Interview: Rachel Kramer Bussel On Sarah Palin Erotica
Even with the presidential election over, Sarah Palin remains a prominent figure. From her hairstyle to her politics, America has been and remains obsessed with the female politician who seemingly came out of nowhere. And while some debated her political platform, others were more preoccupied by her sexual identity. From a Palin sex doll to an homage adult movie, the sexualization of Palin won’t quit. Most recently, writer Rachel Kramer Bussel created Sarah Palin Erotica (http://sarahpalinerotica.com/), a site dedicated to erotic stories about the former Republican vice presidential candidate. After the jump, an interview with Bussel that reveals why Americans can’t get over Palin. The Frisky: How did you come up with the idea for the site?
Rachel Kramer Bussel: Erotica is what I know best, writing-wise, so it seemed natural to turn my attention to the figure in the election who has been the most sexualized. She’s not the only one who’s been sexualized, by any means, but when I started seeing things like George Gurley in the New York Observer saying he wanted to have sex with her, the porn video, and basically references to her and her sexuality in mainstream media, I realized the time was ripe for it. Also, I think you can do things with fiction that you can’t with fact. You can imagine and elaborate and embellish, and often you may find what could have been a polemic becoming more complicated. No one is pure good or pure evil, especially when it comes to our fantasies. In other words, Palin is a starting point for the stories on the site, but not necessarily the end point. Fiction, and erotica specifically, offers a way to comment on politics and sex, which are intimately intertwined, in creative, nuanced ways, while telling hot stories. I will be posting more stories, and hope to see the conversation continue. I was also inspired by Stephen Elliott’s Sex for America: Politically Inspired Erotica, which came out earlier this year. There is a history of political erotica, from Susie Bright’s classic “Dan Quayle’s Dick” to my very first erotica story, “Monica and Me,” about Monica Lewinsky, that the site draws from.
F: Why do you think Americans are so sexually fascinated by Palin?
RKB: I think first it was because of her looks, but almost immediately her story, wild as it was, entranced people. Even those of us opposed to her politics couldn’t help but be captivated, and part of that captivation is her sexual allure. That doesn’t necessarily mean we all want to have sex with her (just to be clear, I don’t), but we want to know more about her, including what she’s like in bed. I read a UK reporter likening her to Princess Diana in terms of her appeal to the crowds. She’s brash, outspoken, gutsy. She’s a woman and a mother, in so many ways highly traditional, and yet totally not. I think she set off a lot of hot buttons around women’s roles in the home and workplace, as parents, and as sex objects. This story we’re hearing about her breezing into a hotel room dressed just in a towel — that’s not erotica, that’s real, yet it could be straight out of the story “The World of Men” by Delilah T. Jones.
I think we were fascinated by her, too, because she was so sure of herself, even when, perhaps, she shouldn’t have been. The sheer gumption she needed to push her way to the top is part of the charisma a good politician has, and that’s sexy. For many of us, her accent, her pushiness, her look were all things that made us wonder what made her tick. I think for any public figure, or authority figure, we wonder whether their sexual persona, what they do in private, what turns them on matches or is opposed to their public persona. For some of us, they’re exactly the same; for some, they’re different.
Even her appearance on “Saturday Night Live” showed that she was a good sport. She almost seemed in on her own joke. I think that made her even more attractive.
F: What have you learned from doing this project so far?
RKB: I thought Jackson West’s story was very interesting because in many ways it was sympathetic toward her. It was satirical, yes, but also explored what she might get out of her church experiences. Again, eroticism and religion are closely intertwined for some people. I learned that she is certainly a lightning rod, and that she set off sexual fantasies for many people who weren’t Republicans (and, I’m sure, many who were). The reactions to the site have been very interesting, with many people finding it immediately fascinating and many more appalled by it. I truly wonder what Palin herself would think.
F: Some people think your site is sexist, that it objectifies a female politician, when we should be paying more attention to her political platform. But some of the fantasies are about Palin as a powerful woman — like a political dominatrix. What do you think of this phenomenon?
RKB: I think plenty of attention was paid to her political platform, as it should be. But she immediately captured the public’s sexual imagination, and I think part of that was deliberate. Sex was front and center in her life, from her five children to her daughter’s pregnancy. I refer you to Susie Bright’s take on why Palin’s sex life matters. This fictionalized version of it means that we can imagine her in all sorts of ways — as a power-hungry politician, as a swinger, as a swooning in church lady. We don’t know what her actual sex life is like, but we can imagine it. The site doesn’t exist just because she’s a woman in politics, or because of her looks or how she dresses; that would be sexist. I think the site exists because people were so fired up about her. She offended so many women with the idea brought forth in news stories that simply by being a woman, you’re a feminist or represent feminist ideals. There was a backlash against that, and the idea of having sex with her, whether it’s lesbian sex or swinger sex or church sex, became a way to deal with that through fiction.
Part of being a politician and being in the public eye is about having people fantasize about you. Bill Clinton is another example of a highly sexualized politician; in fact, I think Bill might just like a tumble in the sack with Sarah. Is she sexualized because she’s a woman? Yes, but it’s not just because she’s a woman. I think she flirted with her audiences right back, and what I loved about Delilah T. Jones’s story is that it captured what being a woman surrounded by such powerful men might be like. That doesn’t mean she’s really like that; for all I know, she could be a nymphomaniac or have a rather sedate sex life. The point isn’t what she actually does, but what we can imagine her doing. How would her sexuality have changed if she’d gone on to the White House? How is sex different in Alaska than other parts of the country? What’s it like to be a famous and powerful woman while your husband is not as famous or powerful?
F: What’s next? Michelle Obama erotica?
RKB: Not for me, though certainly the Obamas’ clear affection for each other is part of their appeal. It’s hard to imagine them having a sexless marriage. The idea that politicians’ sex lives are totally irrelevant to their politics is ridiculous. Everyone’s sex life is relevant to their politics. So who’s next? I don’t know, but I think for me I’m thinking less about politics and more about celebrities.