In Unearthed College Essay, Ann Coulter Rails Against Conservative Men
In a college essay originally published in "The Cornell Review"—the Ivy League university's Republican newspaper she founded in 1984—a young Ann Coulter writes about how conservative men have "a difficult time with women."
Conservative pundit and author Ann Coulter attended Cornell University as an undergrad, where she spent her time studying with law professor Jeremy A. Rabkin and hanging out with her sorority sisters, as evidenced in the photo above. It was this time she spent with Ivy Leaguers--or "elites" as she now calls them--that Coulter says transformed her into "a conservative who hates." During her senior year, she founded Cornell's conservative newspaper, The Cornell Review, with a group of other students.
For the second issue, Coulter wrote an op-ed called "The Feminine Ego and the Male Libido" critiquing conservative men for perceiving women as either "mothers" or "walking vaginas." In it, she goes after another Cornell Review editor for writing a lede that reasserts this conception of women: "Statistics are like bikinis: What they show is important, but what they conceal is vital."
Though she would absolutely loathe comparisons to feminism, this early work of hers is undeniably pro-woman. Coulter, though, has repeatedly broken from Republican conventions to mock mainstream Republicans and the media's vision of women. In 2002, as a TIME magazine cover story points out, she launched a war on Hollywood for only valuing conventionally attractive actresses. "[Halle] Berry's unseemly enthusiasm for displaying 'these babies,' as she genteelly refers to her breasts, reduces the number of roles for any women who lack Berry's beauty-queen features," Coulter wrote. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, while feminists like Erica Jong and Maureen Dowd shamed Monica Lewinsky, Coulter defended the infamous intern in her New York Times bestseller, High Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Yes, Coulter is a conservative, but she also has a more complicated history of views of women than people think. Below is the complete text of "The Feminine Ego and the Male Libido," republished with permission by The Ithaca Review, Inc. Special thanks to Ann Coulter, The Ithaca Review, Inc., and The Cornell Review.
The Feminine Ego and the Male Libido
by Ann Coulter
Conservatives have a difficult time with women. For that matter, all men do. Perhaps more is expected of conservatives. Then again, perhaps conservatives have a unique tropism toward moral befuddlement in their attitudes regarding women. Having rejected a lion's share of the multifarious issues which are seemingly inseparably fused with "feminism," conservatives apparently do not believe that any genuine affront to women is, in fact, possible, because such affronts are rarely if ever given a hearing in conservative publications. Once the term "sexism" is extricated from the puerile outrages over men opening doors for women, the titles Miss and Mrs., and the societal expectation that women wear bras, the term finds its legitimate target: an implicit belief that women are either mothers or walking vaginas. The second of these perceptions assumes many forms, the most escalated of which is pornography.
Need the offense perpetrated by pornography against women be detailed? It seems so, for unfortunately, the obvious is not grasped by all. What distinguishes men from beasts, if not the fact that they do not indifferently fornicate in the barnyards, but engage in sexual activity as the culmination of loving relationships? There are secondary distinguishing characteristics such as man's possession of language, ability to reason, and capacity for shame, but none is as fundamental as man's ability to love. Man's sex act is the highest celebration of his humanity. A female spread-eagle on a centerfold is a desecration of precisely that humanity. She is displayed as a device to appeal to man's latent animalism, and to do so, she must be completely reduced to an animal herself. Her only important components are her sexual organs.
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That some such publications include clues to the female's human qualities when she is not spreading her legs in front of a camera (Tammy reads romances, and lifts weights in her free time; her favorite movie is "Gone With the Wind." She aspires to be an actress...) cannot lend those shreds of humanity to a female while she performs as a centerfold. In this capacity, she can only be a brute. In fact, such information is a snicker-you see, even girls who read romances, even Ivy-Leaguers, even a Rhodes Scholar (the centerfold of Playboy's Ivy League edition was one)-can be scaled down to a she-beast.
The argument that pornography can be appreciated as an art is ludicrous, and it is offensive. The difference between a Rubens and a Playboy centerfold is the difference between music and sound, lightning and the lightning bug, and, well, a Rubens and a Playboy centerfold. The former elevates the spirit; the latter elevates only the phallus.
To be sure, the man nourishing his visceral instincts with prurient material is diminished, as well. Still, there are three important differences between the centerfold model and the pornography purchaser. First the man reduces himself to his genitals at his own whim, in the privacy of his own truck, and significantly, he can immediately recall his humanity. In contradistinction, once the woman is captured by the camera, her naked animalism is on display before the world. She is forever frozen in a dehumanized state. For that particular photo, her usefulness is over. The record of her posture as a brute is now merely a prop to be bought and sold. Second, the man debases only himself. The woman, or rather the hundreds of thousands of women whose bodies, without souls as animals, are exhibited in perpetuity; they are representative of women as a class. No discrimination here-Oriental women, Occidental women, Black women, women who read romances, women who attend Ivy League institutions. Their only shared characteristics are that they are women, and that they are willing to humiliate themselves. Third, the relationship between the purchaser and the object purchased is not an equal one. The former derives his pleasure directly from the degradation of the women. Whatever rewards Miss September receives for sprawling before a camera-be that the titillation of the concept of an abstract man lusting after her, or simply her monetary enrichment-she is, at best, an oblique beneficiary of the man's degeneration. Just as the racist is contaminated by his racism, the pornography purchaser is contaminated by his enjoyment of the dehumanization of a woman. But there can be no doubt; it is the woman who is degraded.
