A treatise on males and faux-males

Gene Weingarten on

WASHINGTON -- Did you see that recent story in The Washington Post reporting a correlation between male sexual insecurity and the tendency to vote for Republicans, particularly Donald Trump? The Post showed a map of areas where men exhibited sexual insecurity, measured by Google searches for terms like "penis size," "erectile dysfunction," "hair loss" and "how to get girls," that aligned remarkably well with Trump-voting districts. This story provoked an immediate and predictable media sensation that, alas, quickly petered away, because, to be honest, the story seemed a bit of a glib, cheap shot. It has the not-so-faint odor of, um, junk science.

Still. To many people, the initial, from-the-hip conclusion seemed to kind of ring true.

Gina: Ring true? It clanged true. It klaxoned true. It a-OOO-gahed true, like those terrifying European police sirens that sound like God is going into cardiac arrest.

Gene: How nice of you to show up here uninvited! Readers, may I introduce you to UConn literature professor Gina Barreca -- feminist, humorist, essayist and noted academic with strong opinions about the president of the United States and the people who support him. Have you any observations you wish to share, Gina?

Gina: Yeah, it was a cheap shot, an unpleasantry, yadda yadda, sure, except maybe we should remember that The Washington Post has won a lot of Pulitzer Prizes for getting things right, I am just saying. Anyway, this concept of sexual insecurity in male Trumpsters is something I've long speculated about. When I think of Donald Trump I invariably find myself comparing him to another celebrity. Want to guess who?

Gene: John Wayne? Stallone?

Gina: Mae West.

Gene: Go on. This should be interesting.

Gina: Mae West was an utterly brilliant woman who presented herself as an absurd exaggeration, a caricature, a parody of slinky, voluptuous, tigress-y sexuality. That's what Trump does, without the brilliance and probably without the intent, but he has cast himself as an absurd exaggeration of the idiot's concept of male sexuality. His version of masculinity is a parody of an uber male (complete with the goose-steppy authoritarian umlaut).

Trump's traits: Cruelty. Impulsiveness. Temper. Vulgarity. Gruffness. Aggressive insensitivity. These traits appeal to the sad sacks out there who are worried they don't quite measure up, if you know what I mean. They can't compete in the true battlefield of masculinity -- genuine self-confidence, not bluster and braggadocio, and the restrained use of power and influence, not the garish flaunting of it.

But as an absurd and attainable role model, Trump reassures them: You, too, can be a real man and still have a beanbag belly and Comedy Central hair. Why do you think it is that Trump is one of the few male politicians whose weight seems to be fair game for ridicule?

Me: I don't think weight is ever fair game for ridicule.

Gina: You yourself have called him "fat," in writing, at least five times in the last year alone. Would you like the citations?

Me: Thank you. No.


Gina: The point is, he makes this fair game by preening his appearance. It's his final attraction to the sexually insecure. He declares himself a hunk, and does it in a way any man, whatever his station in life, whatever his dimensions, whatever his muscle tone, can emulate.

Gene: What's that?

Gina: He lies about his weight. He says he is 6-foot-3 and weighs 239 pounds.

Gene: How do you know that's a lie?

Gina: Image-Google "Jay Cutler," the just-retired quarterback for the Chicago Bears.

Gina: As you are doing that I will point out that the hunky Mr. Cutler is almost exactly 6-foot-3 and weighs 239 pounds.


Gina: Let the record show you are laughing too hard to speak.

Gene: Wait. I am better now. The fact is, Trump could still be 239 pounds. Look at the quarterback and imagine that his rock-hard pecs and his taut, six-pack abs have gelatinized and oozed south, coalescing into an amorphous, cratered, flibbetty-floppity butt-gut amalgam moonscape?

Gina: I swoon.


Gene Weingarten can be reached at Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group


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