Remember When Rick Santorum Sexualized Pro Wrestling?

Rick Santorum is a bird of many sweater vests — before he stalwartly opposed gays, women's reproductive rights, and Spanish, Santorum fought against regulation in professional wrestling during his time in the late 1980s as counsel for the World Wrestling Federation.

According to a story by Tim Murphy in Mother Jones, Santorum, after graduating from Penn State's Dickinson School of Law, landed a job with the Pennsylvania firm Kirkpatrick and Lockhart, where his budding client list in 1986 included Titan Sports, parent company of the World Wrestling Federation. In 1987, the-then WWF (they've since lost the rights to that abbreviation to the World Wildlife Federation, go pandas) tasked Santorum with carrying out wrestling ringleader Vince McMahon's goal to officially prove that pro-wrestling was an entertainment spectacle not a sport (a commonly held though rarely articulate sentiment at the time). Santorum's job was to persuade Pennsylvania lawmakers to allow the State Athletic Commission's regulatory oversight to expire, meaning that supplying doctors, timekeepers, or announcers would be up to the WWF, not the state. With that end in mind, Santorum appealed to readers of the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1987, dismissing legitimate concerns that the WWF's deregulation bill would open the industry up to rampant abuse (which it did, with a subsequent explosion in steroid use among pro-wrestlers). "These people," he said at the time, referring to wrestlers and the interest WWF management had in keeping them healthy, "are [management's] income. If Hulk Hogan gets hurt, that's a pretty big loss to the WWF."

Fast-forward twenty years and many low-profile wrestlers are mired in the brutal world of Darren Aronofsky's 2008 movie The Wrestler, where aging, steroidal strongmen batter their bodies against one another for meager pay, sometimes without the safety net of adequate healthcare coverage. All thanks, in part, to avowed wrestling fan Rick Santorum, who briefly discusses his early career with the WWF in his 2005 book It Takes a Family, in which he gleefully takes an opportunity to rail against modern wrestling's moral degeneracy: "Today, professional wrestling is more about titillation than ever. The violence has been sexualized."

Sexualized violence, you say? Whatever evils Santorum sees in such violent spectacles between grunting, Speedo-clad beefcakes are directly linked to his efforts in 1987 to let the industry regulate itself. But don't take my word for it — take Senator Santorum's:

Hate Pro Wrestling? Blame Rick Santorum [Mother Jones]