A cursory comparison of pornography with antisemitism and racism is interesting, for while there are real differences, the public consciousness has grossly distorted the differing reactions to the three. While pornography incites lust, antisemitism and racism incite hatred. (The argument can be made that pornography incites a nuanced form of hatred-a Screw magazine photo of a female being put into a meat grinder with meat coming out the other end being one of its less nuanced forms.) Both the American Nazi Party's poster of three Rabbis, whom they called "loose-lipped Hebes," sacrificing a child in a religious ceremony, and Playboy magazine's photo of a female masturbating, aim to dehumanize the objects of their perversions.
The difference between a Rubens and a Playboy centerfold is the difference between music and sound, lightning and the lightning bug, and, well, a Rubens and a Playboy centerfold.
George Will writes that freedom to compete in the "marketplace of ideas" is concomitant with freedom to win. What is at stake should any of these ideas triumph? One might postulate that had Hitler preferred his animalism in the form of degrading women to the form of degrading Jews he might have instituted forced whorehouses instead of forced labor camps. Nevertheless, the greatest escalation of the pornographic mindset has resulted only (only?) in photos of women being put into meat grinders and underground "snuff films" which portray women being raped and killed. Though these degradations are not easily dismissed as demonstrations of our potential for evil, they are not on a par with state-supervised holocausts. Simply because legal persecution of Jews and Blacks does not exist in this country does not alter the fact that there does exist a legacy of evil committed against both. But are antisemitism and racism not heinous in their own right? Extremism in the abstract is not a wrong, but because ethnic-misanthropism is vile in and of itself, its extremes assume grotesque proportions. Similarly, pornography, even disassociated from any specifics, is evil.
The observation that individual women have a hand in the degradation of their own gender suggests that humiliation by hate is more virulent than humiliation by lust. Jews and Blacks do not consent to be hated, so how is it that women can consent to be animalized? Not all members of ethnic groups refuse submission. In fact, there is a label for a Black subservient- "Uncle Tom." But what has a contemporary "Uncle Tom" to gain? There is not a market willing to pay four billion dollars annually to exploit Blacks as there is to exploit women. This amount of money serves to glamorize the profession of degrading oneself, if one happens to be a woman. It is somehow lucrative and "glamorous" for a woman to degrade herself; the pleasure of losing her humanity is but a fringe "benefit." The Black or Jew who dehumanizes himself can expect only the fringe "benefit."
If the quiescence of those women who do not actively degrade themselves is an indication, women appear not to have noticed that they are being offended. No woman who has ever thought about pornography for five minutes does not intuitively understand that her gender is being exploited. This impulse collides with societal pressures to accept, and is squelched. It is extremely difficult to maintain a state of moral outrage in solitude. At some point, numbness takes over. Moreover, even if one were to concede that this apparent tolerance and individual consent indicates that it is a greater offense to be hated than to be animalized, one is not committed to denying that animalization is a heinous wrong.
Given that antisemitism, racism, and pornography all debase their objects, though possibly to different degrees, how does the society react to these three debasements? It despises the first two and accepts the third. The differing degrees of publically sanctioned "punishment" for these debasements tremendously overstate their differing degrees of criminality. This results from lust's wider appeal than hatred's, in part due to the memory of recent triumphs over ethnic chauvinism, and in part due to the slick public relations of Hugh Hefner and his ilk compared to that of the Ku Klux Klan. William F. Buckley, Jr., President Carter, Mayor Koch, and Norman Mailer have never consented to appear in magazines that appeal to bigots and racists. All have given interviews in a magazine that appeals to a lust for women-Playboy. In so doing, they, and the hundreds of other esteemed national figures who have appeared in Playboy, Penthouse, et. al., legitimize and confer respect on publications that dehumanize women. The communal consciousness becomes jaded; to view women as vaginas is acceptable. The opening line in an article by the editor of the Cornell Review in this publication exemplifies this attitude. Admittedly, this is no big deal, but even as a small deal, it merits notice. He writes: "Statistics are like bikinis: What they show is important, but what they conceal is vital." The message is clear: The vital parts are the breasts and the vagina, so go get her. To have written "Statistics are like jock-straps..." would have sounded skewed; society is not used to thinking of men in terms of their penises. Outside the context of a pornographic magazine, it is still difficult for a woman to transcend her vagina.
