits a dead end, courtship disconnects, and mating is again at the mercy of a heartless search engine. Dare we ask: "What is this link called love?"