Do conservative women look for different qualities of masculinity in men than liberal women do? Is sex appeal not so much in the eye, but in a point of view? Do young Republicans and young Democrats have different ideas about "hooking up" (which is what young people call pairing off).
Like everything else in the soft science of psychology, it depends on the interpretation you read. Data can be dada. My favorite survey of the season was made by the Independent Women's Forum, a conservative woman's organization that contends with radical feminism with long red nails, good looks, educated smarts and a sense of humor. At the end of every summer, IWF interviews Capitol Hill interns who work in congressional offices during their summer vacations.
Interns are asked to compare their political, social (including sexual) experiences in Washington with those they left behind on campus. The most striking statistic to leap from the 221 interviews this year is that Democratic interns are five times more likely than Republican interns to report that "just hooking up with someone" was the most popular college date.
Only a third of the interns had not "hooked up" during the previous year on campus, and more than two-thirds had not "hooked up" with anyone in Washington. It's not clear whether that was the result of workaholic Washington, a preponderance of conservative Republicans or the short time for meeting a likely mate. Clearly, the typical intern is no longer a Monica.
The American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank, devotes the current issue of the American Enterprise magazine to the sexual differences between Democrats and Republicans, lauding the Bush administration in a cover story: "Real Men, They're Back."
Jay Nordlinger, managing editor of National Review, recalls the formulation of the Democrats as the "mommy party" and the Republicans as the "daddy party" and declares that men like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have made it "daddy party time" in the nation's capital.
This formulation echoes George Lakoff, professor of cognitive sciences at the University of California at Berkeley, who argues that modern conservatives speak to people in terms of "the strict father morality," and liberals act like the "nurturant parent."
In his configuration, "conservatives have left liberals in the dust" because their arguments frame the issues in a more compelling way. The father teaches right and wrong, self-discipline and self-reliance while preserving the safety net of "compassionate conservatism."
In an AEI symposium of conservative women, participants cheered the toughness and courage of the New York firemen and policemen of Sept. 11 and the valor and strength of the American soldiers of Afghanistan and Iraq. Observed one of them: "Bill Clinton was virile - in a sleazy way." George W., on the other hand, exhibits a "contained channeled virility," displaying testosterone and camaraderie on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.
These women lament the loss of chivalry in daily life. A mother among them recalls that when she was pregnant and riding the subway every day, a man rarely stood to offer her his seat. Charlotte Hays, a Mississippian, recalled her grandfather as the most masculine man in her life. "He supported seven children and never failed to stand when a woman came into the room."
Men were even more disdainful than the women of Al Gore as observed in the 2000 presidential campaign, reprieving some of the popular jests. Billy Crystal joked that Al Gore sounded like a "gay waiter." Harry Shearer, who does the voices for certain characters on "The Simpsons," said the former vice president sounded like a "gay robot."
Camille Paglia, the outspoken scholar of "sexual personae," was particularly vicious, judging that Al Gore's "prissy, lisping, Little Lord Fauntleroy persona . borders on epicene." Paglia, who appreciates men who act like men, calls masculinity "the most creative cultural force in history." She identifies the construction of America's beautifully constructed bridges as "sublime male poetry."
The panelists concluded that not only is "maleness" back in fashion among the nation's leadership, but that male aggression abetted and constrained by valor, honor and self-sacrifice is good for society. Kate O'Beirne, Washington editor of National Review, cut to the core. Answering Freud's famous question, "What do Women Want?" she offers an earthy rejoinder: "Women don't want a guy to feel their pain, they want a guy to clean the gutters."