If you haven't heard the allegations that Minnesota State Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, a faithful proponent of the GOP's crusade to define marriage as a state of tenuous forbearance between a man and a woman, had an "improper relationship" with a male Senate staffer, chances are you've been paying pretty close attention.
Considering the fit of Puritanical apoplexy that wracked the national media when Anthony Weiner accidentally showed everyone that he shaves his balls or the fact that even the mayor of a suburban hamlet like Medford, NJ can poke his head out of the molehill of local news and get caught in the national spotlight for soliciting gay sex, it would seem that Amy Koch's December 16 resignation from the Minnesota State Senate in the wake of rumored infidelity would put the perfect cervical cap on a year marked by lurid political sex scandals. Or so says Hypervocal writer Slade Sohmer, who wonders why Koch's alleged infidelity hasn't been embellished by any sexy details and why her subsequent resignation hasn't received more attention from the national media. The Koch saga seems tailor-made to whet the media's appetite for sanctimonious banter but, as Sohmer points out, the news wires aren't exactly crackling in the wake of the resignation. He writes,
Nearly a full week later, the details that Americans traditionally lust after are shockingly scarce. But what's more noteworthy is that news reports outside of Minnesota are even more scarce. A woman of power rolling in the deep with a staffer? A woman who ran on a platform of family values and felt so strongly about the sanctity of marriage she tried her best to ban same-sex marriages in her state getting caught philandering outside the bonds of matrimony? C'mon, we love this stuff. Where's the attention?
Sohmer dismisses that theory that any story could be "too local" in an age of 24-hour news coverage, though he doesn't offer another explanation and instead explores the gender gap in political sex scandals. The reason behind Koch's abrupt resignation should make for a bigger story for how very anomalous (but not unheard of) it seems in a landscape of sexual impropriety that's dominated by male politicians who, by tweeting dick pics, are performing the 21st human equivalent of a chimpanzee waving its genitals. Like her sexting GOP predecessor Vikings stadium, is that it's missing one crucial element for lively political drama: reality-bending denial.
According to the Associated Press report, when a cabal of Minnesota senators confronted Koch about the allegations of improper conduct, they gave her three options: resign from office, deny the allegations, or fess up to the rest of the senate. Koch resigned and has subsequently slipped out of the spotlight, refusing to address the circumstances surrounding her resignation. Could the difference in a media bonanza and sober local coverage be as simple as the fact that, once confronted, Koch chose to keep quiet instead of fabricating a complex Twitter hacking conspiracy? Or is the relative silence surrounding Koch's resignation more proof that national media outlets see the combination of political power and sexual autonomy in a woman might shatter our cultural innocence?
According to a May article in The Atlantic by Lane Wallace, sex scandals involving female politicians are rare precisely because a powerful man is perceived as an attractive Casanova while a powerful woman is perceived as a testicle-devouring she-wolf. Wallace claims that this cultural disparity gives way to another, that "Culturally, men are more likely to link power with a sense of entitlement about rewards that include sex." Maybe the real reason Koch's alleged adultery hasn't crested the national news is because we're so accustomed to a man exploiting his political authority for sex (a much more familiar narrative) that it seems like an exclusively male transgression and that any story of a woman exploiting her authority seems too outlandish to be believed. In the same way everyone wondered this summer whether or not Bridesmaids would do well at the box office (will audiences accept that can ladies really be funny? That they can have commitment issues?), news outlets might be wondering whether something so outrageous as a woman in politics having an affair won't mind-fuck American news audiences.