Scott Brown's Centerfold: The Double Standard Of Beefcake-GateS

In the wake of Scott Brown's senatorial win, pundits are asking whether racy pics like those of him in a 1982 Cosmo would have torpedoed the campaign of a female candidate.

For those who haven't been following beefcake-gate, Brown won the magazine's "America's Sexiest Man" contest, and was pictured in the centerfold coyly hiding his (small?) penis and balls with his wrist. Joe Coscarelli of Mediaite said the photo could prove "problematic for Brown," but it totally wasn't — Monica Hesse of the Washington Post writes, "The general reaction from the media over the past few months can be described as ranging from 'Meh,' to 'Oh, Sen. Brown!'" But, asks Hesse, "How different would the story have looked if the shoe — Lack of shoes? Lack of clothes? — actually had been on the female body?"

The consensus seems to be: pretty fucking different. Jeanne Cummings and Erika Lovley of Politico write,

If a male attorney general and former prosecutor had been running against a woman who'd posed nude for Cosmopolitan magazine and whose law practice consisted mainly of real estate closings, would he have been the one reduced to praying for a squeaker victory? Would she have even gotten elected to the state Senate?

No and no are the probable answers.

And both Rachel Maddow and James Carroll point out that while Massachusetts is usually thought of as a liberal state, it has a pretty crappy record of electing women. Maddow reports that Massachusetts has never had a female governor or a female senator, and that Brown's opponent Martha Coakley is its first ever female attorney general. And Carroll writes in The Daily Beast,

It's an old story in Massachusetts-one that cuts across the boundaries of party and liberal-conservative competition. Democrats don't tap women for the top jobs, and neither do Republicans. Female nominees are subject to expectation tests, press scrutiny, and double standards that males know nothing of. Beneath all the analysis, something irrational and sinister and sexist is at work.

So perhaps Massachusetts is especially vulnerable to the sexist viewpoint crisis management specialist Eric Dezenhall describes to Hesse: "Men who are naughty are [viewed as] just dudes being dudes. Women who are naughty are unstable and must be stopped." And it certainly seems that no matter what state you live in, images of semi-nude men fail to inspire the slut-shaming often heaped on women who take it off. But maybe we aren't giving voters enough credit. Maybe we truly have entered into an age of acceptance, in which a few pictures of one's young body are no bar to public office. In order to determine the truth of this, we'll have to keep a close watch on the political career of one Carrie Prejean ... if we can stomach it.

Image via Mediaite.

Republican Senate Candidate Scott Brown Posed Naked In Cosmo [Mediaite]
Are Democrats Overlooking The Gender Gap? [MSNBC]
Scott Brown: Naked Double Standard [La Figa]
Women Ponder Massachusetts Glass Ceiling [Politico]
It's Okay. Sen. Brown Was Just Being A (Naked) Man. [Washington Post]
Misogynist Massachusetts [Daily Beast]