What of the woman who purchases male pornography? It is telling that pornography of males constitutes an infinitesimal fraction of all pornography. Even these limited sources suffer a meager audience. Playgirl does not satisfy a woman's desire for voyeurism; she has none. (That the overwhelming majority of pornography is consumed by men, is the evidence. Women have become "liberated" from societal pressure to be ladylike. They drink, smoke, and wear army boots; why don't they buy pornography?) Rather, pornography appeals to her desire to feign sexual liberation, her desire to be shocked, and her desire for revenge. It represents a perverted attempt to subjugate the male, to reduce him to his genitals, in effect, to exploit her exploiters. It is a perverted attempt, and, more importantly, a vain attempt. The male form is impotent, if you will, to arouse the female. The photo of a nude man satisfies a young girl's incipient curiosity, it may pique an adolescent's relish for the shocking, but to the mature woman it is considered slightly absurd, even ridiculous. Without additional stimulus, the woman is more or less indifferent to the male centerfold. Granted, the stimuli sufficient to cross the threshold between indifference and desire is not coincident with the threshold that separates a beast's copulation from man's lovemaking-that is, genuine love is not a woman's sole aphrodisiac- but it is enough to say that the centerfold is not an aphrodisiac. Presented with the photo of an unclothed man, a woman cannot induce subhuman lust in herself, and, therefore, cannot reduce the man to a mere object of lust. Though stripped of everything else, he cannot be stripped of his humanity.
The nude male model does lose some dignity, the loss of which is a uniquely human quality. If man possesses shame, he must also possess dignity. The dignity lost, however, is minor, surely no more than if he were dressed in a silly costume, for the effect is probably the same. He is not enjoyed for the carnal desire his sexual organs may activate, but, rather, he is enjoyed as a human doing something a little bizarre and unconventional. His is an appeal to human interest in the outrageous, an appeal not very different from that of outlandish punk-rockers or overly enthusiastic television game show contestants. Certainly, the dignity of all these dwindles somewhat, but in none do we witness the complete destruction of dignity as in the unclothed female whose appeal is like that of a bitch in heat to the cur.
Outside the context of a pornographic magazine, it is still difficult for a woman to transcend her vagina.
So is it the man's fault that the woman remains unexcited? No, one cannot argue with that, but this concession does little to mitigate the woman's humiliation that results from his excitement. That the atrocity of pornography results from the use to which it is put should not come as a startling proposition. We easily differentiate between the use of medicinal morphine and street heroin, between killing in self-defense and criminal homicide, between worshipping a cross in celebration of the Savior and worshipping a burning cross with hatred toward Blacks. We should also differentiate between photos of nude women used to sexually excite and photos of nude men used to amuse. Presumably, there are some women who are capable of using the male centerfold as the heifer uses the smell of a bull. In these cases, Mr. October is as debased as is Miss October, and one might happily conclude that, therefore, pornography indiscriminately robs both the sexes of their humanity. The analogy does not work. These women constitute the proverbial exception that proves the rule. Depraved individuals in any group deserve to be pitied, and their perversity to be condemned. But when perversity infects a class, it should be condemned and harassed, for society is in danger. In other words, the aberrant who considers blondes contemptible is a harmless idiot. Should he prove harmful we have laws to protect his potential victims' life liberty, and property. Standing alone, perversity is relatively innocuous. The same is not true for the individual who is unrecognizable as an aberrant because his mindset represents a significant cohort in his sex. Freud wrote of the difficulty in diagnosing and treating the "communal neurosis" which, unlike the "individual neurosis," lacks the "contrast that distinguishes the patient from his environment." Antisemitism and racism are "communal neuroses" of the past which have been relegated to "individual neuroses" in civilized societies. Conversely, pornography is making a comeback as a "communal neurosis."
The communal monomania fixated on the woman's vagina threatens nothing less than society itself. That one group of members mocks another is distressing. That it mocks with unabashed impunity is frightening. Pornography is fated to exist, but it must not be brazenly displayed in neighborhood supermarkets, blithely purchased by respectable men, and used as a forum for intelligent and moral discussion. The society should not feel compelled to tolerate filth within its borders, but ought to morally harass those who traffic pornography. There deserves to be a sense of shame in mysophilia, for unless the distinction between virtue and corruption is an idle fiction, pornography corrupts the populace. Conservative thinkers throughout the ages have believed that a Republic cannot survive without a virtuous citizenry. This is why we expect more from conservatives. Edmund Burke wrote:
Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites... It is ordained in the external constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.
Is the passive acceptance of the animalization of women anything less than a gamble with our "qualifications for civil liberty?" Contemporary conservatism's high priest, William F. Buckley, Jr., argues that a society has the right to prevent one group of members from mocking another group in a tasteless and degrading manner because
You can hurt a people's feelings. A people whose feelings are hurt withdraw from a sense of kinship, which is what makes societies cohere. Moreover, a society so calloused as not to care about the feelings of its members becomes practiced in the kind of indifference that makes people, and the society they live in, unlovely.
This appeared in a Playboy interview between photos of women reduced to beasts.